A conservative Catholic just appointed as archbishop of Glasgow has been condemned for appearing to link the death of a Labour MP last year with his homosexuality.
Philip Tartaglia, whose appointment as the next archbishop of Glasgow by Pope Benedict was made public on Tuesday, suggested the premature death of David Cairns, a former minister, was connected to his sexuality, when he spoke at an event this year.
Cairns, himself a former Catholic priest and a widely respected Scotland Office minister, died unexpectedly aged 44 last year from complications from acute pancreatitis, shocking his family, friends and colleagues.
Tartaglia is an outspoken critic of Scottish government proposals, due to be published imminently, to legalise gay marriage and is also tipped as a successor to Cardinal Keith O'Brien as head of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland.
Currently bishop of Paisley, Tartaglia suggested at a conference on religious freedom and equality at Oxford University in April that there may have been hidden or unexplained links between Cairns's premature death and his sexuality.
In response to a question from an audience member about the suicide of a gay author in the US, the bishop said: "If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, 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 should 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."
Tartaglia's remarks were condemned by Cairns's partner, Dermot Kehoe, and Tom Harris, the Labour MP for Glasgow South, blogger and a close friend of Cairns, who became the first former Catholic priest to sit in the Commons after winning Inverclyde in 2001. Harris said the bishop's comments were "ill-informed tripe".
Kehoe, who was Cairns's partner for nearly 15 years, told the Scotsman: "This is genuinely very upsetting and painful for David's family and friends. I can't believe that someone who claims to be a man of God and is seeking to give moral leadership should speak from such a position of ignorance.
"I don't care what his views on gay marriage are, but to bring in my dead partner to justify those views is wrong."
Harris wrote to Tartaglia, describing his remarks as "hurtful and ill-informed" and urged him to reconsider them.
His letter says: "I was privileged to be one of David's closest friends. His friends and family have spent the last year trying to come to terms with his tragic loss from complications arising from acute pancreatitis.
"Your public assertion that David's illness might in some way be connected to his sexuality and lifestyle was not only unsupported by any evidence, but was, I fear, unworthy of your position as a leader in the church."
A spokesman for Tartaglia said: "Responding to a question from an audience member, Bishop Tartaglia agreed that the health risks of same-sex behaviour were largely unreported.
"He mentioned the premature death of a young high-profile gay MP in this context. There was no intention to cause offence and he regrets that anyone may have been upset.
"In the case of the MP concerned, his funeral was conducted in the Catholic church and pastoral support offered to his family and friends." [Emphasis added]
The archbishop was addressing a real problem that the mainstream media don't want to face. Regardless of specific cases, medicine considers anal sex - when is the last time you even heard or read this expression? - to carry more risks than other sexual activities. Even the ultra PC NHS says so.
An additional problem is that many deaths related to AIDS - of which the main way of transmission is from man to man, at least in the West ("In 23 European countries, the new cases of HIV in men who have sex with men rose 86 percent between 2000 and 2006.") - are from diseases resulting from the weakening of the auto-immune system due to AIDS.