Cardinal O’Brien Doing Penance in a Monastery? Yeah Right…

Cardinal O’Brien Doing Penance in a Monastery? Yeah Right…

Cardinal O'Brien2

[C]ardinal  Keith O’Brien is enjoying a quiet retirement in a comfortable home provided by the Catholic Church.

It had been believed O’Brien was doing penance at a monastery in England after admitting he had “fallen beneath the standards” expected of him.

But the UK’s former senior Catholic is staying in a £208,750 bungalow – bought by Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley – in a Northumberland village.

O’Brien, 76, refused to explain his situation yesterday, saying only: “I’m not speaking to anyone at the moment.”

The disgraced churchman has been staying in the former pit village of Ellington, Northumberland, since January.

The house was purchased in the same month by Cushley – who succeeded O’Brien as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh – and two other leading churchmen in their capacity as trustees of the archdiocese.

O’Brien would not answer questions yesterday about why he was living on the other side of England from Cumbria, where he was understood to be undertaking a religious retreat.

When pressed on the house ownership, he replied: “You’ll need to check that with the diocese. I’m not talking about it, I’m not allowed to talk about it.”

Despite his self-imposed exile from Scotland, O’Brien’s new home is just 50 miles across the Border.

Neighbours, unaware of his identity, spoke of regular groups of visitors with Scottish accents.

Asked about his guests and whether villagers knew he was a cardinal, O’Brien answered: “I’m not saying anything. Just leave it at that, the diocese will deal with it.”

O’Brien was brought down after being accused of hypocrisy over his continual condemnation of homosexuality.

He called it a “moral degradation” and described gay marriage as “harmful”.

Three serving Catholic Fathers and one former priest then came forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual contact with them dating back decades.

One claimed O’Brien made an approach to him in 1980, after night prayers, when he was a seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange.

Another complainant said he had been living in a parish when he was visited by the cardinal and inappropriate contact had taken place between them.

A third complainant alleged he had faced what he described as “unwanted behaviour” by the cardinal in the 1980s after some late-night drinking.

A fourth complainant claimed that the cardinal had used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact with him.

O’Brien stepped down from his role in February last year and and remains under investigation by the Vatican, who ordered him to undertake an unspecified period of “prayer and penance”. Read more


Yet they want to evict Fr Despard? All very “justice and peace” – NOT. 

Comments (52)

  • Josephine Reply

    Now we know why Archbishop Cushley said there was no crisis when he took over the archdiocese of Edinburgh.

    And yes, the contrast with Fr Despard, being evicted for reporting scandals, is very clear and shameful for all involved.

    July 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm
  • Eileenanne Reply

    I have no objection to the Church providing a home for Cardinal O’Brien, but a nice wee one bedroom flat would surely have been adequate? the length of his stay in the monastery was always unspecified. When he should leave is a private matter for him, his confessor / spiritual director and the community that took him in.
    I see no connection with the Fr Despard case, As I said in the thread devoted to that case, I would be astonished if he has not been offered suitable alternative accommodation – probably a nice wee one bedroom flat!!

    July 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm
    • Frankier Reply


      Maybe, and I`m only saying maybe, you see no connection because you don`t want to see one.

      What`s that saying again about none so blind, etc.?

      I am trying the same trick as you to try and see no connection but I`m afraid I just can`t get the hang of it.

      Maybe you could offer a wee bit of help to put me out of my misery.

      As for the wee one bedroom flat. Why not a three bedroom flat in the same multi- story in Glasgow where the priest who had the gall to ask people to kneel for communion on the tongue was placed?

      July 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm
      • editor


        Love your latest post, although not sure I know who was placed in a multi-storey flat in Glasgow under the circumstances you describe – but say nothing. I get your drift 😀 – and absolutely nothing surprises me these days, nothing.

        July 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm
      • Frankier


        It may only be a rumour but I heard that one of the priests that was at the conference at Celtic Park last year, you will know who I mean, finished up in one.

        Maybe I`m wrong though, for which I apologise, and he may be in either a nice wee one bedroom flat in Kilmacolm or even a nice big £207,00 house in Windermere.

        July 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm
      • editor


        No, none of the priests who attended our conference last year has been despatched to a multi-story flat. Worry not. All are fine.

        I’m more intrigued that you appear to have attended the conference yourself! Did we meet? And if so, do you agree that I am about the most glamorous, slim , intelligent, witty etc etc editor anyone could hope to to meet?

        July 17, 2014 at 3:36 pm
      • Frankier


        What happened to the priest from the Sacred Heart Church in Bridgeton after, or during, his sabbatical?

        Yes we did meet briefly when I introduced myself.

        You could hardly fail to remember a 7 foot Apollo like creature with blonde flowing locks and moustache to match. Well, that was my wife and I was sitting about 40 yards away trembling in a corner.

        You yourself certainly don`t give yourself justice. You were all that you say and an awful lot more. I never saw anyone move as fast when the bar opened.

        I hope you don`t take that the wrong way.

        July 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm
      • editor


        I believe Father is just fine and still enjoying his sabbatical. He’s got some months to go yet before he’s back in harness.

        I’m gobsmacked that we’ve met – my memory is appalling. Bet you didn’t say you were Frankier on the blog, though? Anyway, you’ll just have to come to the next conference and make that introduction less “brief”! Oh and bring a hairdresser with you!

        Laughed heartily at your penultimate paragraph. Well, I was afraid the Diet Cokes would run out!

        July 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm
    • editor Reply


      The connection to the Fr Despard case should be very clear to even the five year old child of Groucho Marx fame. 😯

      The Church authorities are pursuing Fr Despard through the courts in order to evict him for making public allegations of homosexuality among clergy within the Church in Scotland, after many years of trying to have his concerns addressed privately, via his Bishop (Devine). If they succeed in having him evicted, we can take it as read that any alternative accommodation he is offered will be modest, to say the least. I have it on very good authority indeed (although not first hand), that Fr Despard has not been paid a penny since November. Could YOU manage to live for 8 months without your due income?

      Add to that scandal, the fact that the same Church authorities have paid a disgraceful amount of money to allow Scotland’s self-admitted homosexually active Cardinal to live in a very comfortable home indeed, courtesy of Church funds. Who’d want to be a member of any Justice & Peace group in Scotland today?

      If you still don’t see the connection, try Specsavers 😀

      July 16, 2014 at 7:28 pm
  • Magdalene Reply

    I wonder if this will make parishioners think twice before giving to the yearly collection for the retired clergy fund?


    July 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm
    • editor Reply

      I sincerely hope so, Magdalene, but doubt it. There are still too many “useful idiots” out there, sadly.

      July 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm
  • Joseph Hannely Reply

    I agree with antivatican2’s comments on O’Brien. Given the damage he has caused to the Church, he should have been stripped of his Office and the priesthood for that matter. We heard about a “gay” lobby in the Vatican, and that Francis said sodomites should not be marginalised. Makes me asked why is he and others of his ilk being protected in this way?

    July 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm
    • editor Reply


      I don’t see any comments from the blogger you name, so presumably you refer to something he wrote on another thread.

      As to why he “and others of his ilk” are being protected, well, we’d all like to know the answer to that, notably why the Cardinal’s accusers have not been publicly named but are allowed – unlike Fr Despard – to continue to “minister” in their parishes despite their admitted involvement in homosexual activity which was only published by them AFTER the Cardinal’s criticisms of the Scottish Government’s plans to legalise same-sex “marriage”.

      Coerced into homosexual activity by “the boss”? Repentant? Doesn’t sound like it to me. “Vengeful” is the word that springs to mind.

      July 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm
  • crofterlady Reply

    A miracle! I’m back after mega WordPress problems.

    Apparently a bishop has a duty to financially support members of the clergy even if same are suspended or whatever. The only way around this is to defrock them and I think this would be a fitting action regarding the Cardinal, not to mention a few others.

    The onslaught against Fr. Despard does seem very unfair in comparison BUT, as Eileenanne pointed out, Fr. Despard probably has been offered some accommodation but doesn’t want to move.

    July 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm
    • Frankier Reply


      Eileenanne seems to think the Church has a lot of nice wee one bedroom flats.
      You would think that it was Glasgow Corporation she was talking about.

      I personally don`t think that Fr Despard has been offered a nice wee one bedroom flat. If he had he would hardly have been attending Hamilton Sheriff Court. I think he will have been left to find a nice wee one bedroom flat (and a job) for himself.

      Maybe he should have got himself involved in the jookery-pokery when he got the chance. He would probably have been in line for Cardinal O`Brien`s position now if he had.

      July 16, 2014 at 5:57 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Of course I don’t think any such thing, but there are probably some on the market that could be bought more cheaply than the house in which Cardinal O’Brien is living. However, the Church has to invest its long term funds somewhere and property is usually a good investment as long as you can choose when to sell. At the end of the day, the Cardinal’s accomodation will have cost very little.

        July 16, 2014 at 6:51 pm
      • Eileenanne

        I personally don`t think that Fr Despard has been offered a nice wee one bedroom flat. If he had he would hardly have been attending Hamilton Sheriff Court. I think he will have been left to find a nice wee one bedroom flat (and a job) for himself.

        Have you any evidence or is this just uninformed speculation?

        July 16, 2014 at 6:52 pm
      • editor

        For the record, Fr Despard was offered alternative accommodation and turned it down. I have no first hand details of why he turned it down but I believe the reason is likely to be that – legally – it is tantamount to an admission of guilt to agree to move out of the church house.

        One priest (who doesn’t know Fr Despard) explained it this way: Fr Despard is available for work. He wants to work. His home is tied to his work. His “boss” is refusing to allow him to work. If he moves out of his home, he is virtually admitting that his “boss” has a case.

        Makes sense to me.

        July 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm
      • Eileenanne

        As I have said before, I know nothing of the ins and outs of Fr Despard’s case, but I don’t see how the Archbishop can possibly carry out a proper investigation of Fr Despard’s allegations while he is living and working among the people, and, more importantly, the priests of the Archdiocese. If he really wants an investigation, and assuming Arbishop Cushley intends setting one up, he has to be out of the picture,

        July 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm
      • editor

        And once he’s “out of the picture” they can get on with doing what they’ve been doing for years – pretending there’s no problem.

        July 16, 2014 at 9:26 pm
      • Eileenanne

        Or maybe they’ll get on with the investigation. Neither of us can read minds or foretell the future so let’s not assume the worst.

        July 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm
      • editor

        Since they’ve refused to do any investigating so far, which is what led Fr Despard to publish his book in the first place, and since the diocesan authorities have treated him abominably since, even taking him to court to evict him from the parish house, I have yet to be convinced that there has been or will be any meaningful investigation. At least not while the retired Bishop, Joseph Devine, is still alive. It’s got nothing to do with “assuming the worst” and everything to do with facing up to reality.

        July 16, 2014 at 11:26 pm
      • Summa

        Being modernists I’m surprised they haven’t jumped on the Francis-Kasper Mercy bandwagon and given him a break. Or does that just apply to a select group.

        July 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm
      • Frankier


        Why is it that you always make assumptions which normally turn out to be wrong but every time I make a presumption I have to give evidence to prove it?

        It`s either that or an apology I have to make for trying to inject a sense of humour.

        Tell me, is it MI5 or MFI that you work for.

        July 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm
      • Frankier


        Here`s the question mark I missed out. ?

        Just in case I get drawn up about it.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:02 pm
    • editor Reply


      As I explained somewhere else on this thread, Fr Despard’s refusal to accept alternative accommodation is probably because his legal adviser will have told him not to move since that could be interpreted as an admission of guilt and used against him. As it is, the Diocese is being forced to prove its case. So far, it’s having quite a bit of difficulty doing so.

      July 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm
  • Frankier Reply

    I think this could be a fly move to get people back to confessions.

    Can you imagine the priest saying “for your penance you will be banished overseas to a villa in the vineyards of France”?

    July 16, 2014 at 6:00 pm
    • editor Reply


      Your unique interpretation of events does, as always, bring a smile to the lips, if not a cheesy grin 😀

      July 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm
  • Spero Reply

    I don’t think these priests who err, and are now too old to take up another way of life, can be put out on the street. A person of the stature of Cardinal O ‘Brien would need to be given a home, as the others would, but I do think a more modest home would be in order. However, given how well known he was, it would be hard to provide anonymity while abiding within a set price bracket. Also there would be the possibility of abuse if well known clergy are placed in insalubrious areas( where lower priced housing would be available).

    That said, whistleblowers should never be treated more severely than those who have abused their priesthood, if whistleblowing is their only offence. That is unacceptable.

    But those priests involved in the whole cardinal O’Brien scandal must be dealt with. Otherwise it is a farce. And those others in Scotland, whether by way of Fr Despards book or in other ways, must be exonerated or be seen to be dealt with.
    My grandfather used to say ” Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

    But then he was a baptist!

    July 16, 2014 at 6:57 pm
    • editor Reply


      “I do think a more modest home would be in order.”

      And so – if we are to believe the press reports – would Papa Francis.

      What about all this talk of “simplicity”, humble living, being “out there” with the poor. Can’t imagine many poor people living next door to the resident of that lovely bungalow – can you?

      Whoever it was said: “bah humbug” sure had a point!

      July 16, 2014 at 7:16 pm
    • Summa Reply

      What’s wrong with Craggy Island?
      It would save the Catholic Church a fortune.

      July 17, 2014 at 11:44 am
      • Frankier


        Fr. Jack may want better neighbours.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm
  • Spero Reply

    On thinking further, there are here in Scotland, parish houses that are now empty, through the shortage of of priests, though the churches beside them are still there and are served by priests from a nearby place. That scenario, surely will be the same in England. The Cardinal, or others, could surely go to live in such houses, and have as well the comfort of the Blessed Sacrament in the church beside the parish house, The priests could have access to the church and to The Lord and surely this would be an indispensable means to the healing of their souls.

    July 16, 2014 at 7:40 pm
    • Eileenanne Reply

      The original plan, before the allegations were made public, was for Cardinal O’Brien to live in the now empty parish house in Dunbar. when he tried to stick to that plan he was firmly told he could not.

      July 16, 2014 at 10:54 pm
      • editor

        That’s right. And the majority of the parishioners were fine with that. Can you recall who objected – why that plan was vetoed?

        July 16, 2014 at 11:23 pm
      • No one you know...

        One imagines it was vetoed as the Vatican wanted him out of Scotland so as to try and stop any more trouble occurring, as well as to stop the Cardinal, whether willed or not, from overshadowing Archbishop Cushley

        July 19, 2014 at 12:26 am
      • editor


        Well, one imagines wrong. The Scottish Bishops, not the Vatican put a spanner in the Dunbar works. Here’s an extract from and link to a Telegraph report on the subject:

        In the seaside town of Dunbar, where he wished to retire, a survey among Mass-goers was organized by some of his allies and over 90 per cent signified that he would be welcome in their midst. The bench of bishops were horrified as O’Brien’s mindset became increasingly apparent. He had returned without notifying them and had made it known, via the media, that he expected the Church to help him put the scandal behind him: “If Christianity is about anything at all, it’s about forgiveness.”

        He did not appear to share the view, expressed by the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, on 4 March that “the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland had been dealt a serious blow.” Read entire article here

        July 19, 2014 at 10:00 am
  • Spero Reply

    Editor, he was a high profile person. In certain areas, they would chew him up and spit him out ( and not always for reasons that are pure) would you want that? I wouldn’t.
    oK he could go to a wee but and Ben in the middle of nowhere. That might be a goer.

    July 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm
    • editor Reply


      They didn’t recognise him in the place they’ve put him, a well heeled area, presumably full of well informed and (academically, at least) educated people, of the kind who read the newspapers and follow the news. They’re more likely not to recognise him in some of the allegedly “bad” areas, where they’re too busy out drinking and gambling to watch the news!

      July 16, 2014 at 9:25 pm
  • jacobi Reply

    If I may. I think O’Brien was treated badly, in comparison with, for example, Mgr Ricca, who led an outrageously open public homosexual lifestyle in Montevideo in the 90s and now still has a comfortable little job in the Vatican.

    O’Brien probably did [indulge in some unsuitable sexual behaviour with adults] some decades ago. The correct response was a knee in the you know what, there and then. If all the priests, bishops and cardinals who had done something like this over the last few decade were sacked and disgraced, the present priest shortage crisis in the Church would be a disaster, now, and not in say 15 years or so.

    I suspect the real reason he was disgraced, was that O’Brien reformed and spoke out publicly with “continual condemnation of homosexuality” and so upset some people in the Vatican.

    July 16, 2014 at 9:27 pm
    • editor Reply


      I have changed a small part of your post, to delete a minor crudity – we have awfully, awfully high standards here 😀

      Nope, not the Vatican. The Cardinal’s accusers are not people in the Vatican but priests who have studied and worked with him in Scotland. They continue to be protected by the Church authorities and by the Scottish media folk who admit to knowing their identities but who refuse to publish them, possibly because there are still some Catholics who would object to actively homosexual priests serving in their parishes – who knows. Whatever, it’s not often we hear of journalists and editors turning down the chance of a scoop. Yet, that’s what we are witnessing here. The major Scottish newspaper, The Herald, said early on that they knew the identity of the accusers and there is little to no doubt that other journalists do as well. Curious? Odd? Just a tad.

      July 16, 2014 at 9:39 pm
  • jacobi Reply

    My apologies Editor. I shall behave myself in future. And here was I worrying about the knee bit!

    July 16, 2014 at 10:01 pm
    • editor Reply

      😀 I thought I’d let the knees go, so to speak! 😀

      July 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm
  • Petrus Reply

    First of all, I think it is a matter of justice that the Church provide accommodation for Cardinal O’Brien. It would be scandalous to have him thrown out into the streets. Having said that, the size and price of the house is excessive. As eileenanne said, a one bedroom flat would have been more appropriate.

    Having said that, I don’t see why Cardinal O’Brien couldn’t have spent his final years in a monastery. It looks like he spent a few months at most, which as eileenanne said, would have presumably been at the discretion of his confessor/spiritual director. However, I don’t see why he couldn’t have remained at the Monastery. In years gone by this is what would have happened. My own grandfather’s cousin was a priest of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and had inappropriate relations with a woman in his parish. He was sent out to a Monastery in America and never came back .

    It has to be said, though, that the accusers of Cardinal O’Brien, some of whom are just as guilty as His Eminence, still enjoy their anonymity. I think this is really unfair. From what I’ve seen, they are motivated by revenge and vengeance which is not Catholic. I hope when this investigation is over, the punishment dealt out is in equal measure.

    Now, regarding Fr Despard, we don’t know if he has been offered alternative accommodation. You would think that this would be used against him if he had, ie. “We have offered him suitable accommodation and he has refused.” His enemies would try to make him look unreasonable.

    What weust remember is that Fr Despard, unlike the priests he accused, is not under any suspicion of immoral behaviour. I read his book and he tried to report this behaviour to the appropriate authorities and got nowhere. Therefore, he had a duty to make that information public. If anyone should be asked to vacate their parishes until an investigation is complete, it should be the priests accused, not one of whom has denied the allegations. It’s a sure sign that something is rotten in the Diocese of Motherwell when priests under suspicion of predatory homosexual behaviour are free to do whatever they like, but the whistleblower who has been accused of nothing, is removed from his parish.

    July 17, 2014 at 11:49 am
  • Constantine the Great Reply

    By comparison more was spent on a retirement home for Joseph Devine’s housekeeper back in 2009.

    I imagine KPOB toyed with Tuscany or the Dordogne before opting for self-imposed exile in rural Northumberland, or Catherine Cookson country as it is known nowadays.

    As for Matt Despard, 14 days have elapsed since the court directive.

    July 17, 2014 at 11:53 am
    • editor Reply


      Yes, I, too, considered the comparison with the house bought by Bishop Devine for his housekeeper but since that seems to be a grey area – until, at least, we have confirmation that he paid back the money, as promised, out of his expected inheritance – I thought I would stick to comparing the treatment of KPOB (!) with Fr Despard, and I think Petrus has made a very good comment above to show the injustice there.

      However, what Petrus clearly HASN’T done, is read my comments about the fact that Fr Despard WAS offered alternative accommodation but declined, very likely for legal reasons, as outlined in my previous comments. Petrus now moves two steps down the pay scale.

      July 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm
      • Petrus


        July 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm
      • editor

        Eggggggs ACTLY!

        July 17, 2014 at 6:49 pm
      • Petrus

        Haha. I couldn’t read the comments on my phone, so decided I should just post a comment anyway. That’ll teach me!

        July 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm
      • editor

        OK – one more chance. Pay stays the same for now… 😀

        July 17, 2014 at 9:50 pm
  • Theresa Rose Reply


    You should have gone to specsavers. An old glib statement that’s been said so often.

    July 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm
    • editor Reply

      Got it in one, Theresa Rose!

      July 17, 2014 at 6:49 pm

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