Cardinal O'Brien—Harsh Treatment?
Today I notice that Gerry Braiden of the Glasgow Herald is reporting that friends of Cardinal Keith O'Brien have told him that the Cardinal has been ordered to leave Britain by the Vatican following the ongoing investigation into his admission that he made sexual advances to priests during his time as Primate of Scotland.
As I mentioned on Monday, earlier in the week, there was news that made one think that Pope Francis had turned his eye toward our Islands and was paying attention to what was going on here. As I suggested there, the fact we are outstanding, what, eleven bishops now? And other bishops have been appointed by Pope Francis, but none have been appointed here, can surely only leave one to conclude that something serious is going on? I have to say that I hope this is the case!
Indeed, Braiden notes that the Vatican's notice to Cardinal O'Brien...
"...is the clearest indication yet of the Vatican's unwillingness to let the matter drift and concern that the Cardinal's admission of gay activity over decades and allegations of abuse towards trainee priests continues to damage the Church."
However, I can't help but wonder at the veracity of these claims, or the amount of spin involved in the story. Are we to believe that there has been some sort of military order issued? Does it really work that way? Somehow I doubt it. I do know, however, that under the terms of a rescript of laicisation, an ex-priest shouldn’t live in or frequent places where his status as an ex-priest is generally known, unless he gets the bishop’s permission. Now I know that the Cardinal has not been laicised, but I am trying to draw out the Church's attitude to justice here. Is it fair that a man who has possibly acted immorally and abused his position as a leader within the Church should be allowed to remain where he could still have an influence of the lives of those he affected? I think we can see the fundamental justice in asking him to remove himself from that situation, as painful as it may appear.
Another question revolves around the perceived harshness of the Cardinal's treatment, considering his behaviour appears to have been immoral, but not illegal, is it overly harsh to "order him into exile"? Well I don't think for a moment that is what has happened to be honest, and as an employer myself, I know in such disciplinary cases, one must consider the wellbeing of both parties. Surely it is best for the Church in Scotland and Cardinal O'Brien, that he is not pursued by the media and constantly brought to the public attention? The man is 75 now, it must be very difficult to weather such a public storm of humiliation and scrutiny as he is no doubt having to face at the moment. No, I think that it is in his interests, especially as such a high profile leader in the Church, to do exactly what the Vatican tells him right now. It may be being spun as the aloof and distant Vatican coming down hard on the frail Cardinal, but I wonder if it could actually be the Church taking full responsibility for one of her representatives? It would be interesting to know just where the Vatican has ordered Cardinal O'Brien to go (to Rome?) and where he will stay.
I note that Damian Thompson comments:
his friends are furious that he is being hung out to dry at a time when other prelates who covered up shocking abuse are left alone. The name of Cardinal Mahony, formerly of Los Angeles, comes to mind.I think this is an interesting point, although I do not necessarily consider it reasonable for Pope Francis to address all these cases retrospectively and re-evaluate the treatment of individuals involved. Clearly, this is going on on his watch and we are getting some idea of the way in which he intends to deal with such events...And I have to say I am impressed so far...And look forward to seeing how this plays out, for the best interests of everyone involved, not least the Cardinal, who as I have previously stated, is someone I have met and have some measure of affection for.