Raul Vera Lopez, the Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, has described homophobia as a form of “mental illness.”

Vera was asked by Mexican television network Terra his thoughts on Pope Francis' recent statement on gay priests. “Who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters on his return flight to the Vatican from Brazil.

(Related: Pope Francis says he won't judge gay priests.)

Gays “are human beings and deserve respect,” Vera answered. “And the Holy Father knows … I am certain he knows because the reality is many in the church do not want to acknowledge the scientific reality on the issue of sexuality.”

“They want to keep homosexuality as a form of human perversion, an illness. But that no longer is the case, scientifically speaking. They are a very small part of the population and we already have an explanation. [The answer lies] in that which constitutes a person whose anatomy does not correspond with their hormones. And if that's the case, who is to blame when a person has to go through that?”

“What does the book say? Why would I immediately think a gay or lesbian person is perverse or depraved the moment they approach me? That's how people who are homophobic react. It's a mental illness in which you see gays as depraved and promiscuous. You have to be sick in the head for that.” (The video, with English subtitles, is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

In 2011, Vera's outreach to the gay community made headlines when he was summoned to the Vatican to answer questions about his outreach to the local gay community. He said at the time that officials had not reprimanded him and vowed to continue his work.

“I will not abandon these children,” he said, referring to children with gay parents. “We cannot abandon people who depend on us.”

(Related: Upon return from Vatican, Mexican Bishop vows to continue gay outreach.)