Vatican promises action after priest's gay advance

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VATICAN CITY, Oct 15 (Reuters) The Vatican promised today a speedy investigation into a senior official at the Holy See who was filmed by a hidden camera making homosexual advances, and to discipline him if necessary.

Monsignor Tommaso Stenico, a top official at the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy which oversees priests around the world, was heard on Italian television telling a young man he was ''hot'' and that homosexual sex was not sinful.

Stenico, who did not know he was being filmed and whose face and voice were distorted in the broadcast, says in his defence that he was only pretending to be gay to learn about people trying to ''harm'' the Church with homosexual behaviour.

Cardinal Julian Herranz, president of the Disciplinary Commission of the Roman Curia, said the Vatican would act quickly after suspending Stenico from duty.

''The Holy See is the party most interested in quickly carrying out an internal clean-up -- but always respecting human rights and after the pronouncement of the judicial authority,'' Herranz told La Repubblica newspaper.

''This is the same criteria that will be applied to Monsignor Tommaso Stenico.'' Herranz declined to say what sanctions could be brought against Stenico. He said sexual misconduct is often dealt with through Canon Law 1339, which has been applied against priests found guilty of sexual abuse against minors.

The Catholic Church does not consider homosexual tendencies sinful in themselves but condemns homosexual acts and teaches that priests should adhere to their vow of celibacy.

The Vatican said on Saturday it had suspended Stenico because of ''behaviour incompatible with priestly duty''.

Stenico denies being gay and told La Repubblica over the weekend that he had never broken his vow of celibacy. He describes himself as a psychoanalyst who was only trying to learn about gay behaviour by impersonating a homosexual.

''I pretended to be gay -- a thief amongst thieves -- to enter into contact with those damaging the image of the Church with homosexual practices inside and outside the Vatican,'' Stenico said.

The Vatican, at the start of Pope Benedict's pontificate in 2005, imposed restrictions on homosexuals becoming priests.

The document says practising homosexuals should be barred from entering the priesthood along with men with ''deep-seated'' homosexual tendencies and those who support gay culture.

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