Britain"s top Catholic cleric accused of "inappropriate acts" against FOUR priests just days before he helps choose the new Pope

Britain's top Catholic cleric accused of 'inappropriate acts' against FOUR priests just days before he helps choose the new Pope
Cardinal O'Brien, 74, faces claims of inappropriate attention by four priests
One priest alleges 'unwanted behaviour' after late-night drinking
Another priest said he was 18 when 'inappropriately approachedO'Brien now faces demands for his immediate resignationBut a former archbishop says people 'must listen' to the cardinal's side

O'Brien wrote of his concerns over same-sex marriage in Scotland in The Daily Telegraph.

He said the proposal represents a 'grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right'.

'Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child,' he added.

'It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.'

He also opposed the introduction of civil partnerships, saying he believes that 'such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved'.

After he was awarded the 'Bigot of the Year' award, Stonewall Scotland director Colin Macfarlane said: 'In the past year the cardinal has likened the campaign for same-sex marriage to slavery, he has called it grotesque.'

The former archbishop of Westminster said Cardinal O'Brien should be allowed to help choose the next Pope despite facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor also expressed sadness at the claims on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

He said: 'I was obviously very sad to hear that.

'The cardinal has denied the allegations, so I think we will just have to see how that pans out.

'There have been other cases which have been a great scandal to the church over these past years.

'I think the church has to face up – has faced up – to some of them very well indeed.'

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said it was up to Cardinal O'Brien – who is reported to have sought legal advice – 'how he faces the allegations'.

He pointed out that Cardinal O'Brien was due to retire when he turns 75 next month.

Asked whether the cardinal should still be able to go to the Vatican to take part in the selection of Pope Benedict's successor, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: 'That is up to Cardinal O'Brien to decide… it will be up to him, and I think rightly so.

'The allegations have not been proved in any way, so he will have to decide whether he wants to go.'

He has said he has not yet decided who should be elected as Pope during the conclave, which is expected to be held next month.

Cardinal O'Brien, originally from Northern Ireland, has been Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh since 1985.

In November, he was named 'bigot of the year' by Stonewall, a gay rights charity, for his comments about same-sex marriage.

In August Cardinal O'Brien described it as a ‘grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right’.

Last week he said the Church should
overturn centuries of tradition and allow priests to marry as many
clerics struggle with celibacy and a wife and family could offer comfort
and support.

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during his last Angelus noon prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican today. Cardinal O'Brien is eligible to vote for his successor

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing during his last Angelus noon prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican today. Cardinal O'Brien is eligible to vote for his successor

A youngster holds a banner during Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus Prayer . It reads: 'You are not alone, I am with you'

A youngster holds a banner during Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus Prayer . It reads: 'You are not alone, I am with you'

He said: ‘I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.

'I realise that many priests have
found it very difficult to cope with celibacy… and felt the need of a
companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a
family.’

The cardinal also appeared to support the
Catholic taboo of not allowing women priests, saying that the teachings
of Jesus do not mention the issue.

Last week Cardinal O’Brien insisted that it was not for him to judge whether Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, who is accused of covering up child sex allegations, should take part in the Conclave to elect Benedict XVI’s successor.

Abuse claims have dogged the papacy of Benedict XVI, who is to step
down at the end of February.

VIDEO Cardinal Keith O'Brien talks about choosing new pope

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