Cardinal Keith O’Brien

The Vatican has been shaken by claims that the UK’s most senior catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, engaged in ‘inappropriate acts’.

Known for his anti-gay views, O’Brien has been accused of the impropriety by three priests and a former priest.

The Observer newspaper reported over the weekend that a dossier of the claims against the 74-year-old cardinal was sent to the Pope earlier this month.

The allegations go back to 1980 when O’Brien is accused of having inappropriately approached a 20-year-old seminarian.

The un-named young man became a priest but later left the church and married after O’Brien was made a bishop.

“I knew then he would always have power over me,” said the man, who was too frightened to report the incident at the time. “It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity.”

A second man claims that he had inappropriate contact with O’Brien, while another alleged that he was the victim of unwanted advances in the mid 80s after a late night bout of drinking with the cardinal.

The fourth accuser claims that O’Brien arranged two instances of inappropriate activity with him when he required counselling on personal issues.

O’Brien, who is due to retire next month, has denied the claims. A spokesperson for the cleric said: “Cardinal O’Brien contests these claims and is taking legal advice.”

The cardinal has been a vocal opponent of the legalisation of same-sex marriage and gay adoption and has stated that gay people are “captives of sexual aberrations”.

In 2011 he said: “The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved.”

Last year, LGBT rights group Stonewall named the cardinal the “Bigot of the Year” at its annual awards ceremony.

On Sunday, in the wake of the allegations, O’Brien failed to give the scheduled mass at his cathedral in Edinburgh.

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