Cardinal Keith O'Brien Halted Sex Abuse Probe

Disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien blocked an independent inquiry into cases of historic sexual abuse a year before resigning over his own inappropriate sexual conduct.

The Bishops' Conference of Scotland commissioned a report into allegations of abuse in 2011 but it was halted the following year when Cardinal O'Brien, then president of the conference, withdrew his support.

He stepped down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

He issued an apology, saying "there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me".

Cardinal O'Brien's opposition to an inquiry into Church-related abuse allegations was revealed by the retired Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, in a letter to the Catholic newspaper The Tablet.

Archbishop Conti wrote: "It was the intention of all but one member of the Bishops' Conference to commission an independent examination of the historical cases we had on file in all of our respective dioceses and publish the results, but this was delayed by the objection of the then president of the conference; without full participation of all the dioceses the exercise would have been faulty."

A Church spokesman said: "This refers to a decision taken in 2011 by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland to commission an independent academic analysis of statistics relating to abuse and allegations of abuse over a 60-year period from 1952 to 2012.

"This project, with the co-operation of each of the eight dioceses in Scotland, started and ran until 2012, at which time, the then president of the conference, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, withdrew from the project.

"Without the participation of all the dioceses a 'national audit' was not possible so the analysis was stopped."

Following his resignation Cardinal O'Brien, 75, stated that he would play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland and has since left the country for a period of "spiritual renewal and reflection".

Monsignor Leo Cushley, who formerly worked on the Vatican's diplomatic team, was last month appointed his successor.

At a meeting in June, the Bishops' Conference of Scotland agreed to publish audits relating to the Church's eight dioceses since 2006.

The reports, to be published in the autumn, "will detail any complaints made about clergy, church workers, volunteers or anyone else and how these complaints were dealt with", the Church said.