Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s prayers

26 February 2013

As the late Christopher Hitchens used to say of the most vociferous, gay-obsessed clergy: ‘I have a rule of thumb for such clerics and have never known it to fail: Set your watch and sit back, and pretty soon they will be found sprawling lustily on the floor of the men’s room.’

In Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s case it was not on the floor of the men’s room but – if the stories of several former young novices are true – in late-night prayer sessions that His Eminence brought himself low. This is allegedly the same Keith O’Brien who was the author of last year’s tumescent comparison of civil marriage equality for gays with the introduction of slavery. To revert to the moving language of legalese: in allegations stretching back thirty years, four men have so far come forward.

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“Priest B” claims that after a late-night drinking session at a ‘getting to know you’ week at the Archbishop’s residence the young priest got to know an unwanted amount about his host. Cardinal Keith was meant to be counselling another young priest – “Priest C” – over personal problems but instead allegedly tried to seize the opportunity provided by ‘night prayers’ to give his own personal twist to the ‘laying on of hands’. And if anyone wonders how Cardinal Keith may could have got away with this all these years, as one of the ex-priests explains: ‘You have to understand the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him.’ Indeed.

‘Harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved’ was how Cardinal O’Brien recently described the prospect of two British citizens who are not members of his church marrying in a civil ceremony. How much more appropriate a description of his own career that may now be.

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  • David Lindsay

    Since apparently you are not allowed to say this on here –

    • Alasdair Macdougall

      I read your blogspot & am unclear on your argument. Clearly giving RC clerics the option to marry will not change their sexual preferences, but does that mean it is not an obvious part of the solution? The celibacy rule decreed by some bonkers pope in 1139 (not quite the 1000 years you cite, as though that makes any difference) created a “boys only club” which results in: a) RC priesthood being one of the professions most attractive to gay males; b) the opposite for hetro males with normal hormones; c) a senior-cleric hierarchy biased to (a) or with little/no sexual experience to identify “inappropriate behaviour”; d) a total exclusion of women (& nuns don’t count) who might be more sensitively attuned.

      Is your horror of married or (God forbid) women priests based on a feeling that they would somehow be less sanctified than a “celibate” male priest with a hands-on approach? That may have had some basis in Medieval times when most clerics were monks (a more specific calling?), but what is the current day rational?

  • David Lindsay

    From the Guardian letters page:

    • In your editorial (26 February) you talk about Cardinal O’Brien as leading a “narrow” Scottish church. In fact, he led a church devoted to the minority rights of asylum seekers, defended the rights of the least well-off, supported the need for urgent action on climate change, and was a powerful voice, alongside successive moderators of the Church of Scotland, in condemning the possession and use of nuclear weapons. So, on a balanced view, not obviously a narrow church.

    Michael Martin


    •  I would like to say a public thank you to Cardinal Keith O’Brien. He is one of the few church leaders who has consistently and unconditionally condemned the immorality of nuclear weapon policies. His solid support has been of the greatest value. If we succeed in
    preventing £100bn being spent on the replacement of Trident his contribution will have played a major part.

    Bruce Kent


    A very great man.

  • teigitur

    If these men had any backbone and want to be taken seriously they need to identify themselves. Anonymous allegations are worth nothing.True or not, they are wortless as you can say anything about anyone, even after 30 years.

  • Fran Katew

    If you point one finger at someone, you inevitably have three pointing back at yourself. Take the beam out of your own eye before attempting to take the speck out of someone else’s.

  • darwins beard

    Hitchens once said something like “Don’t trust the shepherd to care for the flock as all he wants to do is fleece them f**k them or eat them”.

    Quite apt really

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    A nasty little column.

  • AndrewMelville

    O’Brien showed himself to be a bigot in many ways. This incident simply confirms him as hypocrital bigot. If we now find out that he secretly supports Rangers FC and reads Calvin for theological guidance in his spare time, we can be certain of his hypocritical bigotry in all areas.

  • Arthur Moe

    To be seen shaking hands with the dreaded Jonah was the kiss of death for the Archbishop.

  • C Cole

    Thanks too, Douglas, for a timely reminder of how acute the Hitch’s journalistic reading of human nature was.

    • David Lindsay

      Oh, puh-lease!

  • C Cole

    As has recently been suggested, the next Pope (whoever he is) should think seriously about repealing the strictures against priests marrying. And then do it.

  • Eddie

    Damn Scots and Irish religious hypocrites.
    Can’t we deport ’em back to their gaylands?
    I am sure there is a hillside in the wilderness where they could all frollick together in their cassocks. Some sort of Tor Paedo perhaps?

    • Moor Larkin

      What might be more useful is to have the accusations explained. I understood from one report that the priests have co-ordinated with one another on the internet before this matter seeped into the half-light. Evidently, as trainee priests, these were all grown men, so presumably the offences are at worst, homosexual assault upon an adult. I fail to see what this has to do with any sort of *paedo* unless paedo is now the shorthand for *queer*

      • Eddie

        You’re just splitting newly-sprouted hairs, Moor Larkin.
        OK OK strictly what you say it true. But the Catholic church has ‘form’ with priests abusing minors, and many abusers also abused or engaged in sexual acts in the seminary – cases in Ireland, Austria and Belgium has shown this. So, I am not really exaggerating much, am I?
        It is possible for someone like this to abuse both legal aged young men and the underage, non? Whatever;’s on the menu really, for represssed opportunistic amoral hypocrites like that.

  • Paul Danon

    A priest’s vow of obedience doesn’t mean he should conceal a bishop’s misdemeanours. Indeed, he has a duty to report them to authority. I allege nothing about Cardinal O’Brien.

    • Eddie

      Ah but that’s not the way that those in control of the Catholic church see it, is it? They want to be above the law, and see their interpretation of god’s will as trumping any man-made law. That is the issue – as it was when Thomas Becket had the top of his skull sliced off and his brains scooped out by soldiers of the king.

      England has largely followed the humanist Enlightenment path. Ireland hasn’t, and nor to an extent has Scotland, so we get some seepage of this vile, abusive, child-maiming backwardness into England – which is boosted of late by Muslim and other demands for ‘rispek’ and silnce from possible critics who may be ‘offensive’ to the Church or Islam.

      A plague on the lot of them. Let’s arrest all the wrongdoers – why on earth are we showing any deference and respect at all to these self-appointed moral guardians, some of whom seem to have been wallowing in a gutter of utter perversion for decades?

      • Michael

        Ah damn those Scots and Irish; clearly not as advanced as Mother England.

        • Eddie

          Not in terms of leaving silly sectarian religiosity behind, no. Englland left silly regiliosity behind in the 17th century. Sadly, Scotland is still infected with this disease.
          This priest, cardinal, frock-wearing-futtock, whatever was a typical closet gay of the type you get in Scotland, Wales and Ireland – plus the provincial parachial places in England. Lots of ethnic commities have men like him in them too – who may well be imams or married, but who really like young men.

        • Eddie

          Not in terms of leaving silly sectarian
          religiosity behind, no. England left silly religiosity behind in the 17th
          century. Sadly, Scotland is still infected with this disease.

          This frock-wearing futtock-fondling priest was a typical closet gay of the type you often get in Scotland, Wales and Ireland – plus the provincial parochial places in England. Small town repression, innit? Moreover, lots of socially conservative ethnic communities have men
          like him in them too – who may well be married and very anti-gay, but who really fancy young men.

          Here’s a clue: if someone is massively anti-gay and seemingly obsessed with what other men to each other after lights out, then they are likely to have inclinations in the same-sex-attraction direction. The psychology of this is classic and well understood, and it is based on self-hatred and shame.

          • Michael Rossi

            I fully agree with you about the self-hatred and the idiocy of people who choose that path. But the idea that the rest of the country is held in the grip of fundamentalism and we need the bien pensant elite of Islington to teach us how to think doesn’t bear relation to my experience. Shades of grey and all that. Anyway, from one atheist to another, happy Easter

  • Dicky14

    Don’t bash the bishop, he’s self flagellated enough and fumbled his rosaries beneath his cassocks and he’s not in the habit of exculpating although he mitre back then. Uuurgghh…

    • OldSlaughter

      A new course record. Fine work.

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