The UK's top Roman Catholic cleric has resigned amid accusations of inappropriate behavior dating back 33 years. Cardinal Keith O'Brien was set to retire next month after voting on the next pope; but after the scandal exploded over the weekend, Pope Benedict has accepted his immediate resignation, the Guardian reports. O'Brien, staunchly anti-gay in his views, was accused by three priests and one former priest of inappropriate physical contact. He has denied the claims, but in a statement announcing his resignation, he notes, "For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended."
He adds that he does not want the scandal to overshadow the selection of a new pope. Now that he will no longer take part, Britain will not be represented in the process, the Guardan notes. The four who complained wanted O'Brien to resign before the papal conclave, fearing that their complaints would not be addressed if he was allowed to participate. The church "tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs," says one. "The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side." The Guardian has details of the alleged inappropriate contact; one of the priests says O'Brien, who was counseling him about personal issues, initiated at least two intimate situations.