A leading Scottish Catholic academic, media commentator and cultural adviser to the Vatican, Professor John Haldane, has said that the Cardinal Keith O'Brien revelations provides an important opportunity for the Church to reform itself.
His comments came as the crisis facing the Catholic Church in Scotland deepened further, with 'gagging order' claims that it arranged for a teenage victim of an abusive priest to be paid £200 and made him sign a legal document promising not to tell anyone about what happened.
Haldane, professor of philosophy at St Andrew's University, has made many media appearances over the past week and more. He has effectively become the Church's spokesperson because of the low profile the Scottish Catholic Media Office since allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of power against Cardinal O'Brien were made public over ten days ago.
The philosopher is seen as a smooth and articulate defender of the Catholic Church, and for that reason his signalling of the need for deep change has added significance.
Professor Haldane told BBC Scotland news reporter Jackie Bird on 5 March 2013, the day before the fresh allegations, that reform of the Curia (the Vatican's all-powerful civil service), reviewing appointments and decision-making were among the issues that needed to be faced up to in the light of the recent scandal. Good could come out of undoubted ill if this happened, he said.
The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church, together with the Pope. It has been the main balwark against cultural and institutional change within the Church for many years, critics say.
For this reason, Professor Haldane's words, moderately expressed though they were, will have unmistakable resonance in distinction to the stance of those within the Church - like Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor - who have used the "a few bad apples in the barrel" defence in the face of misconduct allegations and admissions.
The Church in Scotland did not respond to Professor Haldane's remarks. His comments coincided with a press conference at the House of Commons in London to launch a Catholic scholars' declaration on authority in the Church, calling for widespread reform.
The group of 170+ Catholic scholars says that the faithful have suffered from "misguided" church governance in recent years, and has called for a thoroughgoing reform of the papacy and the Curia "compatible with the ideals of the Gospel".
Professor Haldane is not suggesting anything so radical in practical terms, and he has also recommended that the rule of celibacy for priests and religious, rather than being relaxed as many argue, should be strengthened by seeking a personal declaration of commitment from candidates.
The professor has further sought to defend declarations from the Scottish Church that it did not know the details of the allegations against Cardinal O'Brien when they were first made, and was therefore justified in calling them "non-specific" and "anonymous in the first instance".
But journalist Catherine Deveney, who broke the story with two articles in the Observer newspaper, says that it is "factually incorrect" to claim this, as the three former priests and one ex-priest made sworn written statements that were made available to the Church in Scotland before the first article was published, and that the Papal Nuncio had been made aware of the details earlier than that through an intermediary.
* When did the Catholic church know about the cardinal allegations? Discussion between Professor John Haldane and journalist Catherine Deveney (BBC video clip) - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21669770
* Authority in the Church: a plan for reform - http://www.churchauthority.org/index.asp