The new Archbishop-elect of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia, who has warned the Scottish government against pursuing marriage equality, has linked a gay Catholic MP’s early death to his homosexuality.

Tartaglia has been an outspoken critic of both the Westminster and Scottish governments’ proposals to allow gay couples to marry, but in comments made in April he linked the premature death of a Labour MP to his sexual orientation.

David Cairns MP, a former Catholic priest, died in May 2010 after suffering acute pancreatitis at the age of 44.

In April of this year, the then-Bishop of Paisley asked why no one questioned the cause of his death. The Scotsman uncovered the archbishop-elect’s comments, which were made at a debate at Magdalene College, Oxford.

An audience question was posed by Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was censured by the BACP for negligence after offering a gay man therapy to help him turn straight. She was seated next to Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, a group which actively campaigns for ex-gay therapies.

Ms Pilkington said she wanted to speak about why the “homosexual agenda has become so powerful”, saying it was “intimidating, bullying and generates fear”, and people should “stand against it”.

She drew attention to the case of Bob Bergeron, a gay American self-help author who had committed suicide at 49 having written a book about happiness for gay men over 40.

Tartaglia welcomed such an opinion coming from a psychotherapist, indicating that as a Catholic priest people would expect him to say such things, but that she brought a different “angle”.

The new archbishop continued: “If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society is being very quiet about it.

“Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so, and nobody said anything, and why his body should just shut down at that age? Obviously he could have had a disease that would have killed anybody.

“But you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing, but society won’t address it. You’re right, Lesley, thank you.”

Dermot Kehoe, partner of the late Mr Cairns told the Scotsman: “This is genuinely very upsetting and painful for David’s family and friends. I can’t believe that someone who claims to be a man of God and is seeking to give moral leadership should speak from such a position of ignorance.

“I don’t care what his views on gay marriage are, but to bring in my dead partner to justify those views is wrong.”

To justify reference to “medically exceptionally hazardous” gay relationships to PinkNews.co.uk last year, the Catholic Church in Scotland has used research by the Family Research Institute, designated a ‘hate group’ in the US by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a study of gay men’s health from the early 1990s whose own authors warned it could not be used to draw that conclusion as long ago as 2001.

In 2010, while Bishop of Paisley, Tartaglia told Prime Minister David Cameron: “You and your government need to be aware from the outset that the Catholic Church will not register civil partnerships nor celebrate same-sex unions: not now, not in the future, not ever, no matter what legislation or regulations your government enacts or endorses.”

In late 2011, he wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond to warn that their equal marriage consultation would lead to a “serious chill” between the government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Mario Conti, the former Archbishop of Glasgow, said last year that allowing gay marriage would be “foolish” and render marriage “meaningless”.

Watch the exchange between the psychotherapist and the new archbishop below from 01:02:00: