BREAKING: After Initial Denials, Cardinal Keith O’Brien Admits to Sex With Priests

keith-obrienLast week, Roman Catholic Cardinal Keith O’Brien — the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, the most senior Catholic prelate in all of Britain, and its sole cardinal eligible to vote in the upcoming papal conclave — resigned after he was accused of committing “inappropriate acts” with three priests and one former priest. O’Brien initially denied the allegations, even when a fifth accusation surfaced earlier this week.

But in a statement released today, the Cardinal did an abrupt about-face and admitted that at least some of the allegations were, in fact, true:

In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.

To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.

I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Before you shrug off this news as just one more ho-hum revelation of Catholic hypocrisy, keep in mind that Cardinal O’Brien is one of the most outspoken and highest-profile homophobes in the entire United Kingdom. A leader on the British front of the Roman Catholic Church’s global crusade against LGBT people, he has repeatedly smeared Cappa_Magna_obrienloving and committed same-sex couples for having the temerity to ask for equal marriage rights and engaged in baseless fear-mongering about the consequences of allowing them to do so. O’Brien infamously described marriage equality as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and threatened an “unprecedented backlash” if Scotland’s government allowed same-sex couples to marry. He also falsely claimed that Scottish Catholic churches would be compelled to marry same-sex couples, made the baseless assertion that same-sex relationships are unhealthy, inferior to opposite-sex relationships, and detrimental to children, and deliriously warned that marriage equality would force schools to stock what he called “homosexual fairy stories.”

Yes, that’s right, “fairy stories.” From a guy who’s secretly schtupping priests in the rectory. That’s not just routinely hypocritical, it’s downright galling.


h/t: Joe Jervis
Cross-posted at Back2Stonewall.


  1. Michael Wickler

    Hate towards gays is often self-contempt directed outwards. Asserting that gay relationships are unhealthy based on ones own experience of repression and inner conflict is one-sided. There are many gay people who accept their nature and go out freely into the world with no shame, knowing they have the true god’s love.

  2. Angie riozzi

    Typical,its been going on for decades,paedophiles always get jobs that need trust and respect an to get close to young people.

    • John

      It’s important to make a distinction here, though. O’Brien’s hypocrisy is breathtaking, but the accusations against him only involve, to my knowledge anyway, victims who were above the age of consent at the time of the encounters. So while he’s absolutely a loathsome hypocrite and a self-loathing, deeply closeted gay man, he is NOT a pedophile.

      • Liz Nichols

        *Not yet proven to be a paedophile. You can never be sure with these Catholic priests! Maybe his younger victims will come forward now his reputation has been dented enough that someone might believe them. …That is IF he has any younger victims, of course…… ~.^

      • corneilius

        The issue is POWER.

        Pedophiles operate because they have Power over those they victimise.

        Whilst it is also true that most, if not all, abusive people have had abusive childhoods, it remains clear that as an adult they CHOOSE to act in the way they do, and must take full responsibility for their actions.

        It is the Power that is key, the sexual aspect being the medium. That he sought out and made advances on younger priests/seminarians whilst he was in a position of POWER, where those younger were to a large degree vulnerable, makes the issue of ‘constent’ less than clear. If one consents out of fear, is it really consent?

        Whilst we rightly are horrified when an adult sexually assaults a child, we ought to be clear that in any incident where the assailant has POWER over the victimised, be it at work, in a relationship, in Politics and War, the same dynamic is in action.

        Thus the current assault on vulnerable, disabled people ought to be seen in the same light.

        The bail-out to the banks, which is impoverishing the most vulnerable in our Society, and the future of our children is of the same dynamic.

        All Religious Indoctrination is of the same dynamic, and so too propaganda and marketing, and media sleight of hand.

        Those that have power, if they lack caring empathy, will always use that power in adverse ways. Such people seek out positions of power.

        We need to be looking at this, and thinking of ways to assess those who seek power, as much as ways to limit what they can do that may be adverse, as much as helping ALL survivors make their testimony, confront their abusers in public, and share their often profound insights into the matter…

        And we must ask, WHAT KIND OF SOCIETY were we born into, that this kind of behaviour of Power is so ubiquitous, and is that the kind fo Society we would wish to pass on to our children, and their children to come?

    • Tyriq

      I would think that a priest would be an adult. No one said the man was having sex with children; he was having sex with other consenting adults.

      • Megzee

        He might have been having sex with consenting adults, if he was a priest when he was having sex with priests. He is/has been in a position of power over those men. This is still predatory behavior, as refusing his advances could have had consequences. He is not a pedophile, but he is probably a rapist.

  3. David Henderson

    I believe that “fairy stories” is British for “fairy tales”, so it’s use here is no more a direct slur than if an American had said “homosexual fairy tales” in regards to the types of books a school would stock. It’s still a bad situation, but let’s not quibble over the little things that are simply dialectical.

    • John

      Absolutely, David. Apologies for the confusion — I intended to point out the irony of O’Brien’s use of the word “fairies,” not to imply that he was using it as a slur.

  4. ObscureObsession

    “Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.”

    Really? Was he just wanting to be sure of what cock they were speaking about before he admitted it? The whole celibacy thing is ridiculous, and the hate for homosexuals is even more so. The Catholic Church is a menace in many ways.

  5. Linda

    I’ve been ‘out’ and doing what I can for gay rights for 39 years. I definitely have to award Cardinal O’Brien the top prize for hypocrisy. He is REALLY good at it. And when it comes to gay-related hypocrisy, the competition is pretty fierce.

  6. Denny

    “I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”.

    That’s a shame. If he is looking for redemption and a wholeness for his spirit than he should work for the acceptance of LBGT people within the Roman Catholic Church. He apparently spent most of his life in denial and self-hatred. He could enjoy a breath-taking freedom if he were to publicly acknowledge that he wishes he could have engaged in a loving and life affirming relationship with a mate. He could fight for others with in the Catholic clergy, straight or gay, to exercise their right to publicly love another and to reject the shame and rejection offered by the Church. Keith, don’t go into hiding again. You’ve hidden from the truth your entire life. Use your experiences and connections to promote life and healthy sexuality. Don’t scurry away in fear and shame.

  7. Tish

    Wow! People like him need to be exposed. And hiding behind religion all the while living a life of hypocrisy. This is what soap operas are made of, yet here we get it right here in real life.

  8. Noel Faulkner

    We need to run the catholic church out of town and put the criminals in jail for a very long time .

  9. . .harvard q keck. .

    —Thank you, John, for explaining the distinction between gay men or women and pedophiles. Many people, through ignorance, lump the two groups together. Many pedophiles target little girls as well as boys. — However, gay men are attracted to other gay men, above the age of consent.

  10. Sheryl

    Funny how he is homosexual but yells the most against it. I think there needs to be MAJOR changes in the catholic church for people to believe in and trust the church again.

  11. angieyo1970

    Nothing I hear about the Catholic church shocks or surprises me anymore. If the “one true church” (note sarcasm) doesn’t spring forward into the 21st century I predict its demise within the next hundred years, if not sooner. So good to see someone being held accountable for his actions and having his hypocrisy flung back into his face.

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  13. Andchamir

    Like I care! The priests were adults. Still, it’s galling that he went so far out of his way to hurt people who were doing what he wanted to do.

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  15. Britches

    Is anyone that surprised? It seems the ones who protest the loudest are almost always the ones doing it in secret. Ridiculous.

  16. Rick White

    Odd though because I don’t think homophobia has anything to do with sex, technically. There is no such thing as the ‘specter of proper sex’, there is only the division of Labor, Society-it is an economic stance instead, and an inflationary act when sought after. So it is not a contradiction to have homosexuals who are also homophobic because they are ‘exclusive’. Homophobia splinters Labor and is therefore requisite for looting natural resources. Liberation Theology in the Americas, for example is counter to this.

  17. Adele Paul

    Wouldn’t it be great if priests & politicians stopped having opinions about who should sleep with whom? Wouldn’t it be great if nobody cared if people fucked sheep as long as the sheep were happy?

  18. celticbishop

    If all the gay folkes in the Roman Church hierarchy were to come out of the closet the vacuum created by the opening of those doors would cause the earth to tilt on its axis! Every single one of them should be outed and done so in the press and social media and post haste.

    • Friends

      @Grant: YES, ABSOLUTELY! The Anglican Church — including its American affiliate, the Episcopal Church — has long allowed for a married clergy, as does the Eastern Orthodox Church. And the Anglicans and Episcopalians have grudgingly but steadily moved toward accepting the ministry of openly gay clergy in partnered relationships. It’s just plain common sense, as well as an expression of “Caritas” (i.e., Christian fellowship). One’s sexual orientation is as inherent as one’s dominant-handedness. Both of these things are genetically hard-wired at birth, and neither of them can be changed by “behavioral therapy”.What part of genetic reality is the Catholic Church stubbornly and stupidly refusing to grasp?

  19. Carl

    First the pope abdicates, now this guy admits to having dedicated his life’s work to lying and oppressing people. With the Catholic church crumbling, I think it’s time we go for the finish with critiques like these:

    PS, I love how O’Brien’s basically finishes with, “I will now retire from the public sphere to continue the abovementioned sexual conduct.”

  20. Carole

    The worst homophobes are usually closeted gays. I feel sorry for him. But given his age it doesn’t surprise me. At least he did it with adults and frankly I don’t care if he did. He’s gay and he’s got a sex drive. So what. It’s the hypocrisy that’s galling. i’m glad he’s come out. Maybe this will be healing for him.

  21. Dan Killman

    It’s never shocking to learn of things like this. People have always and often persecuted in others what they fear in themselves. And though society is finally evolving a great deal on this issue, it will take organized religion much longer, I think.

  22. Dax

    I’d like to point out that the title for this posting is not correct….yes this a homophobic idiot but this article nor the one I read yesterday did not say that he has had sex with other priests. Why would these priests have consenting sex & then proceed to report him? That’s what happened, as I understand it..that they reported him.

    • Dorothy

      Eh Karen – what about his vıctims? As they probably felt very pressurised into doing what was required of them at that tıme!

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