Anti-Gay Cardinal Resigns Immediately After Gay Rumors

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Photo: DAVID MOIR/Corbis

While the Catholic Church fiercely denies that any form of gay blackmail brought down Pope Benedict XVI, another leading religious figure is calling it quits after reports of same-sex "inappropriate acts." Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who leads the church in Britain, stepped down today as archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews following accusations from three working priests and one ex-priest that he made illicit advances on them over the years. As such, O'Brien will no longer be invited to Rome to select a new pope.

Today Benedict announced that the conclave to choose his replacement will be allowed to start early, skipping the standard fifteen-day wait, if all the eligible cardinals have arrived. They'll be at least one man short.

In a statement, O'Brien insisted that he's been meaning to resign for a while, but Benedict just happened to decide that today was a good day for it to take effect. "Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended," O'Brien said, adding, "I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me — but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."

The unwanted attention comes after Britain's Observer reported on Sunday that at least four men each had their own stories about an "inappropriate approach" from O'Brien or "unwanted attention" during some late-night drinking. In public, the cardinal has been known to call gay marriage a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right" and compare it to reintroducing slavery. "What if a man likes little girls? Can he adopt a little girl and then just have a little girl at home?" he asked. "We are working towards the destruction of any sort of moral standards."