Title: ‘Cardinal Keith O’Brien was like God to me. Then he tried to seduce me’: the whistleblower’s tale
As disgraced 91-year-old cardinal Theodore McCarrick stood in an American court last week, charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a minor, the spectre of the late Scottish cardinal, Keith O’Brien, hovered silently over proceedings. Two elderly men, who once donned scarlet robes and mitres, who reached the pinnacle of Catholic church power, stripped to civvies. McCarrick pleaded not guilty to the charges.O’Brien, the UK’s then most senior Catholic cleric, and a vocal opponent of gay rights, resigned in 2013 after the Observer revealed details of his sexually inappropriate behaviour with priests in his diocese.
For ex-priest Brian Devlin, one of the four whistleblowers who testified against O’Brien back in 2013, the two cases are clearly linked. “If we hadn’t gone to the Observer back then, the church would have dealt with McCarrick quite differently. Without O’Brien, there would be no church process.”
Devlin has written a book, Cardinal Sin,outlining his experiences for the first time and describing his battle for improved church governance and accountability.
O’Brien was the first Catholic cardinal whose misdemeanours were dealt with publicly. He wouldn’t be the last. In a phone interview back then with the late Richard Sipe, a prominent ex-priest and psychotherapist who worked relentlessly on church abuse, Sipe rejected the notion of O’Brien as a single bad apple. “We have someone here too,” he told me. ‘It will go public soon.” That someone was McCarrick.
O’Brien’s case blew open the church door on accountability, forcing discussion where secrecy reigned. When Devlin and three serving priests made official complaints about O’Brien’s behaviour to the Vatican, silence had followed. Then Pope Benedict resigned. O’Brien was given permission to attend the conclave. Unwilling to accept the “business as usual’” message, the four went public.