The Vatican has appointed its former chief prosecutor on clerical sex abuse to investigate allegations against Cardinal Keith O’Brien.
Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta will visit the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh next week (April 8-10) and has asked those who would like to speak to him to “prepare their narratives in writing”, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
The bishop was appointed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith following a request by Pope Francis.
The news was presented in a letter to priests and religious by Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal O’Brien’s successor. It is understood the letter invites anyone with concerns to speak to Bishop Scicluna next week and does not refer specifically to Cardinal O’Brien.
Before being appointed bishop in November 2012 Bishop Scicluna served as Promoter of Justice at the Vatican and helped to draft the Church’s guidelines on handling allegations of clerical abuse.
He also collected testimony against Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ who abused seminarians and led a double life.
Archbishop Cushley said in a statement: “I am grateful to the Holy Father and the Congregation for Bishops and see the latter’s action as indicative of the seriousness with which this matter is being taken.
“I believe that this is a positive step towards truth and eventual reconciliation. This may not be an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.
“I am reassured by this and will be pleased to support Bishop Scicluna in any way I can.
“In this sense I also hope that all those who wish to approach him will feel free to do so. It is important that such work be conducted in a way that protects those who wish to contribute to it.”
“It is also important that the Holy See take such steps as are necessary to establish and evaluate the serious allegations which have been made over the last 18 months or so,” the archbishop said. “In order to allow Bishop Scicluna to listen and report fully, I encourage all those concerned to cooperate serenely with him.”
Cardinal O’Brien has been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour by three priests and one former priest. He retired last year after admitting that his sexual conduct “has fallen below the standards expected”.