Successor to disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien promises renewal following priest scandal

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The successor to Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned following sexual misconduct allegations, has promised to drop the incendiary language used by his predecessor in political rows over issues such as equal marriage in favour of a more conciliatory tone.

Monsignor Leo Cushley, 52, a close and influential adviser to Pope Benedict and his successor Pope Francis, is based in Rome as head of the English-language section of the Vatican’s civil service.

He has been appointed to replace the disgraced Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

In a statement to mark his appointment Monsignor Cushley said: “I know it’s a delicate moment and that there is a lot to be done, but with God’s grace and the kind support of the clergy and people of Edinburgh, I will work cheerfully and willingly with all the energy I can muster,” he said.

“There are certain important questions that I will also have to familiarise myself with. I have no jurisdiction in the diocese until after I have been ordained in late September. Only then will I be able to take stock of what has happened and see what can be done.

“It is my sincere hope to do this always in truth and in charity, with a view to reconciliation and healing among the Catholics of Edinburgh. My first task is to preach the good news, Christ crucified and risen from the dead, to confirm my brother priests in their Catholic faith and ministry and to be a loving, simple, wise shepherd to the flock that has been entrusted to me.”

Cardinal O’Brien, 75, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February following accusations by several priests of inappropriate “sexual conduct”.

The allegations surfaced 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 Stonewall 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 March, he admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him. 

A Vatican inquiry concluded in April – and no further action against Cardinal O’Brien was taken.

Cardinal O’Brien announced his departure from Scotland as part of a period of “spiritual renewal” in May.