Britain's former top Catholic Church official has admitted that his sexual conduct had fallen short of the required standard. Keith O'Brien had been due to vote in the conclave for a new pope before his resignation.
In a statement released on Sunday, O'Brien - who stood down as head of the church in Scotland last week - apologized "to those I have offended."
"I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal," O'Brien said in a statement posted on the Scottish Catholic media website.
O'Brien had been head of the Catholic Church in Scotland and was also Britain's top cleric, being the only clergyman from the country set to vote in the election of a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI. The 74-year-old, who had already said he would not attend the conclave, explained in the latest statement that he would no longer play any leadership role in the church administration.
"I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement," said O'Brien, who apologized to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland in particular. "I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland."
O'Brien did not specify what form the sexual misconduct had taken. He resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh a day after the British Sunday newspaper the Observer reported that three priests and one former priest had complained of incidents of "improper conduct" that took place in the 1980s. Initially, O’Brien had contested the claims.
It was alleged that one priest had received "unwanted attention" from O'Brien. He was also accused of using night prayers as a cover for inappropriate conduct.
Last year, O'Brien received a "Bigot of the Year" award from the gay rights group Stonewall after he described gay marriage as "a grotesque subversion."
The allegations are among a string of new claims and sex scandals that have emerged since 85-year-old Benedict said he would step down due to poor health.
rc/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)