Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation and the disenchantment of the British Catholic Church

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Le cardinal et archevêque d’Edimbourg Keith O’Brien, forcé de démissionner en février 2013, a reconnu en mars avoir eu un comportement sexuel « en deçà des standards qu’on attendait d’un prêtre ». Ce scandale entache l’Eglise catholique dans son ensemble alors que l’Église anglicane officielle, crée par Henri VIII au XVIème siècle pour rompre avec la papauté, a su, elle, évoluer avec son temps en acceptant des prêtres femmes, des prêtres mariés et des prêtres homosexuels.

“The Catholic Church – they hate women and fuck kids.” This is the kind of message you can find on Twitter, signed by Caitlin Moran, columnist at the Times. In a country where 45% of the population is Anglican, does “catholicophobia” rage?
The specificity of the United Kingdom partakes of the fact that two Christian religions live side by side and that the Church of England (Anglican) may have adapted better to the changing attitudes. In fact Anglican priests are allowed to get married and for a few years now, women and homosexuals have been able to be ordained. That may be why a certain “catholicophobia” could be raging in the United Kingdom.
On the 25th of February Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien announced his resignation. The head of the church in Scotland admitted that “there have been times that [his] sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of [him] as a priest, archbishop and cardinal”. For the first time in recent history, a cardinal was absent at the conclave for reasons other than health problems.
This blemishes all the more the image of the Catholic Church and not only in the UK. This scarring scandal isn’t isolated, sexual abuses in the Catholic Church have increasingly been denounced in the last few years. Many Catholics wonder why they should stand by a Church whose leaders are corrupt or criminal.
On the 20th of April 2008, in the United States, Benedict XVI expressed his “profound shame”, as he met the victims of pedophilia, and claimed : “we shall totally exclude the pedophiles from the sacred ministry”. But a total of 3,000 complaints were lodged against priests worldwide, between 2001 and 2010, for crimes committed during the last fifty years. A string of scandals recently exploded in Ireland, Germany or Austria since these are countries where many priests were in charge of educating young students, often in boarding schools.
Affected by the visit of Benedict XVI in their country, the worshippers in Britain would like a visit of his successor. A few days after the resignation of Cardinal O’Brien, they also fear the revelation of new scandals. The new pope, Francis, said that protective measures would be implemented, that victim assistance would be strengthened and the “implementation of the procedures against culprits ” would be planned. So pope Francis follows the path of Benedict XVI although British people hope for more results.
Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony
British Catholics may feel left alone with the resignation of Cardinal O’Brien and their status of religious minority. These scandals and the criticisms leveled at the archaism of the Catholic Church illustrate how this institution will have to accept modern reforms to survive.

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