Vatican tells U.N. that critics of gays under attack

GENEVA Tue Mar 22, 2011 1:07pm EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - People who criticise gay sexual relations for religious or moral reasons are increasingly being attacked and vilified for their views, a Vatican diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the Roman Catholic Church deeply believed that human sexuality was a gift reserved for married heterosexual couples. But those who express these views are faced with "a disturbing trend," he said.

"People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex," he told the current session of the Human Rights Council.

"When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature ... they are stigmatised, and worse -- they are vilified, and prosecuted.

"These attacks are violations of fundamental human rights and cannot be justified under any circumstances," Tomasi said.

The Catholic Church has clashed increasingly in recent years with governments over sexual equality legislation. In Britain, it had to close down adoption services because they refused to allow same-sex couples to adopt orphans in their care.

It has also opposed the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage in several countries in Europe and the Americas.

Tomasi also said the Vatican believed in the inherent dignity of all human beings and condemned all violence against people because of their sexual orientation or behaviour.

"But states can and must regulate behaviours, including various sexual behaviours," he said.

"Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviour must be forbidden by law. Paedophilia and incest are two examples."

(Reporting by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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