The Catholic Church is to take no further action over Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s admission of inappropriate “sexual conduct”, following accusations from four priests.

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. The Vatican then claimed it would conduct an inquiry once the new pope was in place. Pope Francis was appointed on 13 March.

Scotland on Sunday now reports that the Vatican has no active investigation into Cardinal O’Brien’s actions, and the Vatican is keeping only a “loose watching brief” over his case.

It is unlikely that O’Brien will be made to give up his rank as Cardinal, unless the Pope decides that another senior Scottish catholic should be granted the traditional red hat.

The report suggests that senior figures in the Catholic Church have decided that an inquiry is not necessary, as O’Brien has already admitted his wrongdoing, and apologised.

He has not been seen in public since 25 February, when he resigned as archbishop.

A source close to the Roman Curia said: “When an investigation takes place people expect some kind of public result of the investigation, but there is just no way there is going to be some kind of public examination and a published report on this matter. The Church doesn’t work that way.”

The paper reports that a second source explained that the “loose watching brief” was being kept over the case, to watch out for further allegations against O’Brien.

It is unlikely that the Vatican will forcibly remove O’Brien’s title as Cardinal, however if the Secretariat of State should deem it necessary to appoint a new Scottish cardinal, he may be asked to voluntarily resign it.

Another source said: “The secretariat of state and the papal nuncio will decide what is the best course of action, they will make this decision and then ask Pope Francis whether he agrees.”

Last month, the four priests who accused Keith O’Brien of inappropriate sexual conduct, which led to his resignation, denied that they were part of a “gay cabal” seeking “revenge” for his anti-gay stance. 

In March it was also claimed Cardinal O’Brien groped a priest on the same day he became a cardinal in 2003. It was later alleged that he had a long-standing physical relationship with one of the men whose complaints about his conduct sparked his resignation.