A controversial conservative Brazilian archbishop has claimed that children are “spontaneously gay” and that gay rights will lead to rights for paedophiles.

Archbishop Dadeus Grings spoke to the O Globo newspaper on Wednesday about the paedophile priests scandal, which has spread to South America.

He condemned the alleged abuse of children inside the church but said that internal punishment of guilty priests was sufficient, rather that involving the police.

Grings, who is the archbishop of the Porto Alegre diocese, one of the largest in Brazil, said: “For the church to go and accuse its own sons would be a little strange.”

He also warned of the dangers of homosexuality, saying: “We know that the adolescent is spontaneously homosexual. Boys play with boys, girls play with girls.

“If there is no proper guidance, this sticks. The question is – how are we going to educate our children to use a sexuality that is human and suitable?”

He added that equal rights for gays and lesbians would “pretty soon” lead to acceptance of paedophilia.

He told the newspaper: “When sexuality is trivialized, it’s clear that this is going to affect all cases. Homosexuality is such a case. Before, the homosexual wasn’t spoken of. He was discriminated against.

“When we begin to say they have rights, rights to demonstrate publicly, pretty soon, we’ll find the rights of paedophiles.”

According to Associated Press, Grings has also upset Jewish groups in the past with remarks about the Holocaust.

Last year, he told a magazine that “more Catholics than Jews died in the Holocaust, but this isn’t known because the Jews control the world’s media”.

Afterwards, he said he had been trying to raise recognition of the millions of non-Jewish victims of the atrocity.