The Catholic Church in Scotland has failed to provide “compassionate and pastoral” support on issues of sexuality, a chief spokesman has admitted in language that still promotes a negative idea of being gay.

Peter Kearney, head of media at the Catholic Church in Scotland, told BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday that the Church’s lack of support over sexuality was unfortunate.

He said: “If there’s an area where the Church hasn’t been seen – frankly because it’s not present – it’s in that area of compassionate, pastoral outreach to people who are struggling with same-sex attraction, or they’re confused about it and would love the chance to talk to someone in a compassionate, pastoral context.

“The truth of it is that that level of support really isn’t there.

“If you’ve got a drug, or alcohol problem, or homelessness, then we seem to be able to step in and offer you support, help and options. But when it comes to human sexuality, it just isn’t there at the moment. And that’s unfortunate.”

Mr Kearney was commenting in the wake of Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s decision to resign last month as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church over allegations of inappropriate behaviour involving several male priests.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia – who replaced Cardinal O’Brien – said last week the Church had been accused of hypocrisy “for obvious reasons”.

Mr Kearney said he agreed with the sentiment: “I think hypocrisy – as Archbishop Tartaglia described it – is the stinging charge but it’s probably the most accurate charge to make, under these circumstances.

“On the other hand, if you come at it from a Catholic perspective, you have to say we are all flawed, fallible human beings, everyone fails in one way or another, or at one time or another. We have to just accept that.

“When it happens to someone in such a high profile and significant position, as it has done recently, then the impact is enormous, compared to it happening to one of us in our daily lives. But the underlying issue is the same.”

Along with Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop Tartaglia is also a vociferous opponent of equal marriage and caused outrage in 2012 when he linked the death of gay Labour MP David Cairns to his sexuality.

He subsequently apologised to Dermot Kehoe, Mr Cairns’ partner of 15 years, who said the remarks had added to the “grief and pain” both for him and of Mr Cairns’ family.

Archbishop Tartaglia has been urged to start a new dialogue with Scotland’s LGBT community after Daniel Donaldson, a solicitor in Edinburgh, called on him to do so in an open letter published on 4 March.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic cardinals will begin the process of electing a new Pope on Tuesday.