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Gay outrage over cardinal's child abuse comment

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
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Cardinal blames homosexuality for abuse
  • Gay rights groups outraged over cardinal's comment linking homosexuality and pedophilia
  • Catholic Church at center of child abuse allegations dating back decades
  • Vatican published new summary of procedures on sexual abuse cases Monday
  • Atheist calls for pope to be arrested for crimes against humanity

London, England (CNN) -- Gay rights groups have expressed outrage over comments made by a senior Vatican official linking homosexuality to child abuse.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who also serves as the Vatican's Secretary of State, made the comment during a news conference while on an official visit to Chile.

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

Tony Green of the London-based Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said Bertone's comments came as no surprise given recent controversial statements by Church leaders.

"Of course we're appalled by it but not shocked -- people like this are bound to say this. It's a bit like comparing attacks on the Catholic Church to the Holocaust and all that. It is desperate people trying to come out with desperate answers," he said.

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High-profile gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell added his voice to the criticism.

"The Vatican is trying to deflect attention from the sex crimes of Catholic clergy by blaming gay people. This is really sick," Tatchell told the British Press Association.

"There is absolutely no connection whatsoever between pedophilia and loving, consenting adult gay relationships," he added.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday also denounced Bertone's remarks connecting homosexuality to pedophilia. "It is an unacceptable amalgam that we condemn," said the spokesman, Bernard Valero.

"France assures its firm involvement in the struggle against discrimination and prejudice related to sexual orientation and gender identity."

A Vatican spokesman said Wednesday that just 10 percent of the abuse cases against priests that were reviewed by the Vatican constituted "pedophilia in the strict sense." The rest were cases of abuse against teenagers, said the spokesman, Federico Lombardi.

Roughly 60 percent of those incidents were between priests and teenage boys, he said, while 30 percent were between priests and teenage girls.

The latest row over the Vatican's response to the abuse scandal came amid calls for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI on his impending visit to Britain.

James Cantor, the Head of the Law and Mental Health Research Section of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, also rejected suggestions of a link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

"It's quite solidly shown in the scientific literature that there is absolutely no association between being a gay man and being a pedophile," Cantor, also Editor-in-Chief of "Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment," told CNN.

A Vatican spokesman declined CNN's request for comment on the Cardinal's statement.

The Catholic Church has been under attack over a series of scandals exposing widespread abuse of children dating back decades.

An attempt by Pope Benedict XVI to calm the storm in March with an apology to victims of child abuse in Ireland has since been eclipsed by controversial statements by senior clergy.

During Easter Mass, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former Vatican secretary of state and the dean of the College of Cardinals, provoked criticism by appearing to downplay the seriousness of the abuse allegations.

He said the pope retained the support of Catholics around the world "who do not let themselves be influenced by the gossip."

Days earlier, the pontiff's personal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, compared the attacks on the church to anti-semitism. He later apologized for any offence caused.

On Monday, the Vatican published a one-page document outlining the official steps dioceses should take if a priest is accused of abuse.

The document did not appear to contain new guidance -- only to consolidate existing practices into one document.

Father Ciro Benedettini of the Vatican press office told CNN it was designed primarily to help the media understand Church procedures.

The document roused further criticism from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) whose spokesman Mark Serrano said: "It's sad when the Vatican has to make it clear to bishops that they must follow secular laws. It's fairly obvious that if you are saying you will now cooperate with the police then you are admitting that you have not been."

On Tuesday high-profile atheist Richard Dawkins called for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI on charges of crimes against humanity when the pontiff visits Britain later this year.

"One could make the case he was complicit in the covering up of the crimes after they had been committed, and we have it in his own words that he put the public relations' interest of the church ahead of the interests of the children themselves," Dawkins told CNN.

He said the idea of papal charges was first floated by author and journalist Christopher Hitchens and together they consulted lawyers in England to see whether charges could be brought.

"I'm not sure if it's really feasible that he will literally end up in the dock. That's what we're aiming for. But I think it's good consciousness-raising to alert people to the fact that there's no reason why the head of a large religious organization should be exempt from the same law that the rest of the world has to summit to.

"There is no get out of jail free card which should be offered to a religious leader anymore than to anyone else in the world," he said.