An Italian bishop who compared moves to give gay couples some rights to incest and child abuse has received three bullets and a threat against his life in the post.

Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco’s cathedral was attacked by vandals in April.

He was placed under police guard after he was sent a bullet in the post later that month, accompanied by a picture of the Archbishop defaced with a swastika.

The police said that they did not think the level of threat against the outspoken religious leader has increased as a result of this latest incident.

In April the slogan “Bagnasco shame” was painted on the entrance to the cathedral of St. Lawrence in Genoa.

Monsignor Bagnasco was appointed head of the Bishops Conference in March and is in charge of the Roman Catholic church campaign to block a new law in Italy that would allow unmarried couples, gay and straight, some legal protection.

The Archbishop’s comments have resulted in some of the heaviest criticism of the church in an ongoing row over the place of religion in the Italian state.

La Repubblica newspaper reported his comments at a meeting of Roman Catholic church employees:

“Why say no to forms of legally recognised co-habitation which create alternatives to the family? Why say no to incest?

“Why say no to the paedophile party?”

Sergio Lo Guidice, the president of gay rights group Arcigay, has condemned acts of vandalism, but has expressed his support for “the victims of the archbishop’s most offensive words on paedophilia and homosexual civil unions.”

Italy has been gripped by the conflict between traditionalists and progressives since Romano Prodi’s government unveiled proposals to recognise same-sex partnerships last February.

Members of Parliament have been strongly lobbied by the Catholic Church, with Pope Benedict XVI calling the proposals “anti-church and anti-family.”

While the bishops did not suggest disciplinary action against lawmakers who supported the government proposals, they did stress a “moral duty” to vote against the legislation.