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.
“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.