The most senior priest in the Roman Catholic Church in Britain Cardinal Keith O'Brien has resigned over allegations of innappropriate behaviour up to 30 years ago.
The news comes just a day after the claims by three priests and a former priest first surfaced.
Cardinal O'Brien confirmed that he was to step down immediately, saying in a statement: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today."
The Cardinal should have been travelling to the Vatican this week to help choose the next Pope.
He said he would not be joining the conclave to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, adding: "I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."
The Vatican confirmed the news soon after.
The Cardinal missed the traditional Sunday Mass on Sunday (February 24) after the Observer newspaper carried allegations relating to actions by him 30 years ago.
The claims emerged just days after Cardinal O'Brien had called for the Catholic Church to end its celibacy rule for the priesthood.
He had told the BBC: "I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood, and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own."
Bishop Stephen Robson, who is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, made a statement at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh explaining why the Cardinal could not attend.
He said: "A number of allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been made against the Cardinal.
"The Cardinal has sought legal advice and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time. There will be further statements in due course.
"As always in times of need such as this we cannot not be saddened by the events of the last 24 hours.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien is the only British Roman Catholic cleric able to vote in the upcoming conclave electing Pope Benedict XVI's successor.
The 74-year-old, who is Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, was created and proclaimed a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003.
He was ordained a priest on April 3, 1965.
Cardinal O'Brien served as assistant parish priest and as chaplain of St Columba Secondary School in Cowdenbeath, then was spiritual director of St Andrew's College in Drygrange and rector of St Mary's College, Blairs.
On August 5, 1985, he was ordained Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
He is no stranger to making the news with his views.
He has been an advocate of priests marrying but an outspoken opponent of plans to legalise same-sex marriage.
Last year his stance landed him the award, Bigot of the Year, from the gay rights group Stonewall.
In 2007 he caused controversy when speaking on the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act he said the termination rate north of the border was equivalent to "two Dunblane massacres a day".