Cardinal Keith O'Brien appears to have been fired as head of the Catholic church in Scotland, after he allegedly committed "inappropriate acts" with four men.
The 74-year-old had tendered his resignation with a view to leaving office on November 13th. But, following letters of complaint from three priests and one ex-priest working in the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, he confirmed in a statement this morning he had been given instructions from the Vatican to leave early.
"The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, February 25th 2013, and that he will appoint an apostolic administrator to govern the archdiocese in my place until my successor as archbishop is appointed," O'Brien said.
"I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest.
"Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended."
The complaints against him were pushed forward after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI meant he would have been involved in the conclave choosing the next pope.
"He's more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company," the former priest told the Observer as he explained the influence a bishop has on a priest.
"He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life."
O'Brien had begun taking legal advice after the issue entered the public domain, but the issue was handed to the pope and has now been resolved without his say.
"The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability," another complainant told the newspaper.
"If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit."
O'Brien has proved an intensely political figure as head of the Scottish Catholic church, urging Catholics to withhold their vote from pro-abortion politicians and calling gay marriage "grotesque".
He ended his statement with a hope that his remaining years will prove peaceful, concluding: "May God who has blessed me so often in my ministry continue to bless and help me in the years which remain for me on earth."