Today the Dean of the College of Cardinals issued the following Press Release:
“The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a Cardinal, expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer. With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation.”
The canons cited in the Press Release relate to the specific rights and privileges of the cardinalate that have been renounced by Cardinal O’Brien, who retains the title of cardinal: those relating to the special college of papal electors, (Canon 349); participation in the Consistories, (Canon 353); and working with the Pope and travelling to Rome when summoned, (Canon 356).
Cardinal O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh two years ago following allegations of sexual misconduct and has been the subject of a Vatican investigation; this was led by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, formerly Promoter of Justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now Archbishop of Malta, who was placed in charge of the case in April 2014. It is believed that his conclusions were handed to Pope Francis earlier this month, and there has been adverse comment from one of the victims of abuse regarding the delay in its publication.
Andrea Tornielli of Vatican Insider reports that the last time a cardinal lost all the rights and powers associated with the cardinalate was in September 1927, when a Pius XI accepted the (solicited) resignation of French Jesuit cleric Louis Billot, an eminent neo-Thomist: “the accusations against the theologian and author of studies which became classics in the field of dogmatics, were not to do with any sexual scandal but rather with his close involvement with Charles Mauras’ Action Française, which Pius XI had condemned in 1926.”