Scotland's most senior active Catholic leader tonight admits that the scandal involving Cardinal Keith O'Brien has dealt a serious blow to the credibility and moral authority of the church.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow and apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, makes reference to the Cardinal's demise as he celebrates mass at St Andrew's Cathedral in Glasgow at a pre-scheduled service.
In his sermon, he says: "This is a sad moment for the Church in our country. The events around Cardinal O’Brien, his resignation, his statement of yesterday, have left us all very sad for everyone involved and for the Church.
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"Many reproaches have been aimed at the Church and at individuals over this matter. The most stinging charge which has been levelled against us in this matter is hypocrisy, and for obvious reasons.
"I think there is little doubt that the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been dealt a serious blow, and we will need to come to terms with that."
Archbishop Tartaglia adds: "So what can I say to offer us hope? Well, in the first place, a new Pope will be elected in the coming weeks, and that will be certainly be a wonderful moment of hope and joy for the Church throughout the world, for since Pope Benedict announced his resignation and since he stepped down, we sensed the absence of Peter among us. But the Lord will again give us Peter, the rock, who will confirm his brothers and sisters in their faith in Jesus Christ...
"And this sad time for the Catholic Church in Scotland will also pass. We will endure it with prayer and patience and hope. We will not forget for a long time, but we will heal and we will carry on. We will draw what conclusions and lessons we can from it and, if anything, we will learn to trust even more fully in Jesus Christ who is alone the Lord of the Church
"As for the Church’s mission in our country, yes our credibility and moral authority have been undermined. It will take time, perhaps a long time to recover these intangible but important realities. But we cannot be defeatist. The answer to this sad episode is not to throw in the towel. We need, rather, to renew our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and to go about our business humbly."
Earlier today, it was confirmed that Cardinal O'Brien will face a Vatican inquiry after admitting that his sexual conduct "had fallen beneath the standards" expected of him during his almost 50-year career.
The cardinal shocked the Roman Catholic community yesterday when he indicated that he would not contest claims against him and intended to retire permanently from the public life of the church.
The admission came a week after three priests and a former priest accused Britain's most senior Catholic cleric of inappropriate behaviour dating back to the 1980s.
The cardinal, who stepped down from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in the wake of the scandal, has asked for forgiveness from those he had offended.
In a sweeping apology issued yesterday, he said of the claims: "Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.
"However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."
The complaints have been reported to the Vatican, and a Scottish Catholic Media Office spokesman said: "We expect that they will be investigated and a conclusion drawn."
The inquiry is not likely to begin until after a new pope is chosen. It is understood the cardinal will not attend the conclave in Rome.