Priest who accused Cardinal O’Brien says the Catholic church would ‘crush him if it could’

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One of five priests who have come forward to accuse Cardinal Keith O’Brien of inappropriate behaviour, prompting his early retirement, has said on the Catholic church, “If they could crush me, they would.”

Earlier this week, it emerged that a fifth claim of “inappropriate behaviour” towards a male priest had been made against Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The 74-year-old, former head of the Catholic church in Scotland, who denied the first set of allegations last weekend, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church on Monday.

Speaking to the Observer, the priest said he was “disappointed” by the “lack of integrity” shown by the Catholic church.

He went on to say: “There have been two sensations for me this week. One is feeling the hot breath of the media on the back of my neck and the other is sensing the cold disapproval of the church hierarchy for daring to break ranks. I feel like if they could crush me, they would.”

The priest also expressed surprise that Peter Kearney, the director of communications for the Catholic Church in Scotland had denied that Cardinal O’Brien’s early resignation was linked to the allegations. Kearney denied that the church had known about the allegations.

He questioned why there had been calls from some for the complainants to reveal themselves. He said: “To those who want to know my name I would say, what does that change? And what do you think I have done wrong?”

He, and the other complainants had reportedly been asked to sign sworn statements to the church confirming their complaints.

He also went on to call for transparency within the church. He said: “For me, this is about integrity. I thought it was best to let the men and women who put their hard-earned cash in the plate every Sunday know what has been happening. If you pay into something you have a right, but also a duty, to know what you are paying for.”

“I am as sinful as the next man – as my partner and pals frequently remind me. But this isn’t about trying to own the moral high ground. I feel compassion for O’Brien, more compassion than the church is showing me, but the truth has to be available – even when that truth is hard to swallow,” he continued.

The allegations were not homophobic, he said: “This is not about a gay culture or a straight culture. It’s about an open culture. I would be happy to see an openly gay bishop, cardinal, or pope. But the church acts as if sexual identity has to be kept secret.”

The allegations surfaced last Saturday one day after Cardinal O’Brien told the BBC that male priests within the Catholic Church should be able to marry female partners.

The cardinal’s progressive stance on heterosexual matrimony ran counter to his views on LGBT equality.

Last November, Cardinal O’Brien was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by a gay rights charity due to his staunch opposition to marriage equality.

In 2012, he stated that same-sex relationships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse.

In an editorial on Friday, British Catholic newspaper The Tablet said:“When Cardinal Keith O’Brien called gay marriage a ‘grotesque subversion’ and ‘madness’ it attracted widespread censure. No wonder the accusations of inappropriate behaviour as a younger man – strenuously denied – were so damning. If true, it made him look a hypocrite. For the church this was a public relations disaster.”

Meanwhile, the Scotsman newspaper reports that the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien was triggered by a claim of inappropriate behaviour towards a priest in 2001 that was lodged with the Vatican in October.

It is the fifth such allegation to be made public and also the most recent – allegations in the Observer dated back to the 1980s.

The complaint is said to have given other men confidence to come forward with allegations against the cardinal.