Cardinal O’Brien facing new allegations of sexual misconduct

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The disgraced Cardinal O’Brien, former head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct after a former seminarian accused the Cardinal of making unwanted sexual advances towards him over 30 years ago.

Speaking to the Herald newspaper, the man, now in his fifties, said that when he was 19 he was studying to become a priest at a senior seminary college when he was invited to meet with Cardinal O’Brien, then rector of Blairs College, in his room.  

The man only came forward after the recent publicity surrounding the Cardinal made him realise that O’Brien’s behaviour was not a one-off isolated incident, but rather formed part of a wider pattern of sexual misconduct.  The man is now seeking to initiate legal proceedings against the Catholic Church.

The man, who did not pursue his priestly vocation after the incident, and is now married with children, wishes to remain anonymous.  He told the Herald newspaper:

“We’d some sort of drink in his room, beer or wine. [O’Brien] was just chatting away about the past, the future and so on.

“He had been talking about himself, how he was going places, his career had been mapped out and that it was for God to decide. I can’t remember the exact phrase he used but he told me he would always look after me and how good a priest I’d be. Until this stage I’d thought how excellent it would be to be a priest in his diocese.

“But that’s when it happened…after a few minutes he released me and I was able to make my excuses and go. As an adult looking back I ask myself how it could have happened. Neither of us was drunk.”

The man’s solicitor, Cameron Fyfe, said:

“I have been instructed to make a claim for compensation against Keith O’Brien and his Archdiocese on the basis of abuse my client suffered at his hands in the 1980s while at seminary.

“I am currently preparing the case but hope in all the current circumstances that the Church may take a reasonable stand and consider settlement of the claim without the expense and trauma of a court action.

“I have acted for over 1000 clients who have been victims of sexual and physical abuse. Over the years you learn to assess credibility. I have found this client to be totally credible. The information he has passed to me is consistent and measured. If the case does eventually require to go to court I think he would be an excellent witness.”

Earlier this month Cardinal O’Brien resigned and admitted that his sexual conduct had at times “fallen below the standards expected of me”.  The resignation came after 3 serving and one former priest alleged that the Cardinal had made unwanted sexual advances towards them.  

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “The church is disturbed to hear of these allegations. Any complaints raised will be taken very seriously.”