Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 18:13 UK

Catholic Church dismisses Vatican chief's abuse claim

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone officiates a mass in Concepcion (9 April 2010)
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's comments came on a visit to South America

The Catholic Church in England and Wales appears to be at odds with a top Vatican figure who linked homosexuality to paedophilia in abuse scandals.

Father Marcus Stock, of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said research showed abuse was not a question of sexual orientation.

His comments follow a claim made by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The Vatican later said it was not for the Church to make assertions of a "psychological or medical nature".

However, it did maintain there were statistics to support the cardinal's view.

Father Stock, general secretary of the bishops' conference, said: "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'.

The bishops are right to point out that a propensity to child sex abuse is not based on a person's sexual orientation
Peter Tatchell

"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."

His remarks follow a statement made by Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, during a visit to Chile on Monday, when he denied that celibacy was to blame for child sex abuse in the Church.

He said: "Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia.

"That is true. I have the documents of the psychologists. That is the problem."

'Measured tone'

However, Tony Green, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, welcomed the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales' comments.

"We are certainly very happy that this statement has been made. We hope that what will come out of this is a much more open debate about all the issues of human sexuality," he said.

Peter Tatchell, of the gay human rights group Outrage!, commended the Catholic bishops of England and Wales for "their intelligent, calm and accurate rejection of a causal link between paedophilia and sexual orientation".

He said: "Their measured, non-homophobic tone contrasts sharply with the shrill, scapegoating comments of Cardinal Bertone.

"The bishops are right to point out that a propensity to child sex abuse is not based on a person's sexual orientation but on a sexual fixation with young people."

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