THE Vatican has been plunged into a new row over clerical child abuse after its second in command claimed that homosexuality, rather than celibacy, was linked to paedophilia.
The controversial comment was made yesterday by the Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in a clumsy attempt to defuse growing criticism of Pope Benedict XVI.
Speaking in Santiago, Chile, Cardinal Bertone, the Pope's 'prime minister', said the Pontiff would soon take more surprising initiatives regarding the sex-abuse scandal but he did not elaborate.
He told a news conference: "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have shown that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia."
Cardinal Bertone described this pathology as "one that touches all categories of people and priests to a lesser degree in percentage terms.
"The behaviour of the priests in this case is very serious, is scandalous," he added.
Bertone's gaffe came as the Vatican for the first time called on bishops across the world to report clerical child abuse crimes to police, in accordance with national laws.
Yesterday, the Vatican posted the statement of its official policy of how to deal with abuse complaints on its web-site.
This was in line with last month's letter to the Catholics of Ireland from Pope Benedict XVI, in which he told Irish bishops to co-operate with gardai and health authorities in abuse investigations.