A leading but controversial Italian academic is facing calls for him to resign as vice president of the country’s Centre for National Research after he claimed that homosexuality caused the fall of the Roman Empire.

Professor Roberto De Mattei, vice-president of Italy’s Centre for National Research, a devout Catholic who previously claimed that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami was “divine punishment”, made his claims in an interview for a religious radio station.

During his interview with Radio Maria, Professor De Mattei said:”The collapse of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarians was due to the spread of homosexuality.

“The Roman colony of Carthage was a paradise for homosexuals … the abnormal presence of a few deviants infected many others.”

He says that his claims originate from he writings of fifth-century Christian author Salviano di Marsiglia. Professor De Mattei added: “The invasion of the Barbarians (of Rome] was seen as punishment for this moral transgression. It is well known that effeminate men and homosexuals have no place in the Kingdom of God. Homosexuality was not rife among the Barbarians, and this shows that God’s justice comes throughout history, not at the end of time.”

A left wing MP, Paola Concia, has written to the country’s education minister, Maria Stella Gelmini, to step in and intervene.”

Emilio Gabba, an expert on ancient Roman history said: “It is highly improbable that homosexuality led to the fall of the Roman Empire.”