Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 4, 2013

Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings amid scandal

(Continued)

The core agenda item is to set the date for the conclave and put in place the procedures to prepare for it, including closing the Sistine Chapel to visitors and getting the Vatican hotel cleared out and de-bugged, lest anyone try to listen in on the secret conversations.

The first day of discussion was rocked by revelations of scandal, with Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien admitting that he had engaged in sexual misconduct not befitting a priest, archbishop or cardinal.

O'Brien last week resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and said he wouldn't participate in the conclave after four men came forward with allegations that he had acted inappropriately with them — the first time a cardinal has stayed away from a conclave because of personal scandal.

The Vatican refused to confirm or deny whether it was investigating O'Brien, and refused to say when it learned of the allegations against him.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi repeated his statement from last week that the original four accusers had sent their complaint via the papal ambassador to Britain, and that the then-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 admitting to sexual misconduct and said the Vatican would say no more.

Separately, the Vatican is still reeling from the fallout of the scandal over leaked papal documents, and the investigation by three cardinals into who was behind it.

Italian news reports have been rife with unsourced reports about the contents of the cardinals' dossier. The leaks themselves confirmed a fairly high level of dysfunction within the Vatican bureaucracy, with intrigues, turf battles and allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the highest levels of the church hierarchy.

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