A Scottish cardinal who had earlier challenged allegations of sexual impropriety -- claims that once again shined an international spotlight on alleged sexual abuse involving Roman Catholic clergy -- reversed course Sunday and apologized.
"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," Cardinal Keith O'Brien said in a statement.
Until days ago, O'Brien was the archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.
He has been dogged by allegations he abused four men studying to be priests in the 1980s.
"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," O'Brien said.
"To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness."
O'Brien, 74, also apologized to "the Catholic Church and people of Scotland."
He did not explain exactly what "conduct" he was referring to.
O'Brien told Pope Benedict XVI in November that he would resign effective his upcoming birthday, on March 17. But Benedict decided to make the resignation effective immediately in light of the pope's imminent resignation, the Scottish Catholic Media Office said.
According to his biography on his archdiocese's website, O'Brien asked to step down in light of his "approaching ... 75th birthday (and) health concerns."