The Equality Network, a Scottish LGBT rights group, says the fundamental problem facing the Catholic Church is its public message on issues of sexual morality, not simply the hypocrisy of any one individual.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien had been due to retire this month as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church but stepped down prematurely after several allegations of sexual misconduct with male priests surfaced in February.

Last Sunday night he admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him.

“He preached publicly against homosexuality while privately seeking its pleasures,” human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said to PinkNews.co.uk on Monday.

Under his leadership the Catholic Church in Scotland pledged to ‘declare war’ on marriage equality and spent around £150,000 on its anti-gay marriage campaign. 

On Tuesday, the Equality Network urged that “instead of paying so much attention to the genders of people in relationships, the Catholic Church needs to focus on whether relationships are consensual or abusive.”

Director of the Equality Network Tim Hopkins said: “Concerns have rightly been raised about the priority the Church places on sexual morality in particular, and the tone with which it speaks, but the focus needs to be right too. Why does the Church put so much time and money into opposing loving same-sex couples getting a marriage certificate, instead of campaigning on issues of abuse? Until the Church shows that it understands that consent versus abuse are what matters most in relationships, not sexual orientation, it will struggle to regain its credibility and moral authority.”

Mr Hopkins added: “We have heard regret from the Cardinal about sexual conduct, and concern from the Church about well-deserved charges of hypocrisy. But we have not yet heard clearly enough that the Church understands that the real problem here was not breaching vows of celibacy, or that the sexual acts were same-sex, but that they were an abuse of a position of power.”