Differing accounts of Canadian cardinal's role in Vatican scandal

Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet



Differing accounts emerged Tuesday about the role that Canada's top Catholic played in the sex-charged resignation of Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

The Telegraph newspaper out of London reported Monday that Cardinal Marc Ouellet was involved in negotiations with Cardinal O'Brien, who admitted Sunday that he engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior.

Cardinal Ouellet is the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and a potential successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

According to reports from Britain's Telegraph, the Vatican knew for more than five months that three priests and a former priest had accused Keith O'Brien of having made sexual advances.

A fifth man, also a priest, would later join them, making similar allegations against the former Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.

O'Brien announced his resignation in late February and made his mea culpa Sunday, admitting that his "sexual conduct" was well below the expected standards of a priest.

According to the Telegraph report, the Vatican has said O'Brien quit around November last year, prompting speculation that the Vatican agreed with the cardinal a month ago that he would resign quietly to avoid embarrassing the church.

"It has been alleged that the deal was brokered by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada," the Telegraph said.

The Archdiocese of Quebec City disputed that account in an interview Tuesday. Spokeswoman Jasmine Lemieux-Lefebvre says the investigation into Cardinal O'Brien's conduct was prompt.

"The fact that Cardinal Ouellet and his team were able to verify the allegations and to get one of the most important Catholic Church figures in Britain to resign, and in less than three months, is considered a masterful tour de force by some observers," she said.

The Vatican has refused to comment on this story or answer questions about whether a formal investigation has been opened into the scandal, the British newspaper reports.

"I have no precise information," Father Federico Lombardi said in response to questions from the Telegraph. "We don't want to spend all week talking about Cardinal O'Brien."

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