Gays have a 'deficiency' and can be cured, insists new cardinal
Spain's newly appointed cardinal to Rome has insisted that homosexuality can be cured with treatment and likened it to other "bodily deficiencies" such as high blood pressure.
The comments by Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, who was named one of 19 new cardinals by Pope Francis last week, provoked a backlash in Spain.
The 84-year-old Archbishop Emeritus of Pamplona said: "Homosexuality is a deficient way of manifesting sexuality because (sexuality) has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation. Homosexuality, which can't achieve this purpose, is a failing," he said in an interview with Malaga-based newspaper 'Diario Sur', published on Sunday.
He went on to compare it to his own deficiency of high blood pressure.
"Our bodies have many deficiencies. I have high blood pressure - a deficiency I have to correct as I can."
With this in mind, he continued: "Saying homosexuals suffer a deficiency is not an insult. It's a help because in many cases of homosexuality it is possible to recover and become normal with the right treatment."
His comments brought swift criticism. Maria Gamez, a spokesman from the socialist PSOE party in Malaga, said: "These are not the winds of change that seem to be blowing from the Vatican. Pope Francis himself has distanced himself from these backward, insulting and anti-constitutional theses."
Pope Francis has struck a more concilatory tone to the traditional Vatican doctrine on homosexuality since taking up the papacy last March.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" he said in July.
But Spain's new cardinal insisted that his own stance did not contradict that of the Pontiff. "The Pope is very respectful and holds all people in high esteem but that doesn't betray or change the teaching of the church," he said.
"It is one thing to be compassionate towards a homosexual person but another thing to morally justify the practice of homosexuality. All (the Pope) is doing is offering comprehension and compassion and showing a desire to welcome those who have gone astray."
Meanwhile, gay activists have sharply criticised a former commander of the Swiss Guard for demonising homosexuals serving in the Pope's protection force.
"He has made scapegoats out of gays," said Franco Grillini, the president of the lobby group Gaynet.