Vatican officials have refuted claims that the Pope was involved in a cover-up of the child abuse scandal, saying that the allegations are part of a “hate campaign” against him.

Two senior cardinals suggested on Tuesday that the claims were revenge for Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay marriage and abortion, AP reports.

Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the disciplinary commission for Holy See officials, said on Vatican Radio: “The pope defends life and the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, in a world in which powerful lobbies would like to impose a completely different [agenda].”

Meanwhile, dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, told Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romana: “The pope embodies moral truths that aren’t accepted, and so, the shortcomings and errors of priests are used as weapons against the church.”

The Pope recently launched an unprecedented attack on UK equality legislation, saying it went against natural law. He also said in 2008 that gay and trans people were a threat to humanity and has criticised gay marriage laws in countries such as Portugal.

He has refused to comment on the paedophile priests scandal, despite the numerous allegations aired in the last month in Ireland, Austria, the United States and Germany, the Pope’s home country.

There have been allegations that he was aware of paedophiles continuing to work as priests and allowed them to do so.

He was Archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982 and it was alleged earlier this month that he sent one paedophile priest to therapy in 1980. The priest reoffended and was convicted, although he continues to work as a priest to this day.

Abuse victims have spoken of being made to sign confidentially agreements about their experiences under the threat of excommunication.

They say they want an apology from the Pope and compensation.