The Catholic Church in England and Wales has rebutted comments made by the Pope’s second in command on child abuse and homosexuality.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state and effectively the deputy to Pope Benedict, said this week that research showed gays were to blame for paedophilia.

He told journalists in Chile: “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia.”

Following his remarks, the Vatican tried to clarify them.

Spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi said: “General assertions of a specifically psychological or medical nature are not the responsibility of church officials.”

But the Catholic Church in England and Wales went further, issuing a rare rebuttal of Cardinal Bertone’s comments.

Father Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “There is no empirical data which concludes that sexual orientation is connected to child sexual abuse.

“The consensus among researchers is that the sexual abuse of children is not a question of sexual ‘orientation’, whether heterosexual or homosexual, but of a disordered attraction or ‘fixation’.

“Many abusers of children have never developed the capacity for mature adult relationships.

“Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or both.

“In the sexual abuse of children the issue is the sexual fixation of the abusers, and not their sexual orientation.”

The French foreign ministry also condemned Cardinal Bertone’s comments, saying they were “unacceptable”.

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

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

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].”

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of allegations that Pope Benedict 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 re offended and was convicted, although he continues to work as a priest to this day.

Abuse victims have said that they were forced to sign confidentially agreements about their experiences under the threat of excommunication. Campaigners have called for an apology from the Pope and compensation.