Shamed Cardinal O’Brien may change Dunbar retirement plans

Cardinal Keith O'Brien pictured in his study. Picture by: Jane Barlow
Cardinal Keith O'Brien pictured in his study. Picture by: Jane Barlow

DUNBAR witnessed the last service by the disgraced leader of the Scottish Catholic Church on Saturday as he prepared for life outside the Cardinalate.

It emerged last week that Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh since 1985, had been accused of “inappropriate behaviour” against three serving priests and one former priest. The claims date back to the 1980s.

He subsequently resigned from his post, admitting: “There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

Cardinal O’Brien had taken mass at the Our Lady of the Waves Church several times in the past year.

It had been arranged that he would move into a church-held property in Dunbar, on Bayswell Road, when he retired from the archbishopric this year. It was also thought that O’Brien would help Canon John Creanor with priestly duties in the Dunbar and North Berwick parish, but that now looks unlikely.

Herbert Coutts, vice-chair of the Dunbar church’s parish council, said: “He has been down for masses for some time.

“I hope it doesn’t change. I would hope he could ultimately come and settle in the church house, but we have to await developments.

O’Brien took mass in Dunbar on Saturday, February 23, telling one member of the congregation to “keep carrying the flag” for the Catholic Church.

Sunday mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh was taken by Bishop Stephen Robson, former parish priest for Dunbar and North Berwick, in O’Brien’ absence.

O’Brien had been expected in Rome this week to take part in the election of a new Pope, but stayed instead at his Edinburgh home.

One of his visitors there this week, Thelma Houston, described herself as a friend, and said he had been looking forward to spending his retirement in Dunbar, but now had to face “a terrible drop”.

The Northern Ireland-born O’Brien, 74, had been a controversial and outspoken figure as a Cardinal.

His description of gay marriage as a “grotesque subversion” led to him being named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by gay rights group Stonewall Scotland in 2012. He ha also described abortion rates in Scotland as being the equivalent of “two Dunblanes a day.”