Scotland’s Keith O’Brien (b: March 17, 1938, created: October 21, 2003) resigned from his Cardinalate 0n March 20, 2015, 2-years after the public disclosures of his homosexual practices with other priests. Though not precluded by the Vatican he had on his own volition decided not to attend the March 12 – 13, 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis given that his crimes and cover up lies had been widely published in U.K. newspapers just a few weeks earlier. It, however, took 2 more years before his resignation was ‘partially accepted‘ by the pope.
Pope Francis, inexplicably, allowed him to retain his ‘Cardinal’ title. So, his resignation as a cardinal was only partial. A quasi-resignation.
So, we can’t really just say that the disgraced O’Brien was the last cardinal to resign — because he continued on as a cardinal, if only in terms of title!
The last cardinal to TRULY (and fully) resign was French Cardinal Louis Billot, S. J., in late 1927 [he having tendered his resignation in September and it being made public in December].
No, this is not a typo, an oversight or a lack of diligence on my part. << smile >>
Yes, it is 1927. So, NO we haven’t had a TRULY, REALLY cardinal resign in over 90 years.
The eleven Canons in the 1983 Code, i.e., Canons 349 t0 359, does not address the resignation of a cardinalate (only dealing with the need, if they are curial, to tender their curial office resignation to the pope after their 75th birthday).
But, Cardinal Billot’s resignation, when he disagreed with Pius XI’s (#260) condemnation of French political movement [viz. Action Française], demonstrates that it is, of course, possible for a cardinal to resign — provided the pope is willing to accept the resignation. That appears to be the rub. [Though we, the public, are unlikely to ever hear, it is possible that the lack of resignations during the ‘current’ clergy scandal is because the popes did not want to ‘hurt the Church further’ by having the resignation of cardinals.]
So, contrary to what many believe Austrian Hans Hermann Groër, the disgraced and discredited ex-Archbishop of Vienna, died a cardinal — though he was forced to relinquish all posts in Austria.
The infamous Bernard Francis Law, though he appears to have taken liberties with the LAW of the land, also continues as a cardinal though he, like Groër, had to relinquish his pastoral ties. He is in exile, but as a cardinal.
Hope this helps. I know that may think that Groër resigned. He didn’t. Or at least if he did, the John Paul II (#265) didn’t accept the resignation.