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This crisis for Catholics is a crisis for Scotland; Daily Record Tuesday, February 26, 2013 Daily Record Tuesday, February 26, 2013 CARDINAL QUITS.. CARDINAL QUITS... CARDINAL QUITS.

Byline: A PERSONAL VIEW By TOM BROWN

IF Hollywood remade the 1960s Oscar-nominated film The Cardinal, Keith O'Brien would be perfect in the lead role.

A distinguished-looking, plainspeaking communicator, he has charisma, an easy charm and a warm sense of humour.

But, above all, he has an unshakeable personal faith - and was the ideal choice as spiritual leader of the Scottish Catholic community.

The shock of his fall from grace, resigning as a world-ranking churchman under a cloud of allegations - whether true or not - is more than one prelate's personal tragedy.

"Staggering", "devastating", "a heavy blow" were just some of the reactions from well-placed contacts in the Vatican and the wider Church.

It also creates a crisis - not only among Scotland's Catholic faithful, but for Scotland.

Almost single-handedly, O'Brien provided a strong, hardline lead (whether you liked it or not) on national issues.

With the sudden collapse of his authority - and the splintering of the national Church of Scotland - who will provide the Christian community with the spiritual compass in the ongoing debate on matters. of conscience and morality? Just weeks before a momentous General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which will be riven by debates on the ordination of gay ministers and marriage law, their senior media spokesman has resigned.

Kirk and Catholic Church attendances have plummeted but, at the last census, 3.2million Scots - two-thirds of the population - said they are Christian.

They may not be churchgoers but look to religious leaders for guidance on vital issues of social justice, ethics and values.

Even those who profess no religion will agree or disagree with the pronouncements of church leaders.

'The In Scotland, it is hard to see who can now take the lead in the moral debate. are dark As a religious affairs correspondent (without being too religious myself), I have covered crucial developments in world faith, reported from St Peter's Square on two papal elections and was the Record's man in Rome for O'Brien's elevation to cardinal in 2003.

The current affair is causing turmoil because of its unexpectedness, the spotless record of the central figure and, above all, its timing.

He was due to fly to Rome yesterday as Britain's only representative in the election of a new pope - the most important function a Catholic clergyman can perform.

I am told the bombshell letter from three priests and one former priest from the Archdioceses of St Andrews and Edinburgh, making the allegations of "inappropriate" conduct against O'Brien, actually had nothing to do with the papal election.

It was sent to the Pope's representative to Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, because it was known that O'Brien was to resign as an active cardinal when he reaches 75 on March 17.

As he says: "Approaching the age of 75 and at times in indifferent health. , I tendered my resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburghto Pope Benedict XVI some months ago." The complainants wanted their claims to be aired while he was still in office and their letter was received in the week before Pope Benedict announced his shock resignation on February 11.

O'Brien's resignation on the grounds of age had been accepted by Benedict Vatican hierarchy past masters in arts of shutdown' on a confidential basis of nunc pro tunc (now for later) - a clear indication that Benedict wanted the Scottish cardinal to cast a vote in the election of his successor.

The affair took on a deeper importance with the need to elect a new [ope, so the story was broken with headlines which raised questions on O'Brien's suitability to go to Rome for the conclave of elector-cardinals.

The Vatican hierarchy are past masters in the dark arts of shutdown and cover-up.

O'Brien's resignation was accepted with immediate effect and published in Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano yesterday.

He said: "I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me, but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."

The irony is that Benedict was elected as a caretaker Pope, who was not expected to have a long reign because of his advanced age and indifferent health.

He was meant to tidy up the scandal-ridden upper reaches of the Church - including the child abuse scandals - then leave it to a younger and more active successor to take it forward into the 21st century.

It is now accepted that Benedict resigned in a rush because he was overwhelmed by the task and, with more scandals threatened, triggered the search for a new, more vigorous pope to restore its standing in the world.

the Last week, a leading Italian national newspaper said a report prepared by a commission investigated leaks of confidential information, internal corruption and mismanagement - with possible blackmail over relationships at high levels.

It so shocked Pope Benedict he had it locked up in a safe to remain secret until passed on to the new pope.

Similarly, the treatment of O'Brien shows the urge to shut down any scandal. The Vatican have washed their hands of the affair and he is being left to deal with it on a personal level.

It is a wretched end to an illustrious career and the damage done to Catholicism, and religion in general, in Scotland cannot be overstated.

As one priest groaned: "How much more can the Church take?" Powerful conclave to choose successor WHAT NEXT? AN apostolic administrator will be appointed by the Pope to govern the Archdioceses of St Andrews and Edinburgh until a successor to O'Brien is named.

His resignation leaves Britain's Roman Catholics with no vote in next month's election, the conclave, for a successor to Pope Benedict next month in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI amended Roman Catholic Church law so that the conclave selecting his successor could be brought forward.

Cardinals no longer have to wait 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant before beginning the conclave.

As a result, the conclave can now start before March 15.

Benedict's resignation - the first by a pope in nearly 600 years - takes effect on Thursday.

Vatican officials explained that the change was partly due to the fact that the Church constitution was written principally for a conclave following the death of a pope, rather than a resignation.

The decision on the date of the beginning of the conclave will be taken by the cardinals but will not happen earlier than Friday, officials said.

A conclave beginning in mid-March would have left little time to have a new pope installed for one of the most important periods in the Catholic calendar as Holy Week, leading up to Easter, begins on March 24.

It is now widely expected that the cardinals will lock themselves away in the conclave in about two weeks' time - around the weekend of March 11.

The process of choosing a new pope involves cardinals from around the world gathering in Rome where they will then carry out a series of secret ballots until one of their number receives a majority of two-thirds of the votes.

'The Vatican hierarchy are past masters in the dark arts of shutdown '

CAPTION(S):

WELCOME Z O'Brien greets Pope Benedict XVI at Edinburgh airport in 2010

HONOURED O'Brien kisses Pope John Paul II's hand at the Vatican in 2003 after becoming a Cardinal
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion, Columns
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 26, 2013
Words:1208
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