Vatican Tells Cardinal Keith O'Brien To Leave Scotland For ‘Penance’

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The Vatican has ordered a Scottish cardinal to leave Scotland to take some time to pray and atone for sexual misconduct.

Keith O'Brien, once Britain's highest-ranking Catholic leader, was ordered to leave Scotland so that he can take some time for "spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance." This is the first such punishment handed out by Pope Francis, Newser reported.

The Vatican released a statement saying the following:

“His eminence cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh, for the same reasons he decided not to participate in the last conclave, and in agreement with the Holy Father, will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance.”

It continued:

“Any decision regarding future arrangements for his eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See.”

Despite the optimistic wording of the statement, this penalty is not one that should be taken lightly.

"For a senior church member to be asked to leave the place of his residence for a period of penance and prayer, it's about as a strong a sanction as you can get before the standard canonical penalties about laicization (being removed from the priesthood)," said the head of a Catholic advocacy group who preferred to remain anonymous.  

Sources: Newsr, The Guardian