Disgraced cardinal Keith O'Brien to leave Scotland for 'prayer and penance'


Keith O'Brien, the former archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, admitted to unspecified sexual misconduct and asked for the forgiveness of the Church and those he has offended.


Jeff J Mitchell

Cardinal Keith O'Brien will leave Scotland for several months for "prayer and penance" after admitting to improper sexual conduct.

A statement said that Pope Francis had agreed with O'Brien's decision to take the leave that the Vatican described as "several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance."

O'Brien had recused himself from the March conclave that elected Pope Francis after it was reported that three unnamed priests accused him of acting inappropriately toward them in the 1980s. There were no indications that the priests were minors at the time.

More from GlobalPost: British Cardinal Keith O'Brien admits and apologizes for sexual misconduct

The former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh resigned from his position after acknowledging he had engaged in sexual misbehavior and apologizing, promising to stay out of the church's public life.

In March, O'Brien said his sexual conduct had "fallen beneath the standards" expected of him.

Since giving his resignation, the cardinal planned on moving to a church house in Dunbar.

The Vatican's statement did not say if O'Brien's leave was imposed on him as punishment or if it had been voluntary, but past wayward priests have been sanctioned with punishments of "prayer and penance," making it look as if this was indeed part of the cardinal's sanction.

The Vatican also said the decision was made "in agreement with the Holy Father."