Feb 25, 2013 / 6:22 am
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's highest-ranking Catholic leader, says he is resigning as archbishop in the wake of misconduct allegations and will be skipping the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
The cardinal said in a statement Monday that he will not attend because he doesn't want media attention focused on him during the important session in Rome.
Experts said the decision not to attend the papal conclave is unprecedented; never before has a cardinal stayed away from a conclave because of personal scandal, according to Vatican historian Ambrogio Piazzoni, the vice prefect of the Vatican library.
The Vatican confirmed that O'Brien had resigned as archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. It was accepted under the code of canon law due to O'Brien's age; he turns 75, the normal retirement age for bishops, on March 17.
O'Brien has said through his spokesman that he is contesting allegations made Sunday in a British newspaper that three priests and a former priest have filed complaints to the Vatican alleging that the cardinal acted inappropriately with them.
The Observer newspaper did not name the priests, but it said their allegations date back to the 1980s. There were no details about the alleged inappropriate behaviour.
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