The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has been accused of “sickening hypocrisy” after recent reports that he sacked one of his staff because he is gay.

The action taken by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor was condemned by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) yesterday.

Terry Sanderson, a spokesperson for GALHA said: “Cardinal Murphy O’Connor wrote to The Times only this week saying that homosexuals “have the same entitlement to legal rights as anyone else” and that “the Church has consistently spoken out against any discrimination against gay persons”. Yet only a few weeks earlier he had presided over the hounding of one of his colleagues from his job for being gay. Such sickening hypocrisy is almost unbelievable.”

Mr Sanderson said: “The Catholic Church is creating a climate of persecution against gay people around the world. This week the Pope launched two ferocious attacks on the concept of gay partnerships being legally recognised.

“The recently appointed government minister in charge of equality, Ruth Kelly, who is a member of the reactionary Catholic sect Opus Dei, refused to come clean about her true feelings about homosexuality. And now we find that gay people will not be permitted to work for Catholic organisations, even in a non-religious capacity. This smacks of sustained persecution.”

Mr Sanderson said that the use of anti-gay prejudice as a rallying point was becoming familiar in right-wing political and religious organisations. He cited the persecution of gay people in Poland as the Catholic Church and the devout Catholic president co-operated in refusing to recognise gay people as full citizens.

“If this level of victimisation continues, there are going to be even more casualties. The Cardinal and all those in the Catholic hierarchy should stop now and ask themselves where all this hate-mongering and discrimination is leading. We fear for the safety of gay people in Catholic countries where their rights are not protected.”

The Mail on Sunday reported last weekend that the Cardinal had sacked his press aide, Stephen Noon, an openly gay man, because he felt his sexuality was “incompatible” with his position in the Church.