I thought it was fairly safe to assume that Cardinal Keith O'Brien was guilty of something when he abruptly resigned and withdrew from the conclave. Accusations by several priests and one former priest of his making sexual advances stood in sharp relief against the backdrop of his notorious anti-gay views. A report last Friday in The Scotsman claimed the Vatican had received a report months ago of yet another incident dating back to 2001.
Yesterday the cardinal publicly announced that he was guilty... of something. We're still not sure exactly what.
"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," O'Brien said.
"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," he said. "To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.
So here's my question: What constitutes the "standards" expected of a Catholic priest? Wouldn't that be any sexual conduct at all? It just strikes me as a bizarre and excessively couched statement by a man who is still just refusing to name the love that dare not speak it.
This career ending brouhaha erupted immediately after O'Brien had made dicey statements questioning the wisdom of a celibate priesthood. But it would seem that this is not the first time he has gone afoul of official doctrine.
O'Brien has at times had a rocky tenure as a cardinal.
In 2003, as a condition of assuming that rank, he was forced to issue a public pledge to defend church teaching on homosexuality, celibacy and contraception. He was pressured to make the pledge after he had called for a "full and open discussion" on such matters.
There seems to be little about which the cardinal has been consistent through the years. In addition to wavering on contraception and priestly celibacy, he at one time seemed to extol celibacy... for gay priests.
O'Brien appeared to take an accepting stance toward homosexual priests around the time when he was appointed cardinal in 2003.
"If they are leading a celibate life, God bless the men," he was quoted as saying at the time.
He then became a fire-breathing critic of gay marriage. And while he has wavered on contraception, he appears to have held a very firm line against abortion. But who knows what the man is really thinking? He seems to be a walking, talking embodiment of the conflicts and contradictions within a Church incapable of reconciling its doctrinaire policies with the modern world and the majority of Catholics.