O'Brien's decision to remain home rather than participate in the conclave made him the first head to roll in the remarkable two weeks since Benedict, 85, stunned the world and announced he was becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign. The pope said he simply didn't have the "strength of mind and body" to carry on.
The Vatican confirmed that O'Brien had resigned as archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh but insisted that the accusations against him had nothing to do with his resignation. The Vatican said the pope accepted the resignation on Feb. 18 under canon law due to O'Brien's age; he turns 75 on March 17. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, refused to say whether the allegations had any effect on Benedict's decision to accept O'Brien's resignation, saying merely that Benedict was clearing his tasks before retiring himself.
O'Brien said in a statement that he is in "indifferent health" and had offered his resignation last November.
"Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended," O'Brian said.
"I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor," O'Brien said. "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."
During a briefing with reporters at the Vatican last week, a Vatican historian, Ambrogio Piazzoni, was asked about the campaign to keep Mahony away from the voting because he covered up sexual abuse by priests. Piazzoni said while in the past some cardinals have been impeded either by illness or by interference from their governments, none has stayed away because of a stain on his own reputation.