Disgraced cardinal Keith O'Brien facing possible police investigation as it emerges church officials have 'told him to live as a hermit'
- Cardinal Keith O'Brien has admitted to sexual misconduct
- Church sources say he has been told he must 'live like a hermit'
- 'Mr Loophole' lawyer Nick Freeman has called on police to investigate
- Police received formal complaint against Cardinal Keith O'Brien yesterday
- Catholic church carrying out internal investigation
By Steve Doughty and Graham Grant
PUBLISHED: 00:09 EST, 5 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:31 EST, 5 March 2013
Shamed Cardinal Keith O'Brien was facing a possible police investigation last night into the sex scandal that has engulfed the church.
Police received a formal complaint yesterday against the disgraced cardinal, who on Sunday night admitted he had been guilty of sexual misconduct.
Last night, it emerged that lawyer Nick Freeman, well-known for representing a string of celebrities, has called on police to investigate.
The latest development comes after it emerged Cardinal O'Brien - until last week the most senior Roman Catholic in Britain - has been told he must live the life of a 'hermit' following his confession.
Complaint: Disgraced Cardinal Keith O'Brien is facing a possible police investigation, it emerged last night
The Catholic Church has launched its own internal investigation but Mr Freeman, dubbed ‘Mr Loophole’ for his success in helping clients avoid driving bans, said he wanted to ensure that if ‘any criminal activities had taken place they would be investigated fully’.
He added: ‘After listening to the admissions of Cardinal O’Brien, I felt compelled to make a formal complaint in order to trigger a full criminal investigation.
'I was shocked to hear there is to be an internal investigation only. This will be heard behind closed doors and the full findings would not be published.
'This isn’t justice. Justice needs to be seen to be done and the Catholic Church has a moral and legal obligation to co-operate fully with any criminal investigation.’
Mr Freeman said it was also ‘unacceptable to brush such allegations under the carpet’ in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal that rocked the BBC.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said the force had received Mr Freeman’s complaint.
'This isn't justice': Celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman, who has made a formal complaint to police, said it was 'unacceptable to brush such allegations under the carpet'
Officers in the professional standards department will now decide if a full investigation should be launched.
A police source said complaints regarding sexual allegations would normally need to be made by the alleged victim, but it is likely that the force will come under mounting pressure to examine the case fully in the wake of Mr Freeman’s complaint.
Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Brien is understood to be living in a safe house in England and is not expected to set foot in Scotland again.
Church insiders say he has been told by senior officials that he must now live as a shamed recluse after his dramatic statement on Sunday night.
The shockwaves from the admission by the 74-year-old cleric that his ‘sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected’ also threatened to destabilise talks to select the new Pope, which are getting under way in Rome.
Shockwaves: The disgraced cardinal's temporary replacement said there was little doubt the moral authority of the Church had been dealt a 'serious blow'
At Mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow last night, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Cardinal O’Brien’s temporary replacement, said there was ‘little doubt that the credibility and moral authority’ of the church had been ‘dealt a serious blow’.
He added: ‘The answer to this sad episode is not to throw in the towel. We need, rather, to renew our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and to go about our business humbly.’
First Minister Alex Salmond, who publicly backed Cardinal O’Brien last week, has so far failed to comment on the cleric’s downfall – but yesterday Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill described it as a ‘tragedy’.
Cardinal O’Brien, who has not travelled to Rome to take part in the conclave convened to choose the new Pope, was accused of sexual contact with young priests. Most of the allegations, which he at first denied, dated back some 30 years.
Complaints were made by three priests and a former priest, while a fifth priest is said to have written directly to the Vatican in October 2012 accusing the Cardinal of ‘inappropriate contact’ in a 2001 incident.
Sources close to the complaints say he tried to have sex with the men, kissing and fondling them.
One of the alleged victims is said to have contemplated suicide after being targeted by the cardinal. It is understood the former spiritual leader of Scotland’s 850,000 Catholics was spirited away from his mansion in Edinburgh’s Morningside last Wednesday night, ahead of expected revelations about his private life.
He is now staying at a secret address at a property which is not owned by the church. A source said: ‘When told how he would need to live the rest of his life, he asked, “Am I to live like a hermit?” He was told that is exactly what it amounts to.’
Insiders believe it is ‘questionable’ if the man dubbed the Cardinal of Controversy because of his condemnation of gay marriage will ever return to Scotland.
A Scottish Catholic Media Office spokesman said officials expected the allegations against Cardinal O’Brien to be investigated ‘and a conclusion drawn’.
In his sermon at St Andrew’s, Archbishop Tartaglia said it was a ‘sad moment’ for the Church, adding: ‘We will not forget for a long time, but we will heal and we will carry on ... As for the Church’s mission in our country, yes, our credibility and moral authority have been undermined.’
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