Gay rights campaigners in Britain today rejected reported claims by the Vatican’s second-in-command that child sex abuse by priests is linked to homosexuality.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, is said to have denied that celibacy is to blame for child abuse.
He reportedly told a news conference in Chile that research had shown a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia.
“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and paedophilia,” he is reported to have said.
“But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”
Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the Protest the Pope campaign, mounted against Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain in September, denounced the remarks as “really sick”.
He said: “The Vatican is trying to deflect attention from the sex crimes of Catholic clergy by blaming gay people. This is really sick.
“The truth is that priests and bishops abused girls and boys alike. There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between paedophilia and loving, consenting adult gay relationships.
“It shows the depths of dishonesty and homophobia that infects the Vatican at the highest level.
“The Vatican leadership is morally bankrupt and is rightly scorned by all decent Catholics.”
The Catholic Church in England and Wales today appeared to issue a rare public rebuttal to a senior Vatican figure after it rejected reported claims that child sex abuse by priests is linked to homosexuality.
Father Marcus Stock, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales – a key post in the Church – said research showed child sex abuse was “not a question” of sexual orientation.
Father Stock said in a statement: “To the best of my knowledge, there is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse.
“The consensus among researchers is that the sexual abuse of children is not a question of sexual ’orientation’, whether heterosexual or homosexual, but of a disordered attraction or ’fixation’.
“Many abusers of children have never developed the capacity for mature adult relationships. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or both.
“In the sexual abuse of children the issue is the sexual fixation of the abusers, and not their sexual orientation.”
The French government condemned the association today as unacceptable, while gay rights groups contend that the Vatican is trying to shirk responsibility for the abuse.
Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi indicated that Cardinal Bertone was not making a psychological or medical assertion in his reported claims that many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated no relation between celibacy and paedophilia.
Tony Green, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, rejected the Cardinal’s remarks and said the Catholic Church was in a “dreadful mess” over the issue.
“As I heard someone saying on the news, they have not learnt the basic principle – when you are in a hole, stop digging,” he said.
“There is no evidence that homosexual men are more likely to commit these offences than heterosexual men proportionate to their place in the population.”
Cardinal Bertone’s remarks come as the Catholic Church faces calls for it to drop its celibacy rule for the priesthood following a wave of revelations about sex abuse scandals across the world.
The Pope himself has faced accusations about his handling of cases during his time as head of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and as Archbishop of Munich.