Divisions over sexual ethics could be harmful in the relations between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, a cardinal in Rome said.

Speaking to the Pope and cardinals in a private meeting three weeks ago Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity, said that there were disagreements with the Anglicans that had stalled talks.

“While progress is being made on theological divisions, new divergences are emerging in the ethical field,” he said.

“These concern in particular the questions related to the defence of life, to marriage, to the family, and to human sexuality.

“Because of these new divisions that are being created, common public witness is significantly weakened, if not impossible.”

Cardinal Kasper said that a Vatican document was published earlier this year stating that the Church of England was not a “proper church,” a position still held by the Vatican.

He said that the discontent caused by the Vatican’s position was unjustified, because it had not affirmed anything new, but restated the Catholic view.

“The crisis taking place within the respective Communities is clearly exemplified by the situation that has arisen in the Anglican Communion, which is not an isolated case,” Cardinal Kasper noted.

The issue of homosexuality has sparked controversy in the Anglican Church, with traditionalist positions opposed to attempts of bringing in more liberal views.

In 2003 the Church of England announced that an openly gay priest was going to be appointed Bishop of Reading, although reactions from traditionalists eventually hindered his appointment.

In 2006 the Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries said that “there has to be a conversion to a new way to see that gay partnerships are not contrary to biblical truth.”

The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, has always compactly criticised any forms of acceptance of homosexual behaviour, which is seen as a sin.

In October in a TV interview a Catholic priest who admitted he was gay was suspended after being recognised by Vatican authorities, even though he was speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a series of statements, the pope has criticised both the possibility for gay people to serve as priests and has opposed any legislation aimed at recognising even basic gay couples’ rights.

Pope Benedict XVI has defined such requests as evidence of what he calls “cultural relativism” towards ethic values, clearly influencing Italy’s parliamentary debate, which is now stalled on whether to approve legal recognition of LGBT rights.