Vatican enforcer probes Keith O’Brien abuse claims

Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna. Picture: Andreas SolaroAFP/Getty Images

Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna. Picture: Andreas SolaroAFP/Getty Images

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A LEADING Vatican enforcer has been ordered by the Pope to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct which led to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna has been appointed by the Congregation for Bishops as its special envoy to listen and report on allegations against the former Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

O’Brien stepped down in February last year after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

The former leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland admitted that he had “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”.

Last May, O’Brien returned to Scotland with a view to retiring in Dunbar. However, he was then ordered by Pope Francis to move to the religious house in England.

His successor, Archbishop Leo Cushley, said the appointment is “indicative of the seriousness with which this matter is being taken”.

Archbishop Cushley said: “I am grateful to the Holy Father and the Congregation for Bishops and see the latter’s action as indicative of the seriousness with which this matter is being taken.

“I believe that this is a positive step towards truth and eventual reconciliation, this may not be an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.

“I am reassured by this and will be pleased to support Bishop Scicluna in any way I can.

“It is important that such work be conducted in a way that protects those who wish to contribute to it.

“It is also important that the Holy See take such steps as are necessary to evaluate the allegations which have been made over the last 18 months or so.

“In order to allow Bishop Scicluna to listen and report fully, I encourage all those concerned to co-operate serenely with him.”

Bishop Scicluna has been credited with reforming the Vatican’s attitude to sexual abuse over the past decade, even by victims, overhauling its internal norms to make it easier to defrock abusers.

Dr Rebecca Rist, papal expert from the University of Reading, said: “Francis’s specific request to appoint the tough and thorough Bishop Charles Scicluna to lead the investigation shows his determination to find answers, and find them quickly.

“That this request is coming in such an unprecedented way from the Holy See itself reinforces how personally committed Francis is to cleaning up the church.”