The new Archbishop-elect of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia, an outspoken critic of marriage equality, has linked a gay Catholic Member of Parliament's early death to being gay.
Tartaglia previously attacked the Scottish government’s and Westminster proposals to legalise gay marriage, but now it's emerged he linked the Labour MP’s death to his sexuality.
David Cairns MP, a former Catholic priest and member of the Scottish Labour Party, died in May 2010 from acute pancreatitis at the age of 44.
Philip Tartaglia’s suggestion prompted criticism from friends and the partner of the late Cairns.
The Scottish Herald has uncovered that last April, during a debate at Magdalene College Oxford, the then-Bishop of Paisley made his opinion known as a response to an audience question.
The question was posed by Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was struck off by British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) for offering to turn a gay man straight through therapy.
Pikington, who sat next to Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, a ‘gay cure’ campaign group asked why the ‘homosexual agenda has become so powerful’ further alleging it was ‘intimidating, bullying and generates fear’, stressing people should ‘stand against it’.
She then proceeded to mention that Bob Bergeron, who wrote a book about happiness for mature gay men, committed suicide at the age of 49.
Tartaglia welcomed her opinion and proceeded to state: ‘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.’
Speaking with the Glasgow Herald, Dermot Kehoe, Cairns' partner said: ‘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.’
Kehoe told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland program that implication that Cairns' death was due to his sexuality shows the bishop to be ‘in complete ignorance of all the facts in this case'.
‘David died of pancreatitis, a gallstone blocked his pancreatic tract,' he said. 'So that's what happened to David, which could have happened to anybody. To take a personal tragedy like this and seek to use it to make a political point, it's more than upsetting, it's deeply painful.’
On his appointment yesterday Bsihop Tartaglia expressed fears that he and other priests could face prosecution if such legislation goes ahead.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Colin Macfarlane director of Stonewall Scotland, slammed the bishop’s comments: 'Day one into the new job and the archbishop has sunk to a new low.
'Not only will his comments cause deep distress to David Cairns family and friends but they will cause great offence to the majority of Scots.
'It's deeply disappointing that someone who should be preaching about love and respect is instead speaking from a position of utter ignorance.'
The bishop has been an outspoken critic of the Scottish government’s plans to legalise same-sex marriage which has been announced today.
Last year the bishop wrote a letter to Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, stating that the Scottish government does not ‘have the authority to say what marriage is or to change its nature or to decree that people of the same sex can marry’.
He also warned in the letter that if such legislation will take place there would be a ‘serious chill’ between the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Scottish government.
In 2010, 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.’
Watch the panel discussion with Tartaglia: