Top U.K. Cardinal Accused of ‘Inappropriate’ Behavior with Priests as Pope Benedict Conducts Final Sunday Service

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 24: Crowds gather to see Pope Benedict XVI deliver his last Angelus Blessing from the window of his private apartment to thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square on February 24, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pontiff will hold his last weekly public audience on February 27, 2013 before he retires the following day. Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church for eight years and is the first Pope to retire since 1415. He cites ailing health as his reason for retirement and will spend the rest of his life in solitude away from public engagements. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Photo: Oli Scarff/2013 Getty Images

The Catholic church is having an especially stressful weekend. Things kicked off on Friday, when an Italian newspaper claimed that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation had something to do with gay prostitutes blackmailing Vatican officials. A Vatican spokesman dismissed the report as “misinformation” and “slander” on Saturday, but it now seems that he has another potential sex scandal to address: On Sunday morning, Britain’s Observer reported that four men — three former priests and one acting one — have accused Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the church in Scotland, of engaging in “inappropriate” and “intimate” behavior with them over the course of 33 years. O’Brien (who is vocally anti-gay) responded to the charges by skipping Sunday mass. His auxiliary told reporters that the Cardinal, who is set to retire soon, is seeking legal advice on the matter.

The allegations against O’Brien emerged on the same day as Benedict’s final public prayer ceremony. Thousands of people showed up in St. Peter’s Square for the service, which was frequently interrupted by cheers. After thanking the crowd for their “affection,” the Pope addressed his departure by saying that, “The Lord is calling me to go on top of the hill, to dedicate myself once more to prayer and meditation.” However, he added, “this does not mean to abandon the church.” Still, it doesn’t seem like a bad time to get some distance.

New Scandal Emerges as Pope Does Final Service