Bishop's death comment 'homophobic'

The incoming Archbishop of Glasgow has been accused of making unacceptable and homophobic remarks about the late MP David Cairns.

Mr Cairns's partner has called on Philip Tartaglia to apologise after he reportedly made comments linking the Labour politician's death to his homosexuality.

Bishop Tartaglia, the current Bishop of Paisley, has been announced as Archbishop-elect of Glasgow.

It has emerged that earlier this year he spoke about Mr Cairns, a former Scotland Office minister who died of acute pancreatitis in hospital last May.

The archbishop-elect apparently raised the issue at a conference at Oxford University in April, reportedly saying: "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."

Mr Cairns's partner, Dermot Kehoe, hit out at the archbishop-elect's comments, accusing him of using the personal tragedy of the MP's death to make a political point about same-sex marriage. Mr Kehoe also said the "deeply painful" remarks added to the grief and pain felt by him and Mr Cairns's family.

Mr Kehoe told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that the archbishop-elect "implied or stated that David's death was due in some way to his homosexuality and being gay". This is "in complete ignorance of all the facts in this case", Mr Kehoe said.

A spokesman for Bishop Tartaglia said: "Responding to a question from an audience member, following a lecture some months ago, Bishop Tartaglia agreed that the health risks of same-sex behaviour were largely unreported.

"He mentioned the premature death of a young, high-profile gay MP in this context. There was no intention to cause offence and he regrets that anyone may have been upset. The church will always be willing to offer pastoral care to those in need and in the case of the MP concerned, his funeral was conducted in the Catholic Church and pastoral support offered to his family and friends."