The decision by the Scottish Cardinal, Keith O’Brien not to attend the conclave to elect the next pope in Rome in March means that the number of cardinal electors is now down to 115.
Cardinal O’Brien’s decision was taken in the wake of news revealed in British Sunday newspaper The Observer on 24 February that three priests and one ex-priest in Scotland have accused him of “inappropriate behaviour” in the 1980s. The Cardinal has denied the claims and is taking legal advice.
The accusations were made to the papal nuncio in London before Pope Benedict announced his resignation on 11 February. The cardinal had already given his resignation as archbishop to the Vatican because he will be 75 in mid-March, the age when bishops (but not cardinals) have to resign their posts. It has now been revealed that Pope Benedict accepted O’Brien’s resignation on 18 February, before the scandal broke in the British press.
The pressure will now be on United States Cardinal Roger Mahony not to attend the conclave. Recently the present archbishop of Los Angeles, José H Gomez, removed Mahony from all his posts because of evidence that Mahony covered up sexual abuse scandals during his tenure as archbishop of LA in the 1980s.
Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja from Indonesia announced on Friday 15 February that he will not be attending the conclave because of ill health.