‘You can’t kick a bishop in the balls’

‘You can’t kick a bishop in the balls’

Those are the words of an ex-priest allegedly abused by Britain top Catholic

THE latest bombshell to hit the Vatican comes in the form of news that Britain’s top Catholic and virulent homophobe Cardinal Keith O’Brien (above, photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) has been reported to the Vatican for “inappropriate behaviour” towards three priests and a former priest in Scotland.

The four, from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, have complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain, and demanded O’Brien’s immediate resignation. A spokesman for the cardinal said that the claims were contested.

O’Brien, due to retire next month, has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex marriages would be

Harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved.

Last year he was named “bigot of the year” by the gay rights charity Stonewall.

One of the complainants alleges that the cardinal developed “an inappropriate relationship” with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counselling.

The four submitted statements containing their claims to the nuncio’s office the week before Ratzinger’s resignation on February 11. They fear that, if O’Brien travels to the forthcoming papal conclave to elect a new Pope, the church will not fully address their complaints.

Said one of the complainants:

It tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs. The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit.

The revelation of the priests’ complaints will be met with consternation in the Vatican. Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Church have dogged Ratzinger’s papacy throughout.  Following the announcement of his quitting the post of the “Vicar of Christ”,  rumours have been rife in Rome that Ratzinger’s shock decision to quit may be connected to further scandals to come.

It is understood that the first allegation against the O’Brien dates back to 1980. The complainant, now married, was then a 20-year-old seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, where O’Brien was his “spiritual director”. His statement apparently claims O’Brien made “an inappropriate” approach after night prayers.

The seminarian says he was too frightened to report the incident, but says his personality changed afterwards, and his teachers regularly noted that he seemed depressed. He was ordained, but he told the nuncio in his statement that he resigned when O’Brien was promoted to bishop.

I knew then he would always have power over me. It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity.

In a second statement, “Priest A” describes being happily settled in a parish when he claims he was visited by O’Brien and “inappropriate contact” between the two took place.

In a third statement, “Priest B” claims that he was starting his ministry in the 1980s when he was invited to spend a week “getting to know” O’Brien at the archbishop’s residence. His statement alleges that he found himself dealing with what he describes as unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.

“Priest C” was a young priest the cardinal was counselling over personal problems. Priest C’s statement claims that O’Brien used night prayers as an excuse for “inappropriate contact”.

The cardinal maintained contact with Priest C over a period of time, and the statement to the nuncio’s office alleges that he engineered at least one other “intimate situation”. O’Brien is, says Priest C, very charismatic, and being sought out by the superior who was supposed to be guiding him was both troubling and flattering.

Those involved believe the cardinal abused his position. The ex-priest said:

You have to understand the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him. 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. You can’t just kick him in the balls.

All four have been reluctant to raise their concerns. They are, though, concerned that the Church will ignore their complaints, and want the conclave electing the new Pope to be “clean”. According to canon law, no cardinal who is eligible to vote can be prevented from doing so.

Hat tip: To the dozens who have sent us this link; too many to mention!

89 responses to “‘You can’t kick a bishop in the balls’”

  1. barriejohn says:

    AgentCormac: That’s the second link you’ve posted today that has already been posted on this site. Do try to keep up!

  2. Marky Mark says:

    Their talking about the resignation now here in the USA…Sweet! Guess the Bishop didn’t want ol’ Berry Duke protesting in front of his house.
    Way to go Berry, U got a Bishop and a homophobic fanatic down to their knees.

    Soon they’ll be writing songs about you for the children to sing in nursery schools…LOL

  3. AgentCormac says:

    FFS, barriejohn. Some of us have to fit reading and commenting in around other stuff, you know – like work, for example.

  4. Broga says:

    O’Brien’s resignation statement was replete with the unsaid and the unmentionable. For a start his comments on the Pope and the RC Church were less than generous. They were the minumum he could have got away with. This is a man who feels aggrieved that he has not had the support and indeed sanctuary offered to so many others.

    But most obvious was that he made no effort to refute the allegations made against him. The statement seemed to me to be a tacit acceptance. As has been said, and well expressed in a previous post here, O’Brien did not damn himself by whatever homosexual drives he may have had. It was the allegation that he used his position to satisfy his sexual needs on vulnerable young priests in his power.

    Whatever we think of him, and my opinion is as low as anyone elses, his situation is now pitiable. His lay support is draining away. And he will not have the haven of protection, and the pseudo admiring references to a life of prayer, offered to Ratzinger. After a wasted life, and he was an intelligent and able man with real potential, he has now been consigned by his church to his own private hell. It is true that amognst the saddest words are “if only.”

  5. JohnMWhite says:

    Spot on assessment, Broga. I have to wonder about the sudden resignation – did he fall on his sword, or was he pushed? Given the absolute shameless nature of the church, and O’Brien himself in most circumstances, I am extremely surprised he didn’t just bury his head in the sand until the conclave. I have a feeling once the news broke, he was swiftly told the gates to the Vatican would be locked to him, and I can understand how that would aggrieve him. These bastards sheltered and lauded far worse offenders than O’Brien, but he’s the one who they suddenly turn their backs on, presumably because of bad timing and political expedience.

    Too bad, he had his chance to make a difference in the church and in Scotland by showing a shred of compassion and being willing to embrace tolerance. Given the sectarian violence rife in Glasgow that the churches gradually tried to get a handle on, promoting a little more tolerance for those who are different should have been an easy sell. He didn’t have to completely fly in the face of church teaching on homosexuality, but it was his choice to call same-sex marriage a grotesque perversion, and it was his choice to throw the weight and resources of the Scottish church into efforts to thwart thousands of people living their lives in peace, in a time of harsh austerity enacted by the same crooks in Westminster who plundered the treasury in the first place. He was willing to stick his neck out in his final week to suggest a modernisation that specifically suits priests – being allowed to marry – but beyond that he squandered any opportunity to do any good with his power.

  6. tony e says:

    Like any revelations about the rc church I’m sure there will be much more to come.

    I suppose it’s fitting that he finds himself an embarrassment to the very organisation whose teachings he used to help back up his own bigoted beliefs.

    I’m sure it’s only a matter of time we are told that the ‘atheists’ were to blame!

  7. AgentCormac says:

    Just noticed this on the BBC’s ‘As it happened’ page:
    1103: The cardinal is not now expected to travel to Rome to take part in the election for a successor to the Pope – leaving Britain unrepresented in the election.

    No. Leaving British catholics unrepresented. As a non-catholic Briton I don’t want any of my fellow countrymen anywhere near the bloody thing. (Apologies if 300 other people have already posted this before me.)

  8. Stonyground says:

    The Daily Mash has a take on this:

    “Catholic guilt is amazing stuff, you could use it to clean an oven”

  9. Broga says:

    Even the BBC, usually reluctant to utter an unkind word about the RC Church, has been pushed to cover the story of O’Brien. The coverage, as far as they can manage, tends towards the neutral as in “We don’t yet know the details” and “We have yet to hear from the Cardinal”. True, of course, but getting even that is like extracting teeth.

    What we have had are interviews with RCs in Scotland. These are usually elderly to aged and have about as much to say of any consequence as my dog. An elderly woman, described as an RC says, “Well, I’m shocked to hear this.” Lots of “it has come as a great surprise” interspersed with what a wonderful Christian leader he was. We have also had the disbelieving. I heard one man say, “Whatever they say he has done I don’t believe it.”

    The BBC has done its best for the cause telling us that he was very popular, ready to mix with the plebs and straight talking. The mixing with the plebs bit was choice. A couple of plebs had decorated his manse and he had arranged for them to meet the Pope when Ratzinger visited. Here was an example of his common touch. It didn’t seem to occur to the BBC that according to the Jesus’ myths the plebs are the ones who ought to be to the fore and not the usual great and the good and especially the wealthy with a few quid to drop into the maw of the church.

    Must be heartbreaking for O’Brien to be suddenly removed from the centre of activity complete with guilded robes and that fancy hat and doing that little blessing gesture. Especially when, from what we know so far, the allegations against him are minor compared to the more usual rapes perpetrated by priests on little boys. Curious business this. Must be more to be revealed unless the Vatican censorship succeeds in keeping it secret.

  10. Stephen Turner says:

    Keith O’Brien = I keen! I throb!

  11. AgentCormac says:


    What is wonderful about the age we live in, and what will ultimately be the downfall of the church, is the amazing access to information we all have. They simply cannot keep a lid on all the wrong-doing and abuse any more. In the past they could move people around, brush their dark little secrets under a Persian rug in the vatican and be confident that nobody would ever see ‘the bigger picture’. But not now. The rot that lies at the heart of religion is there for all to see, exposed and squirming in well-earned discomfort.

  12. Broga says:

    @AgentCormac: Absolutely. It’s that bloody internet. They just can’t keep the censorship absolute any more.

  13. AgentCormac says:

    An interesting insight into the political shenanigans that go on in the vatican?

  14. Don says:


    Good point that he got extra credit for actually recognising a couple of common people who had been of service to him.

    If you claim an honorific, Your Grace, Your Excellency, Your Magnificence, You Holiness,Your Superfluousness, then never ever claim to have any connection with the rest of us.

  15. barriejohn says:

    The Guardian is saying that this wasn’t his decision at all. Certainly, his words allow that interpretation.

  16. Robster says:

    The poor cardinal! Were there no eight year old boys available? Must have been the first time. The thought of two catlik priests getting it off with each other is a most disgusting thing. Do they have kinky sex in their dog collars and silly hats? Do they use condoms? Do they have any idea of what to do in a sexual situation?

  17. Robster says:

    When the media dies surveys regarding the most trusted vocations, do they include clerics of the various available flavours? Priests (and other clerics afflicted with religious belief) would by now have to rank up there with used car salesmen, journalists and lawyers as the least trustworthy vocations. Maybe confessionals in catholic halls of nonsense could be reversed and the clerics could confess to the punters and get it all off their chests.

  18. Marky Marky says:

    Been hearing a lot of “His Holyness” in interviews about O’Brian.
    Should be replaced with “His Hollow-ass-lying-bigot”.

  19. Marky Marky says:

    (Do they have kinky sex in their dog collars and silly hats?)
    …LOL, yes those hats are a hoot. There’s some good Nun porn out there…wonder how they got the outfits?

  20. barriejohn says:

    Is this a “spoof” as well? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

  21. AgentCormac says:

    Here’s a link to what Bill Donohue has to say about the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Britain’s most prominent catholic and the crisis generally engulfing his beloved church:

  22. AgentCormac says:

    Precisely, barriejohn!!!!!!!!!

  23. Broga says:

    I wonder why the priests who made the allegations are remaining anonymous? Is this their wish? Or does the Vatican wish to keep them clear of questioning and further and more damaging exposures? There is clearly one hell of a flap in the Vatican as they show in their indecent haste to sack O’Brien and get another Pope elected. In sacking O’Brien they still have the problem of the Cardinals who will vote and who are known to have covered up child sexual abuse.

    O’Brien is now a bitter man, feeling hard done by and nurturing the kind of grievances that fester and corode. He knows where a lot of the bodies are buried and he could do plenty of damage. Having been hurled from a position where he felt so powerful to the pits of shame and inconsequentiality he is not going to be easy to placate. Where are they going to hide him? He doesn’t seem suited to being a humble priest in some backwater. And he won’t be easily hidden in some monastery praying and contemplating. The game ain’t over till it’s over and it aint over yet. (Acknowledgements to Yogi Berra.)

  24. AgentCormac says:

    It’s a rumour that has been doing the rounds for a few days, barriejohn.

  25. […] IN A move indicative confusion, disarray and blind panic in the Vatican, Ratzinger has reportedly forced the immediate resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, following allegations against him of “inappropriate” homosexual behaviour. […]

  26. Stephen Mynett says:

    As far as the priests go, I accept the right of any victim of a crime to remain anonymous, especially abuse. They may have been old enough but if it is non-consensual it is abuse and as much as I hate the rcc, they should still have the same rights as anyone else, even if they try to deny those rights to other.

    My concern is where are these priests and what are they doing. If they are messed up by what happened to them they could pose a threat to the people they are working with. They need to be watched by someone who has an idea what os going on and that someone must be from outside the rcc.

  27. AgentCormac says:

    This from the repugnant ‘Protect the Poop’ blog:

    “Protect the Pope comment: I can’t put into words how sad this makes me feel, now that I have moved beyond my initial anger on learning the news. Cardinal Keith O’Brien was a source of encouragement and leadership for faithful and loyal Catholics on both sides of the border. But his unnecessary comments on celibacy, his mishandling of the question about women priests, and now his resignation under a cloud are massive body blows to Catholics seeking to defend the Deposit of Faith. This tragic turn of events, coming on the heels of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign due to old age, give the impression of the ground being taken from under us. However, my wise parish priest gave me this advice, from Chesterton, the Church has appeared to have gone to the dogs five times in history, and every time the dogs have died.”

    I think you’ll find we won’t lie down quite that easily or quietly this time!

  28. barriejohn says:

    It’s a rumour that has been doing the rounds for a few days, barriejohn.

    I know that, but Donohue’s serious!

  29. JohnMWhite says:

    Interesting comment from Protect the Pope. This angry, distraught commenter is, naturally, angry and distraught that her beloved authority that she could outsource her conscience to and who was a vicarious battler against those whom she hated has dared say some things she didn’t like and wound up further embarrassing the church. Not a shred of sympathy or concern for the alleged victims, and in fact this commenter seems somewhat mollified by the idea that those who have stood against the church before have all died. Wonder how that happened…

    This kind of mentality is, sadly, precisely what authoritarian faith is designed to create. All this commenter is concerned about is somebody saying or doing something different, and all that appeases her is the idea of returning to the status quo. Preserving the status quo and the overall authority of the church is absolutely paramount – nobody in this institution truly cares about doing the right thing or helping victims.

  30. I read a book called What Should I Do?: Philosophers on the Good, the Bad, and the Puzzling. The book proves that the Catholic Church is a hindrance to real ethics and gets very little right. And it won’t change for its about dogma not truth. Its no wonder scandal results. It is interesting that the book argues that engaging in fantasies say about perverted sex does not mean you will carry them out. It asks the question if repressing the fantasies will make you more likely to carry them out In my opinion, the answer is yes for fantasies give some relief and repressing the fantasies does not. The sickness in the Church is rooted in Jesus who said that to fantasise about a married woman was as bad and sinful as adultery with her. So if you don’t repress you are bad and in the context Jesus said you are better off without the eye with which you see things to fantasise about you will for Hell is the result of such sin. Oh the dangers of taking a mere man – never mind a fanatic – as infallible son of God! Jesus never did any real good works – no fundraising for the poor, no working in soup kitchens and no washing of lepers. No wonder they had to invent tales about him lazily doing magic to cure people. It is shocking in this day and age that people are still being damaged by his arrogance and lies such as the Cardinal.

  31. barriejohn says:

    Only Catholics have the right to define what human rights are:

  32. barriejohn says:

    P Gormley: I keep quoting those supposed words of Jesus whenever the powers that be in the church come out with some twaddle about “chaste relationships”. If a relationship is more than mere friendship, and the two people involved are sexually attracted to one another, then, according to Jesus, they might just as well be having sex. Or is that yet another passage inserted into their holy book at some later date by some unknown zealot?

  33. AgentCormac says:

    Interesting article entitled ‘Unfit for purpose and in denial: a church that has lost all authority’ in today’s Observer.

  34. AgentCormac says:

    Another interesting (well, I thought so) article about the RCC and its sexual predators.

    This one, entitled ‘Is it even possible to live a celibate life?’, contains a comment that ‘There is no celibacy get-out in the form of masturbation’. It is attributed to someone called Father Stephen Wang. I kid you not!