The Catholic Church in England and Wales appears to have issued a rare public rebuttal to a senior Vatican figure after it rejected reported claims that child sex abuse by priests is linked to homosexuality. Father Marcus Stock, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales – a key post in the Church – said research showed child sex abuse was “not a question” of sexual orientation.

His remarks in a statement contradict reported comments by the Vatican’s second-in-command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, that research has shown a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. Father Stock said in a statement: “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’.

“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.” He added that the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have adopted policies to ensure that all candidates for the priesthood undergo a “thorough” psychological screening. He said: “All candidates for the priesthood and diaconate are required to demonstrate the capacity for mature relationships and a fully integrated sexuality, appropriate to their celibate or married way of life.”

Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, reportedly said: “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and paedophilia.”

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