Priest accuses Keith O’Brien of groping him hours after he became a cardinal

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Cardinal Keith O’Brien faces more accusations of sexual misconduct, as a priest has alleged that he groped him in 2003, just hours after becoming a cardinal.

The priest alleged that the cardinal assaulted him at the Scots College in Rome in October 2003, just after he was awarded the red mitre by Pope John Paul II.

The Scottish priest, now based in London, made his complaint to the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops in September, after which O’Brien was summoned to Rome, reports the Herald Scotland.

The complaint was then dealt with by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who early on was one of the favourites this week to become pope.

Several other priests came forward last month with complaints against O’Brien, which eventually led to his resignation and his admission of in appropriate “sexual conduct”. 

The 74-year-old, former head of the Catholic church in Scotland, who contested the first set of allegations, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February.

This latest revelation, which resulted in the cardinal cancelling all public engagements, and his stepping down as president of the bishops’ conference, the decision-making body for the church in Scotland, was not one of the priests who came forward last month.

One source said: “If Pope Francis wasn’t familiar with the problems faced by the Church in Scotland, he certainly is now.”

The complaint involved an attempt to grope the priest, who O’Brien already knew. The Herald reports that alcohol had been consumed at an event in the Scots College, which was attended by priests who had travelled to Rome for his elevation to cardinal.

Allegations of sexual misconduct within the church could lead to O’Brien being stripped of the position of former Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. He would be only the fourth cardinal in 200 years to be demoted as such.

These accusations come one day after another former trainee priest, now in his 50s, alleged that O’Brien kissed and groped him in the 1980s, while he was a teenager.

He said that O’Brien warned him of the repercussions of revealing the incident, but that for years he had not succumbed to the urge to speak out about it.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “A number of complaints have been passed directly to the Vatican.

“The detail and nature of them is not known to the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.”

Keith O’Brien became a cardinal on October 21 2003. He has now taken to living privately, and has said that he will no longer act on behalf of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

The Vatican said following his resignation that an investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct would not take place until after a new pope was elected.