A senior Roman Catholic official has launched a wide-ranging attack on modern life in what many see as yet another attempt by the church to influence Italian domestic politics.

Speaking to an audience of priests, Archbishop Angelo Amato said that the media are responsible for presenting abortion and gay rights are signs of progress in human society.

The church is planning a rally in Rome next month in opposition to the Italian government’s decision to grant unmarried couples, gay and straight, some legal rights.

It is expected that tens of thousands of the devout will take to the streets to protest against gay rights.

Archbishop Amato said that watching television and reading newspapers was like watching a film about evil, and said that euphemistic language is responsible for making practices like abortion seem normal and progressive.

He also extended his wrath to political leaders outside the Catholic sphere of influence, such as Britain, complaining about, “parliaments of so-called civilised nations where laws contrary to the nature of the human being are being promulgated, such as the approval of marriage between people of the same sex.”

The Vatican-organised protest against gay rights will be yet another test for the nine-party coalition government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

The hardline Catholic attitude, which they claim is in defence of marriage, is rejected by the majority of Italians.

A survey for newspaper La Repubblica in February found strong support for the government’s proposed new law.

67% of practising Catholics support protections for heterosexual co-habitees, a number which falls to 35% who think gay and lesbians should get legal protection.

Overall, 80% of Italians are in favour.

Couples will be able to formally register with their local authority, and will have rights over property and inheritance. They will also have the right to visit their partner in hospital.

Former Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, 88, who attends church on a daily basis, recently told the press that the Church should not interfere.

“Should such an intervention take place … it would destroy the freedom and dignity of Catholic lawmakers in parliament,” he told la Repubblica newspaper.

“A rigid attitude by the Church would be really damaging.”