Four priests who have accused Cardinal Keith O’Brien of inappropriate sexual conduct, which led to his resignation, have denied that they are part of a “gay cabal” seeking “revenge” for his anti-gay stance.

The 75-year-old, who contested the first set of allegations,resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February.

In March, he admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him.

Last week, it was claimed Cardinal O’Brien groped a priest on the same day he became a cardinal in 2003.

Father Peter, spoke to the Observer, admitting that he had been in a relationship with the cardinal and said: “This isn’t about people being gay. It’s about abuse of power.” He said he needed counselling  “The emotional and psychological power Keith O’Brien had over me was incredible. He was utterly manipulative.”

“This was done for altruistic reasons,” said Father Peter. “I see the bigger picture: the cleansing of the church,” he continued to say that he felt like O’Brien was “poisoning” him.

He went on to say that he was still seeing a psychologist, and that he dealt with depression resulting from the situation, in which he was being “groomed” as a young priest.

“I was vulnerable and he knew that. He was very charismatic and I couldn’t believe his interest in me. I thought he was helping me.”

He went on to say that he struggled with realising he had been abused. He said: “Only when I got away could I assimilate what had happened. It was like the Stockholm syndrome. I kept trying to argue in his favour, even to my psychologist. She just kept saying, ‘Peter, it was abuse’.”

“Our complaints were made before the pope resigned. I am now more convinced than ever they played a part in his resignation. But this is not something that all happened last month. I sought help for this a decade ago. I was on antidepressants and I couldn’t cope any more.”

Another former priest, referred to as Lenny in the Observer article, claimed he declined the advances of O’Brien, and said the media had tried to piece together parts of the story which weren’t true.

He said: “I was surprised at the suggestion that I was part of a gay cabal. And my partner of 26 years? I’d say she was quite surprised too.”

Lenny went on to say that he was unsure of whether the Vatican intended to conduct a full inquiry into the accusations, and he had heard no formal response regarding them.

He continued: “I think we are seeing evidence of this in the sheer anger of these statements. These may be men of the cloth but they are not men of the holy spirit.”

Father Kenny, a third priest, said he was to begin counselling this week. He said: “I feel a real need to shed tears but fear that if I start, I will have difficulty stopping.”

The Observer reports that the four accusers all knew each other, but were not close friends.

“We couldn’t have acted alone because Keith was too powerful,” said Father Peter. “Gradually, we all found one another. We had each thought that Keith had a problem, but then we realised there was more to it. This was a man who was using his power wickedly.”

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