The former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey has said he ordained two bishops in the 1990s he suspected might have been gay, a newspaper has reported.
Dr Carey upheld a traditionalist line on homosexuality
The report, in the Sunday Times, marks the first intervention in the row within the Anglican Church over the appointment of the gay priest Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading.
However, the paper reported Dr Carey as saying he had "never knowingly ordained a practising homosexual".
Dr Carey said he believed the two bishops he ordained when they assured him there were "no skeletons in their cupboards", the paper reported.
"They may have been homosexual. My suspicion of both men was that they were probably homosexual by inclination but neither said they had been in a relationship in the past.
"There was no evidence whatsoever that they had been in a relationship.
"If they had been, that wasn't disclosed. I was assured by them that there
was nothing to embarrass the church."
Without naming the two bishops, Dr Carey was quoted by the paper as saying: "I want to protect these two people. They're honourable
people. To this day, I don't doubt their veracity and lifestyle."
He said he would stop an ordination if he learned the person was in a homosexual relationship.
Dr John, who is due to be ordained as Bishop of Reading on 9 October, has been in a relationship with a man for 27 years but says he is now celibate.
Of the controversial appointment of Dr John, Dr Carey said: "I'm very distressed by the situation. I would have followed the rule book.
"Jeffrey John is a good man. He's a fine thinker, but I would not have
allowed his name to go forward."
Dr John says he is now celibate
Dr Carey said he would also have asked married people whether they had any
potentially damaging secrets, such as affairs, before ordaining them as
As leader of the Church Dr Carey upheld the traditionalist line that active homosexuality was wrong for priests and lay people alike.
"I am a traditionalist and I believe that sex should be restricted to monogamous heterosexual marriages," he said on Sunday.
"I have always said that there are only two lifestyles: celibacy and monogamy."
His comments are likely to be used by Dr John's supporters as evidence of the Church promoting gay priests prepared to keep quiet about their sexuality but turning against one who has been more candid, according to BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.
The row over the bishop's appointment looks likely to dominate this week's meeting of the General Synod, the church's parliament.
Traditionalists say their criticism of Dr John focuses on his unwillingness to repent of his once open sexuality and his fierce criticism of the Church's teaching on the issue, said Robert Pigott.
The current Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams has already said he raised no objection to Dr John's appointment.