VATICAN CITY The Vatican's second-highest ranking doctrinal official on Monday forcefully branded homosexual marriage an evil and denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of "terrorism with a human face".
The attack by Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the latest in a string of speeches made by either Pope Benedict or other Vatican officials as Italy considers giving more rights to gays.
In an address to chaplains, Amato said newspapers and television bulletins often seemed like "a perverse film about evil". He denounced "evils that remain almost invisible" because the media presented them as "expression of human progress".
He listed these as abortion clinics, which he called "slaughterhouses of human beings", euthanasia, and "parliaments of so-called civilised nations where laws contrary to the nature of the human being are being promulgated, such as the approval of marriage between people of the same sex ..."
Amato spoke at a time when the Vatican and Italy's powerful Roman Catholic Church are at loggerheads over plans for a highly controversial law that would give unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples some form of legal recognition.
The Church and Catholic politicians, even some in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left coalition, see the proposed law as a Trojan Horse and say it could lead to gay marriages.
Amato, who is said to be very close to Pope Benedict, criticised the media's coverage of ethical issues.
After denouncing "abominable terrorism" such as that carried out by suicide bombers, he condemned what he called "terrorism with a human face", and accused the media of manipulating language "to hide the tragic reality of the facts".
"For example, abortion is called 'voluntary interruption of pregnancy' and not the killing of a defenceless human being, an abortion clinic is given a harmless, even attractive, name: 'centre for reproductive health' and euthanasia is blandly called 'death with dignity'," he said in his address.
Gay rights group have criticised the Pope and Catholic Church officials in the past over such comments, accusing them of interfering in Italy's domestic affairs.
Groups opposed to gay marriage and recognition of unmarried couples are planning a national rally in Rome next month.
Italy's Roman Catholic Church, set up on diocesan and parish levels, has the organisational machinery to mobilise hundreds of thousands of people. A huge turnout, which is expected, could be a major embarrassment for Prodi's government.