ROME, March 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The former head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, after resigning amid a flurry of controversy last week, has admitted to sexual misconduct in his past and apologised. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former archbishop of Edinburgh and for years the British episcopate’s strongest voice against the homosexual agenda, issued a media release this weekend saying, “there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

The cardinal said that he would have no further participation in the public life of the Church and would spend the rest of his life “in retirement”.

The resignation and announcement that Britain’s only Cardinal Elector would not attend the conclave came as a shock to Britain’s pro-life and pro-family Catholics. The resignation followed media reports that three priests and a former priest had complained to Vatican authorities.

Late Sunday night, O’Brien apologized and asked for forgiveness. In a statement, his accusers, whose names have still not been released, have said they feel “vindicated”.

“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.

“To those I have offended I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic church and people of Scotland, I also apologise. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic church in Scotland.”

O’Brien had been scheduled to retire later this month when he reached 75, but his exit was rapidly facilitated by the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI, for whom dealing with this one last scandal was among the last acts of his pontificate.

Despite the public admission of sexual misconduct, there have still been no details made public as to the precise nature of the offences. The four men have said only that O’Brien had engaged in “inappropriate behaviour” with them in the 1980s while they were students in seminary.

At a press conference today at the Vatican, a Scottish journalist asked whether officials had any plans to discipline O’Brien for having been “an active homosexual” and “breaking his vows”. The Vatican’s press officer, Fr. Frederico Lombardi replied that he had “no information” about any such plans.

The news comes at a difficult period for the Church. During the “interregnum” or “sede vacante,” when there is no pope, most of the Vatican machinery comes to a halt with nearly all heads of curial offices suspended from their positions, including those with competence in such cases. Under the Church’s rules, a cardinal is close to the pinnacle of the Church’s hierarchy and is subject only to the pope. Under such unusual circumstances, it would be difficult to determine whether any disciplinary actions would be possible until the new pope is installed.

Before Pope Benedict’s resignation came into effect on Thursday night, a new apostolic administrator was appointed to Edinburgh to oversee the Church until a new archbishop can be appointed.