A Vatican official has said that the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was caused by gay men preying on teenage boys, rather than paedophilia.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN, read out a statement after a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva.

He said: “Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17.”

Tomasi added that it would be “more correct” to refer to ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than paedophilia.

The statement also attacked other religions, with Tomasi saying that most US churches embroiled in abuse scandals were Protestant, adding that the problem was also common in Jewish communities.

Tomasi said: “As the Catholic church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it.”

He added that “available research” showed that only 1.5 to five per cent of Catholic clergy had been implicated in cases of child sex abuse.

The statement was released after the International Humanist and Ethical Union accused the Holy See of covering up child abuse.

International representative Porteous Wood said: “The many thousands of victims of abuse deserve the international community to hold the Vatican to account, something it has been unwilling to do, so far. Both states and children’s organisations must unite to pressurise the Vatican to open its files, change its procedures worldwide, and report suspected abusers to civil authorities.”

In May, an aide of the Archbishop of Cardiff claimed that gay men are the main perpetrators of paedophilia in the Catholic Church.

Father John Owen, the communications officer for the archdiocese of Cardiff, told the BBC that “most of the offences are being committed by homosexuals”.

Father Owen, also a chaplain at Cardiff University, said that teenage boys were the group affected by the “majority” of abuse cases in the United Kingdom, adding: “Now what does that tell you? Now that is a fact.”

His comments came several days after the release of the Ryan Report, which revealed that sexual abuse was widespread in Irish Catholic industrial schools and orphanages run by the church, having drawn on testimony from former pupils, inmates and officials.