In a statement issued by the Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has addressed allegations made against him by five priests within the church, and admitted that his “sexual conduct” has been “below the standards expected” of him.

Earlier this week, it emerged that a fifth claim of “inappropriate behaviour” towards a male priest had been made against Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The 74-year-old, former head of the Catholic church in Scotland, who contested the first set of allegations last weekend, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church on Monday.

In the statement, released on Sunday, the Cardinal apologised, and asked for forgiveness, as well as admitting that, despite previously contesting the allegations, some were true.

It read: “In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. 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.

“To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness… To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.”

He concluded by saying that he would retire, and would have no involvement in the Catholic church in Scotland, going forward.

He said: “I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

Also today, one of the priests accusing Cardinal O’Brien of inappropriate behaviour came forward to call for transparency within the Catholic church, which he said would “crush him” if it could, for speaking out. 

The allegations surfaced last Saturday one day after Cardinal O’Brien told the BBC that male priests within the Catholic Church should be able to marry female partners.

The cardinal’s progressive stance on heterosexual matrimony ran counter to his views on LGBT equality.

Last November, Cardinal O’Brien was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ by a gay rights charity due to his staunch opposition to marriage equality.

In 2012, he stated that same-sex relationships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse.

In an editorial on Friday, British Catholic newspaper The Tablet said:“When Cardinal Keith O’Brien called gay marriage a ‘grotesque subversion’ and ‘madness’ it attracted widespread censure. No wonder the accusations of inappropriate behaviour as a younger man – strenuously denied – were so damning. If true, it made him look a hypocrite. For the church this was a public relations disaster.”

Meanwhile, the Scotsman newspaper reports that the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien was triggered by a claim of inappropriate behaviour towards a priest in 2001 that was lodged with the Vatican in October.

It is the fifth such allegation to be made public and also the most recent – allegations in the Observer dated back to the 1980s.

The complaint is said to have given other men confidence to come forward with allegations against the cardinal.