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Pope orders Cardinal O'Brien out of Scotland.

This morning the Vatican released a curt statement announcing that Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who recently resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh -- before the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five -- after admitting improper sexual conduct, will be leaving Scotland for a while to think about what he did. Weeks before the conclave, you'll recall, three priests and a former priest accused the cardinal of sexual misconduct, including a long-term affair -- allegations he initially denied. O'Brien skipped the conclave. It was thought he would skip town too, at least for a spell. But then he was seen moving into a seaside home about thirty miles east of Edinburgh.

"Its a nice little place," he reportedly said. "My plan is to move here ultimately to relax and enjoy my retirement." Pope Francis had other ideas. Not only will O'Brien be leaving Scotland to do penance for his admitted "sexual conduct [that] has fallen below the standards expected of me," but, as the Vatican statement makes clear, the pope will be keeping tabs on him. "Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See."

So this is how Francis handles bishops who engage in inappropriate sexual conduct. Still waiting to see how he deals with bishops who fail to handle their own priests' misdeeds.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Grant,I think it's worth noting that the Vatican press release (the English version anyway) was very careful not to say O'Brien had been ordered to do anything. It just said the cardinal "in agreement with the Holy Father" will be leaving Scotland. I read that as the Vatican still being very careful at how it phrases its treatment of church princes.Josh McElweeNCR

Hi Josh:Yes, that's Vaticanese for "that house you just moved into a half-hour from your former diocese? Don't get comfortable."

In the meantime, Robert W. "Tick-tock[?]" Finn still occupies his throne in Kansas City.

Let's see nos -- a bishop has affairs with adult males, confesses and resigns. Then he is exiled. In Boston a bishop oversees the coverups of the abuse of hundreds of children, he resigns. Then he is awarded a cushy job in the Vatican. An American bishop is convicted of a cover-up. He does not resign. He is still in office. Lesson: is it worse ot take advantage of seminarians than children?

Now, only if our politicians, celebrities and media people would follow O'Brian's example, we would be living in a very different world.

The link for the Vatican statement didn't work for me but I found it here:

I'm afraid that Bp Finn may last a while yet, because his brother bishops the world over may sympathize with him (as well as heads of religious orders), because in the course of their episcopal career they are likely to have encountered similar cases and made similar unwise decisions. It might have been at a place and time when the Dallas charter did not exist, but it still makes them reluctant to condemn him forcefully.

From the statement (thank you, John Hayes, for posting a working link):"His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick OBrien, Archbishop Emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, for the same reasons he decided not to participate in the last Conclave, and in agreement with the Holy Father, will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance."I didn't realize that Liturgiam Authenticam's translation principles applied to Vatican press office releases :-)

I don't know why the link went bad, but I've updated the post with one that works.

Hey, Grant, I didn't mean my reference to "working link" to come across as snide as it reads - these things happen with URLs.

Finn is lasting because the only one who can kick his butt out is Francis. Until and unless that happens, Finn will continue to be a boil on a certain nether part of the body of the USCCB.

Pope Francis, at the moment, is the only person who can kick butt, and the only person he can rely upon to tell him who to kick is himself. It's a big world. Perhaps some day there will be enough Francis bishops around, in the Vatican and in the world, that he can take advice and not have to do these things himself. In the meantime, I would not conclude that the easy riders will stay in the saddle forever just because he hasn't gotten to them yet.

Where's the best place to go these days for spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance? If word gets out, they won't be able to handle the crowds.

Apparently, this idea didn't originate with Francis but someone suggested it to the Vatican ...The Herald revealed on Thursday Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia was behind an appeal to the Vatican to intervene after Cardinal O'Brien's re-emergence in Scotland this week ..... - Damian ThompsonMaybe if some upper clergy complained to the Vatican about Finn and others, we'd see some movement?

Crystal,Might we also hope someone passes on the name of Cardinal Mahony? In all seriousness, I hope this is the start of an effort to remove/replace some of the US hierarchy who have simply missed the boat on this whole matter. I don't understand how they don't seem to get the damage they have done and continue to do to the Church by their failure to take a firm stand on the whole matter. And their ability to speak on any issue of morality is severely compromised by this whole situation. While the Bishops and their few defenders like to blame the "secularism" and the like for their lack of influence, their own actions have had a huge contribution to their inability to speak with any effectiveness. Frankly, nobody believes them...And until someone, somewhere does a major housecleaning job within the hierarchy in the US there is no possibility that the damage will be stopped never mind undone.

Yes, Mahony too, and while we're at it, Bernard Law.Call me cynical, but perhaps the reason O'Brien is being punished is not because of his preying on seminarians but that he turns out to be gay? In which case, those who covered up sex abuse are safe still from the Vatican's ire.

How do people feel about the fact that Cardinal O'Brien's affairs were with other adults? I think he deserves more of a hearing about what actually happened. If the relationships were coercive or exploitive, which some of the men he was involved with claim, than it was very wrong of him. But if they were, in fact, consensual, I don't think it was such a big fall from grace. I think he should be allowed to explain himself.

The problem with O'Brien's relationships is that they were an abuse of his power over his subordinates, they *were* coercive. From The Tablet ...The terms in which the four men have talked to The Observer reveal the pain and confusion they have felt down the years over at their treatment from a superior they should have been able to trust completely. As the former seminarian said of the relationship between priest and bishop: 'He's more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold ... he controls every aspect of your life.'

Cryatal -- Are you assuming that other bishops aren't gay? According to Richard Sipe, who keeps track of such things, a large proportion of Catholic bishops are -- not that they're practicing homosexuals, but that would seem to complicate matters.Irene -- At least some of the Cardinal's lovers were seminarians who felt pressured to become involved. Many people are faulting him for that and rightly, I think. Still, he voluntarily confessed and resigned. That puts him a cut above the others, I'd say.I just wonder if Francis knows enough about the particulars of the Bishop Finn case to make a wise decision.

Ann,No - I think a large percentage of clergy are gay. What I meant was that the Vatican, with all its anti-gay rhetoric, would be embarrassed by a cardinal being shown to have had same-sex relationships while at the same time campaigning against same-sex relationships It exposes the existing hypocrisy of the church on this issue.

Is this the new "Accountability Roman-style?"It is especially fetching that there is such brotherly concern for Cardinal O'Brien's retirement a Roma.BTW: How in God's name did Glasgow get an archbishop surnamed "Tartaglia?" You more likely would expect that a Tartaglia would be more likely the arch in Palermo! Does the church in Scotland have no more qualified Celts in the congregations that are up to the job?

You sinless and charitable US Catholics ought to get together and write an opera.Call it 'Schadenfruede'

Irene,I think I might exhaust my modest reserves of charity in trying to believe that a power relationship as imbalanced as that of cardinal and seminarian could be entirely free of coercion. But let's suppose it is. Casual hookups between consenting adults are so common and unsurprising that critics of them can themselves face a charge of prudishness or prurience. But O'Brien is a high official in a church that utterly condemns all such unblessed activity and denounces homosexual acts and even desires as intrinsically disordered. That's the scandal. If he were a long-haul trucker getting together with some dude he met in a diner, no one would notice or care. Instead, he's one of the exalted guys who tell other people how they must live.But like you, I think he should be allowed to explain himself. I'd love to hear it.

"Maybe if some upper clergy complained to the Vatican about Finn and others, wed see some movement?" Crystal: if wishes were horses, beggars would ride."But OBrien is a high official in a church that utterly condemns all such unblessed activity and denounces homosexual acts and even desires as intrinsically disordered. Thats the scandal."Actually it is what is called internalized homophobia ("Many closeted gay men (I can't speak about or for lesbians) are so afraid of being discovered that they are more anti-gay then are straight homophobes. I suspect that more than a few of these men inhabit episcopal residences and cardinalate palaces.

Many closeted gay men are so afraid of being discovered that they are more anti-gay than are straight homophobes.They're also afraid of yielding to temptation.I realized that when a friend warned me, dead serious: "spending time with homosexuals is dangerous because homosexuality is contagious."

Jim,I think you're right. Andrew Sullivan has also commented on this ...

Here is a new, updated list of complicit bishops across the world who have either resigned, retired, etc. from Richard Sipe. Almost every bishop named who was a confirmed abuser resigned (unfortunately, Sipe doesn't provide the age of retirement but would bet that most retired close to the age of mandatory retirement of 75) or retired (minority) or is dead. With a couple of exceptions, all victims were male. Enabling, cover ups by bishop - rarely any accountability or reprecussions. continues to be a *gulf* between an episcopal abuser and what happens to an episcopal *cover up* or *enabler*. Francis hasn't moved the needle on this one yet. And it is the key element completely missing from the Dallas Charter - no bishop is held accountable even if an abuser. Somehow the illusion that bishops are the direct descendant from Jesus Christ allows them to ignore, avoid, etc. any accountability - funny how a bishop who speaks out on theological issues, women's ordination, etc. can be removed fairly quickly.

Bishop Tartaglia was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Does his surname invalidate his right to be seen as a "Scot" or a "Celt"? Susan Boyle's mother and father were from County Donegal, Ireland and I don't think of "O'Brien" as a name typically associated w/Scotland. Do their surnames qualify them as more of a "Celt" than Bishop Tartaglia?

I'm okay with Robert Finn and/or John Myers staying on their respective cathedra. They serve as an object lesson for conservative ideologues with tarnished morals, a reminder that you have to look a bit deeper for virtue. And it's not like they're going to get caught again with those big strikes against them. And if they were, you can bet criminal charges would be forthcoming.No, I say let 'em be.

Todd: I disagree. People who have made serious mistakes of judgment and ought to have known better should not be in positions where they get to call the shots.In addition, if you think that the office of bishop has some value, then not nominating a replacement is not fair to the people of those dioceses, who are deprived of the leadership that a good bishop might offer. For the lay people it's admittedly hypothetical (I have not had the experience of a bishop that I would look to for direction), but for the priests at least, who, I imagine, are in regular contact with their bishop in matters of management and of the daily life of the diocese, it's depriving them of a respected leader.

"Im okay with Robert Finn and/or John Myers staying on their respective cathedra"The thing about Myers is that he's nearly 72 years old. Canon law designates a mandatory retirement age of 75 for bishops. Think about that for a moment: you're expected to occupy a high-stress post with great responsibility until you're 75. 75 seems pretty old to *require* someone to serve that long. Sure, I suppose that a bishop is free to tender his resignation before he reaches that age - but how many of us would willingly relinquish a post like that? And the Holy See, for some reason, has a tendency to not immediately honor retirement / resignation requests.Just thinking about the people I know who are in their mid-70's - from a health-and-energy standpoint, I'd think that some are able to handle all of the responsibility and stress that comes with being a bishop, but quite a few aren't. Compare the level of responsibility and stress involved in being the parents of infants, vs. being the grandparents of infants. I think there is a reason that God ordered family life such that young parents who are energetic and healthy have to deal with infants, whereas the grandparents get to leave the grandchildren behind at the end of the day. The mandatory retirement age for priests is age 70. I believe the spirit of that law is that many priests, by the time they reach that age, have ascended to positions that are responsible and stressful - they are the pastors of large parishes. It strikes me as merciful to let pastors retire at age 70, to pull back a bit and enjoy the good parts of being a priest without carrying all the burdens of being a pastor (or a school administrator, or an official of a religious order, or whatever it is they do). Bishops aren't accorded the same degree of mercy in canon law. I wonder if designating 75 as a mandatory retirement age reflects a view that the office of bishop is largely ceremonial - that it is not a post with tremendous amounts of stress and responsibility? Whether it was ever that way in church history, I don't know, but for someone in Archbishop Myers' position, it certainly isn't that way anymore. Bishops today must manage enormous budgets, piles of assets, hundreds of employees, a host of difficult and seemingly intractable problems - and are under perpetual public and media scrutiny in a way that hasn't traditionally been the case. It's a really difficult job.I'm imagining a guy like Myers, who has been a bishop for over 25 years already, thinking that if he can just hang on a few more years, he's out of there. But between now and then, he's got a lot to deal with.

"Bishops today must manage enormous budgets, piles of assets, hundreds of employees, a host of difficult and seemingly intractable problems" Jim P.That could be an argument for younger, more energetic bishops. Or it could be a call for a simpler, less worldly Church.

Todd --Yes, there should be forgiveness -- after repentance. So I say Yae to having Archbishop Weakland maintain a public presence in the Church. But Finn and Myers have not not fully admitted all their wrongs. They're hypocrits.

Jim: You wrote: "The mandatory retirement age for priests is age 70." This varies from diocese to diocese. In the archdiocese of New York, for example, the retirement age is 75, unless you're ill, in which case you may retire at 70.

"People who have made serious mistakes of judgment and ought to have known better should not be in positions where they get to call the shots."I agree, Claire. However, it seems that the curia is unwilling to act. In this case, we can persistently remind them all that these are their bishops, not ours.I also happen to believe that I hold the office of bishop in somewhat higher regard than Rome. It seems Rome values the office of the "Vicar of Rome," rather than "Vicar of Christ," the term used in Lumen Gentium and Christus Dominus.Ann, I do see your point. However, as a person who admired Rembert Weakland, and who perceives him to be somewhat less repentant (as a religious vowed to celibacy!) I thought little of his self-indulgent memoir, and he's not a man I really want to see filling up writing space on pages I read. Give me Robert Morneau or Matt Clark if it has to be a retired bishop.Forgiveness is fine. But sometimes prudence suggests not all can ever be as it was before a serious transgression.

Todd and Claire --Yes, if a bishop has exhibited bad judgment in the past (and sin includes bad judgment), then it is likely that he will continue to have bad judgment in the future -- unless, perhaps, public humiliation has changed him. Sincere repentance alone won't turn him into a wise man. We need a host of new bishops not in order to punish the old ones but because the old ones weren't capable in the first place.

Bishops today must manage enormous budgets, piles of assets, hundreds of employees, a host of difficult and seemingly intractable problems Jim P.That could be an argument for younger, more energetic bishops. Or it could be a call for a simpler, less worldly Church."It could also be an argument for more delegation of authority (not just responsibility) in temporal matters to people with the requisite background and skills .... in most cases, the laity.

Rome supports and holds the office of bishops in high regard when the office supports a Church teaching. For example, when the Bishop of Phoenix condemned St. Joseph's Hospital and the Sister in Charge of the Ethics Committee for terminating the pregnancy of a women whose death was threatened by a non-viable fetus, Rome did nothing to intervene but supported the decision of the Bishop to excommunicate the good Sister and deny the hospital the status of "Catholic". On the other hand, a Synod of Bishops is not given any realistic weight regarding the formulation or reformulation of Doctrine. Most of the doctrines that govern sexual ethical teachings are the 20th century papal encyclicals where only a selected and limited number bishops and theologians were consulted. However, when John Paul II convened the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the Family, many bishops from around the world voiced their widespread concern over the gulf between the birth control encyclical's teaching and actual pastoral practice. They believed the Church must be open to new research and involve the experience or the married laity. There were major problems with the birth control encyclical but John Paul II would not tolerate any of it. In fact, at the end of the 1980 Synod on the Family, he held a press conference and asserted to the surprise of all, that all the bishops were united in their agreement with Humanae Vitae. So much for the offices of bishops.

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