London: A Scottish cardinal who stepped down from church leadership after admitting sexual misconduct should apologise to gay people for his years of "vicious and cruel language" about them, Britain`s leading gay-rights group said on Monday.
Officials in the Vatican refused to say whether they would formally investigate allegations against Cardinal Keith O`Brien. He resigned last week as Britain`s most senior Roman Catholic cleric after being accused of inappropriate behaviour by three priests and a former priest.
Until his abrupt resignation as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, O`Brien had been due to join cardinals from around the world in Rome for a conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
The cardinals met on Monday, without O`Brien, for the first of their pre-conclave meetings.
The Scottish Catholic Media Office said the complaints against O`Brien had been reported to the Vatican, and it expected there would be an investigation.
The Vatican refused to confirm or deny today whether it was investigating O`Brien, and declined to say when it learned of the allegations against him.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, repeated his statement from last week, which was that the original four accusers had sent their complaint via the papal ambassador to Britain, and the pope had been informed.
Pressed to respond to reports of a purported fifth accuser, who reportedly approached the Vatican directly in October with accusations, another spokesman, the Rev Thomas Rosica, read O`Brien`s statement and said the Vatican would say no more.
O`Brien has not directly addressed the allegations against him, which include "an inappropriate approach" to a seminarian after night prayers and "inappropriate contact" with another priest.
But he said yesterday that "my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."
"To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness," he said.