Cardinal O'Brien has gone now and the Church in Scotland has to move on. Although we can not be afraid to look back. Sometimes we must. Just prior to this explosive story breaking Cardinal O'Brien seemed to be advocating a married Priesthood and the relaxing of the Church's teaching on clerical celibacy. "I know some priests have found it very difficult.." he said. What then seemed like a pastoral concern for his priests, now looks like self analysis.
We are still short on detail but the Cardinal's admissions are proof enough. To hear some lay Catholics still in denial on Radio Scotland this morning was very sad indeed. It showed the real shock there is in the pews.
The bottom line is we do not know how the Cardinal fought his demons. We do not know the frequency or the timings of his failings. We know that he made inappropriate advances to young adult men in the Priesthood 30 years ago. His admission of guilt gave reference to his sexual conduct being in-appropriate for "a Priest, Archbishop and Cardinal", and seems to indicate the struggle - if he did struggle - had not been overcome. God Only knows.
Although we can feel for him and forgive him, we also have to wonder at the extent of the damage
he has done, mentally and spiritually to peoples' lives, including the original complainants, and to the Church in Scotland as a whole.
The hurt we are all feeling as Catholics in Scotland at the moment should be embraced as a call to additional prayer and penance. It should make us more determined that our own lives do not give cause for scandal, in our homes, at our work, and among our aquaintances. We would do well to remember the charge of hypocrite doesn't just fit for the occassion the hierarchy is emboiled in major scandal.
If these are the repercussions of the O'Brien scandal for the Church then God might be said to have worked a wonderful thing through his leadership after all.