(10-14) 06:13 PDT VATICAN CITY, (AP) --
A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man said in an interview published Sunday that he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work.
In an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico said he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity."
Vatican teaching holds that homosexual activity is a sin.
"It's all false; it was a trap. I was a victim of my own attempts to contribute to cleaning up the Church with my psychoanalyst work," La Repubblica quoted Stenico as saying.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Saturday that the monsignor had been suspended pending a Vatican investigation. Stenico is a top official in the Vatican's Congregation of the Clergy.
The Vatican after acted Vatican officials recognized Stenico's office in the background of a television program on gay priests that was broadcast on Oct. 1 on La7, a private Italian TV network. Stenico was secretly filmed making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex was not sinful.
In the Repubblica interview, Stenico said he had met with the young man and pretended to talk about homosexuality "to better understand this mysterious and faraway world which, by the fault of a few people — among them some priests — is doing so much harm to the Church."
He said he had never been gay and was heterosexual, but remained faithful to his vow of celibacy.
Italy's Sky TG24 said Stenico had written a letter to his superiors with a similar defense.
Calls to Stenico's home and Vatican office went unanswered Sunday.