I welcome the clear response by Pope Francis to the allegations made against Cardinal O’Brien, and the urgency of the conclusions that have been drawn. Indeed, it was the decision by Pope Francis to send a personal envoy, Bishop Charles Scicluna, on a fact-finding mission to Scotland last year that has enabled Cardinal O’Brien and the Holy Father to reach a canonical conclusion that is right for all those involved, not least those who have been most closely affected by Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour. I welcome therefore that, following a period of prayerful and appropriate reflection, Cardinal O’Brien has chosen to offer his resignation. He recognises that in this domain he has failed the Church which in many ways he served so well. Similarly, I welcome Pope Francis’ acceptance of this offer of resignation.
I also welcome the letter of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which will be made available to congregations in his archdiocese this coming Sunday.
Following his decision to resign, Cardinal O’Brien will live a strictly private life, with no further participation in any public, religious or civil events. He is relieved of the rights and duties attached to office of Cardinal, and will therefore not act as an advisor to the Pope or take part in any election of a future Pope.
I am confident therefore that Pope Francis’ decision to accept the offer of resignation is fair, equitable and proportionate. The allegations distressed many. They demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic. I therefore acknowledge and welcome Cardinal O’Brien’s apology to those affected by his behaviour, both those who are of the Catholic community and those who are not. Such breach of trust impacts on us all.
As Catholics, whilst acknowledging any distress, I hope with Archbishop Leo that all of us affected by this sad and regrettable episode will now embrace a spirit of forgiveness, the only spirit that can heal any bitterness and hurt that still remains. Forgiving the trespasses of others is surely the only way to regain our human and Christian serenity after such events.