Cardinal Keith O’Brien has admitted that his sexual conduct has at times “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”.
In a statement, he apologised and asked forgiveness from those he had “offended”.
He also apologised to the Catholic Church, and to the people of Scotland.
The cardinal resigned last week after three priests and a former priest made allegations of improper behaviour against him.
The statement issued through the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland read: “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.
“However, 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.
“To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.
“I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”
Cardinal O’Brien was Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric when he resigned last Monday as the Archbishop of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh and said he would not take part in the election for a successor to Pope Benedict.
The cardinal had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75.
– BBC News