Is Cardinal O’Brien a prisoner of the Vatican?

A correspondent in the Scotsman on Saturday 28 September 2013 rightly raised questions about the whereabouts, well-being and personal freedom of Cardinal Keith O’Brien the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews. As well as being excluded from the conclave of Cardinals that elected the current Pope he attempted to set up home in Dunbar but was apparently coerced by the Church to go into seclusion and, possibly, exile. 
There are numerous disturbing aspects of the treatment of this individual that deserve investigation by journalists, and perhaps by the police. Is the man at liberty or is he being held under constraint? Does he know that he is entitled as UK citizen to live wherever he would choose in the UK and the EU. Probably he is entitled to an old age pension and as a homeless person the state and the local authority would have certain obligations to assist him to re-establish himself independently. There might even be a charitable congregation or organisation that might support him to live independently. Clearly, however, he will be under constraint. If he wishes to have a secure future with decent  living conditions he may feel constrained to accept the authority of the Church and continue in his current circumstances. 
But there are alternatives. He could write a candid biography, like the former Scottish Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, which might be a best seller and provide for a more comfortable and freer retirement. He could certainly perform a valuable public function by elaborating further on the idea that Roman Catholic priests might be allowed to marry that he floated in his farewell interview while still in office. 
This case bears all the hallmarks of the ‘kidnapped by a sect’ story that happens from time to time in relation to much less significant denominations. The public of Edinburgh and St Andrews that the cleric attempted to serve over a long period deserve assurance that the Cardinal is a free man who is fully advised of his options by independent lawyers and is not held unwillingly under constraint.

About Norman Bonney

Researcher and writer on religion and the state

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