Nicole Winfield and Gregory Katz / The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY — In a season of startling change for the Catholic Church, the latest break with tradition was as unexpected as it was a wakeup call to the 115 men who will elect the next pope.
Britain’s highest-ranking Catholic leader resigned and removed himself Monday from the upcoming conclave, saying he did not want allegations that he engaged in improper conduct with priests to be a distraction during the solemn process of choosing the next leader of the church’s 1.2 billion-member flock.
It was the first time a cardinal has recused himself from a conclave because of personal scandal, according to Vatican historians.
The Vatican insisted that Pope Benedict XVI accepted Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation purely because O’Brien was nearing the retirement age of 75 — not because of the accusations.
But O’Brien himself issued a statement Monday saying he would skip the conclave because he wanted to avoid becoming the focus of media attention at such a delicate time.
“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me — but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” said O’Brien, who had been archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. “However, I will pray with them and for them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the correct choice for the future good of the church.”
Through his spokesman, O’Brien has contested allegations made Sunday in a British newspaper that three priests and a former priest had filed complaints to the Vatican alleging that the cardinal acted inappropriately with them.
There were no details about the behavior, and the Observer newspaper did not name the priests. It said the allegations date back to the 1980s.
The cardinal’s action comes in the wake of a grassroots campaign to shame another cardinal, retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, into refraining from participating because of his role protecting sexually abusive priests.
Mahony, however, has defiantly said he would participate in the voting for the new pope.
Not old enough for a driver's license and without a bike of his own, young Ashton Eaton had to find another way to get around when he wanted to visit friends across town. So he ran. “I didn't have to, but I just wanted to get there faster, so I would take shortcuts on the side of Pilot Butte,” Eaton, who spent his teen years…
The 6-year-old boy would take the cleaning ends off the broom and the mop, then place the handles on the floor apart from each other. Then he would jump from one handle to the next, moving them farther and farther apart with each leap to see just how far he could fly. It was an early start in training for the long jump. “That was…
FRESNO, Calif. — Federal law now allows visitors to carry guns in national parks, but you can’t just slip a loaded pistol into your backpack and take a hike. Pay attention, because this is a little complicated. You will need a concealed weapons permit to carry the loaded gun in the backpack. But you don’t need any kind of permit if you just want to…
The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark that seems to grow best in a dusty backyard in Tempe, Ariz. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus. Until recently, Americans who wished to cultivate their…
The 2012 Olympic decathlon — the first for Bend's Ashton Eaton, if all goes according to form and plan — will not begin until August. But Eaton is experiencing the Olympics far from London with help from his coach, Harry Marra. At each meet this season, Marra has taken Eaton on his own to the pole vault pit and set the bar at a challenging…