EDINBURGH - Cardinal Kevin O’Brien has announced he will be stepping down as Archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrew’s following allegations of “inappropriate behavior” during the 1980s, reports the BBC

[Gavin Scott]

The announcement comes three days before Pope Benedict XVI is slated to step down, and Cardinals will begin the process of finding his successor. Controversy has swirled in Rome over the past week amidst rumors linked to a supposed "gay lobby" that could have played a role in Benedict's historic decision to become the first Pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

Three priests and one former priest had raised their concerns to the Vatican’s nuncio (ambassador) to Britain before Pope Benedict XVI announced his planned resignation earlier this month.

One of the complainants alleges that the most senior Catholic clergyman in Britain developed a relationship with him, resulting in his need for long-term psychological counseling, according to The Guardian.

Another said he was invited to spend a week “getting to know” Cardinal O’Brien at his bishop’s palace, where he, as a 20-year-old seminarian, claims he was forced to fend off unwanted behavior from him after a late-night drinking session.

Following these allegations, on Sunday the Irish-born cardinal pulled out of celebrating Mass in Edinburgh, where he had been scheduled to praise Pope Benedict XVI for his eight years in charge of the church, reports the Irish Times.

On Thursday, O’Brien gave a candid interview to BBC Scotland where he voiced support for priests being able to marry, saying that celibacy had not been a constant in the church and did not have the same standing as “dogmatic beliefs” opposing euthanasia and abortion.

The upcoming Conclave has already been overshadowed by allegations against a number of the cardinals who are taking part, over their connection with their handling of the Church's sex abuse scandal, including former Los Angeles Archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahoney. Canon law states that any cardinal who is eligible to vote - that is, under the age of 80 -  cannot be prevented from doing so. 

It is not clear whether O'Brien will participate. When questioned last week about Mahony’s intention to travel to Rome for the conclave he said: “I will leave it to him just to think and consider whether or not he has been guilty of such wrongdoing that would disqualify him from taking part in the papal election.”