Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Cardinal O'Brien does the right thing...now if only Mahony and co would follow suit!

Well, at least one of the scandals surrounding the Cardinal-electors has come to an abrupt end, at least for the moment, with the announcement that the Pope has removed Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland from his position as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and the Cardinal's own announcement that he will not attend the Conclave.

Not an admission of guilt?

I don't think we should necessarily see this as an admission of guilt on the Cardinal's part, or a final judgment on the issue by the Pope.

It is not clear that there has yet been a proper investigation of the claims, and he has previously indicated that he rejects them.

It is true of course that we've heard claims of innocence many times before from the guilty, and a reputation as a progressive doesn't help one's cause in this area.  Still, the Cardinal is entitled to some chance to have the claims properly tested.

Either way, though, the accusations of four priests (whose decision to go public was perhaps a shocked response to the perceived hypocrisy of the Cardinal's assorted comments) have to be treated as credible on the face of it, necessitating urgent action on the part of the Pope.

The Cardinal was already over 75 and thus had already tendered his resignation and had it accepted.  The Pope formally setting the date for its effect was the only way to handle the potential scandal in the circumstances.

The Cardinal problem

Removal from Office as a bishop is one thing though, but why has the Pope hesitated to remove those accused or actually guilty of crimes from the Office of Cardinal?

Perhaps in this particular case the decision not to depose him from Office or force his resignation as a Cardinal reflects the fact that the processes haven't been completed.  But there are plenty of cases where the evidence of improper behaviour on the part of men who remain Cardinals is reasonably clear cut (think Cardinal Law, for example, thankfully excluded from voting by virtue of being over 80).

In this particular case the Pope or his representatives may perhaps have gently suggested staying away from the Conclave.  Yet O'Brien remains a Cardinal - so, like other controversial Cardinals, he could have chosen to turn up if he wished.

Indeed, the Motu Proprio released by the Pope overnight that allows for an earlier Conclave should the Cardinals agree also reaffirms that no one can exclude a Cardinal-elector who wishes to participate in the conclave from doing so.

Whether or not Cardinal O'Brien is guilty of anything, that he has chosen to stay away in order to avoid further controversy is entirely to his credit.

Would that some others would follow this lead.


Monica said...

Hi Katie,

Such were my thoughts exactly, until I read this:


My attention was caught by the first line- what constitutes interference in the conclave and what effect that might have on the outcome is a consideration that had never occurred to me.

I haven't entirely made my mind up, but it is certainly an interesting thought.

Kate Edwards said...

Monica - I'm not a canonist, but see my earlier post on this. I don't agree with Gellibrand on this.

The laws against interference in a Conclave are, I think, meant rather more literally, against those who would physically hinder a Cardinal entering the conclave, or attempt to blackmail them to vote a particular way.

A Cardinal who makes their own free judgment that they would be best to stay away in the interests of the Church is a quite different situation in my view.

And if the four priests are speaking the truth, and have serious accusations to make, then they were surely right to speak up now lest the election be seen to be tainted by the votes of the 'filth' in the Church.