Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

A wind of change is blowing through St Peter's

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has not resigned as Scotland's top Catholic. He has been sacked by the Pope. And that is a measure of just how grave the crisis in the world's biggest church has become.

Cardinal O'Brien was due to retire next month anyway. The usual drill is for a bishop to hand in his resignation to the Pope a few months ahead of the due date and for it to be accepted nunc pro tunc, Latin for "now for later". The cardinal handed in his resignation back in November expecting it to take effect later this year.

The Pope's decision that he must stand down came just one day after a newspaper report that three priests and one ex-priest have complained of alleged "inappropriate behaviour" towards them in the 1980s.

All this adds to the sense of crisis gripping the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, still reeling from a papal resignation. To add to that, the Pope himself in his Ash Wednesday address condemned the manoeuvring of factions within the Church who seem hellbent on overshadowing the good it does.

And only last Friday the Church was told by respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica that a report commissioned from three senior cardinals into the Vatileaks scandal claimed that there is a gay mafia within the Vatican curia involving several cardinals and sexual shenanigans in a Rome sauna. The paper reported that only one copy of the report exists and that it shocked the Pope so much he locked it in a safe and left it for his successor.

There are signs in the forcing-out of Cardinal O'Brien that change is possible within the Church. The outgoing Pope has been firmer in dealing with what he described as the sex-abusing clerical "filth" in the Church than his predecessor Pope John Paul II.

But the latest developments show something new in the Church with priests daring for the first time to complain openly about the behaviour of the bishops upon whom they depend for ecclesiastical preferment. Perhaps the winds of change truly are beginning to blow through the Vatican.

Not before time.

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