Cardinal Keith O'Brien Contests Accusations

Cardinal Keith O'Brien Contests Accusations

Britain's most senior Roman Catholic clergyman has been reported to the Vatican over claims of inappropriate behaviour, a newspaper has claimed.

The Observer reports that three priests and a former priest have made the allegations against Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: "'The Pope knows about the issue and the question is now in his hands.''

A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church told Sky News that Cardinal O'Brien "contests these claims and is taking legal advice".

According to the Observer, the four claimants reported to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican's ambassador to Britain, that Cardinal O'Brien had committed "inappropriate acts" going back 33 years.

The claimants, all from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, are also demanding the cleric's resignation, the paper said.

Cardinal O'Brien has a vote in the forthcoming papal conclave to choose Pope Benedict XVI's successor.

The claimants are said to be worried that their report will not be properly addressed if he is allowed to travel to Rome.

"It (the church) tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs," said one of the complainants, according to quotes published by the paper.

"The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit."

Cardinal O'Brien, who is due to retire next month, has angered the gay community with his conservative stance on homosexuality.

He recently said that same-sex marriages would be "harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved" and has long voiced opposition to gay adoption.

When Pope Benedict announced his decision to resign on February 11, Cardinal O'Brien said: "Like many people throughout the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign.

"I know that his decision will have been considered most carefully and that it has come after much prayer and reflection."

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