UK

Cardinal Keith O'Brien 'Blocked Sex Abuse Inquiry', Catholic Church Says

23/08/2013 15:17 BST | Updated 23/08/2013 15:29 BST

A disgraced former Cardinal blocked an inquiry into sexual abuse in the church, it has been revealed.

The Catholic Church confirmed Keith O'Brien had scuppered the probe - a year before he resigned over his own inappropriate sexual conduct.

The report was commissioned by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland in 2011, but was halted the following year when O'Brien, then president of the conference, withdrew his support.

cardinal keith o brien

O'Brien resigned, then cited his 'sexual conduct'

The one-time most senior Catholic in Britain stepped down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in February after three priests and a former priest made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

He issued an apology, saying ''there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me''.

His opposition to an inquiry into Church-related abuse allegations was revealed by the retired archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, in a letter to the Catholic newspaper The Tablet.

Conti wrote: "It was the intention of all but one member of the Bishops' Conference to commission an independent examination of the historical cases we had on file in all of our respective dioceses and publish the results, but this was

delayed by the objection of the then president of the conference; without full participation of all the dioceses the exercise would have been faulty."

A Church spokesman said: "This refers to a decision taken in 2011 by the Bishops' Conference of Scotland to commission an independent academic analysis of statistics relating to abuse and allegations of abuse over a 60-year period from 1952 to 2012.

"This project, with the cooperation of each of the eight dioceses in Scotland, started and ran until 2012, at which time, the then president of the conference, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, withdrew from the project. Without the participation of all the dioceses a 'national audit' was not possible so the analysis was stopped."

O'Brien, 75, has since left the country for a period of ''spiritual renewal and reflection''.

Meanwhile, a police investigation is under way into allegations of historic sexual abuse at two Catholic boarding schools in the Scottish Highlands.

More than 20 people have come forward to say they were victims of physical and sexual abuse by a number of Benedictine monks who ran the Fort Augustus Abbey school and Carlekemp, its feeder school in East Lothian, from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Both schools are now closed.