Disgraced Cardinal blocked sex abuse inquiry

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Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien blocked an inquiry into cases of historic sexual abuse a year before resigning over his own inappropriate sexual conduct, the Catholic Church has said.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland commissioned a report into allegations of abuse in 2011 but it was halted the following year when Cardinal O’Brien, then president of the conference, withdrew his support.

The cardinal stepped down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

He issued an apology, saying ‘’there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me’’.

His opposition to an inquiry into Church-related abuse allegations was revealed by the retired archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, in a letter to the Catholic newspaper The Tablet.

Mr Conti wrote: “It was the intention of all but one member of the Bishops’ Conference to commission an independent examination of the historical cases we had on file in all of our respective dioceses and publish the results, but this was delayed by the objection of the then president of the conference; without full participation of all the dioceses the exercise would have been faulty.”

A Church spokesman said: “This refers to a decision taken in 2011 by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland to commission an independent academic analysis of statistics relating to abuse and allegations of abuse over a 60-year period from 1952 to 2012.

“This project, with the cooperation of each of the eight dioceses in Scotland, started and ran until 2012, at which time, the then president of the conference, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, withdrew from the project. “Without the participation of all the dioceses a ‘national audit’ was not possible so the analysis was stopped.”

Following his resignation Cardinal O’Brien, 75, stated that he would play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland and has since left the country.