One of Britain’s most senior Roman Catholics has sparked fury by suggesting an MP and former minister died because he was gay.
The new Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, said society had kept ‘very quiet’ about the death of Labour MP and former Scotland Office minister David Cairns.
Mr Cairns, a former Catholic priest himself, died in May last year at the age of 44 from acute pancreatitis.
But Bishop Tartaglia questioned why his body ‘just shut down’.
Bishop Philip Tartaglia (left) has been urged to apologise after he reportedly linked the death of MP David Cairns (right) to his homosexuality
At a conference on religious freedom held at Oxford University, he said: ‘If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, then society is being very quiet about it.
‘Recently in Scotland, there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so, and nobody said anything, and why his body just shut down at that age.
‘Obviously he could have had a disease that would have killed anybody.
‘But you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing, but society won’t address it.’ A source close to David Cameron said the Prime Minister believed the Archbishop’s remarks were ‘totally unacceptable’.
Mr Cairns’s partner of 15 years, Dermot Kehoe, accused him of delivering a ‘hate speech’, and said the comments had added to his grief.
Mr Kehoe said the bishop’s ‘ignorance and prejudice should not go unchallenged’. He wrote on Twitter: ‘Tartaglia’s comments are hate speech. He has position of moral leadership and should not speak from ignorance of the facts... Distressing and painful.’
Bishop Tartaglia (right) is taking over as Archbishop of Glasgow from Mario Conti (pictured, left)
A spokesman for Archbishop Tartaglia said his words had been ‘taken out of context’ and had been made in a lecture 14 weeks ago.
He said he had been asked a question ‘which was not related to his speech. In his reply he mentioned a situation he had been closely involved in, namely the funeral arrangements for the late David Cairns.
‘The Archbishop knew David Cairns, met him regularly at events in Inverclyde, and got on well with him, and was personally involved in his funeral arrangements.
Archbishop-elect Tartaglia (pictured) is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage
He is sorry for any hurt which has resulted, there was certainly no offence or judgment intended in his words.’
But Mr Kehoe rejected the apology and accused the Archbishop of using the situation to ‘influence the Government’ to stop its plans for same-sex marriage. Labour Leader Ed Miliband, who was visiting Edinburgh yesterday, said the Archbishop’s comments had caused hurt.
‘I think, knowing the circumstances of what actually happened to David, he will recognise that his comments were wrong,’ he said.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper wrote on Twitter: ‘Comments from Archbishop of Glasgow on the much missed David Cairns are deeply wrong, shocking and distressing. Hope he will now withdraw.’ Mr Cairns successfully fought to overturn a 19th Century law and become the first former Catholic priest to become an MP.
He remained a devout Catholic throughout his life and represented the constituency where he was born, Greenock in the west of Scotland.
He was the first minister to exit Gordon Brown’s government, in September 2008, after becoming disillusioned with his leadership.He also piloted legislation to protect shop workers from being forced to work on Sundays.
His death, after a short but painful illness, came just weeks after he was admitted to hospital suffering from acute pancreatitis.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair read a eulogy at a mass held in his honour in London.
Mr Brown, along with MPs from across the political divide, attended the ceremony.
By DAILY MAIL
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