Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned amid allegations of improper behavior. Sunday the Observer newspaper in the UK published allegations that O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, had acted inappropriately toward priests. The allegations involved three priests and one former priest. He denied the accusations but Monday, a month before he was due to retire, he has resigned and the pope has accepted his resignation.
The Cardinal, leader of the Scottish Catholic Church, was due to visit the Vatican this week as the U.K.'s representative in the forthcoming papal election. His resignation means that Britain will have no representative in the Vatican for the election.
The allegations Cardinal O'Brien is facing date back to the 1980s. The Holy Roman Catholic Church is facing a series of allegations against priests and senior clerics. There is speculation that Pope Benedict's early retirement was sparked by sleaze and intrigue, rather than the health concerns cited by the church.
According to a report in The New York Times the allegations against Cardinal O'Brien reached the pope's UK representative, Antonio Mennini, the week before the pope resigned. They were then forwarded on to Pope Benedict XVI.
Today the Cardinal said, "I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest. Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended.
"I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor. However, I will pray with them and for them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the correct choice for the future good of the Church."
The Roman Catholic Church is now plagued by sex scandals including charges of pedophilia, gay sex scandals and sex abuse. Will court cases follow? Will a new pope be able to restore the reputation of the Catholic church?
Follow this link to read Cardinal O'Brien's full resignation statement, issued by the Scottish Catholic Media Office.