The Association of Catholic Priests has asked Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan to withdraw his comments on the safety of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine as a protection for women against cervical cancer.

In a statement, the association says that while the Catholic bishop's comments could be considered idiosyncratic, they are both ill-informed and dangerous.

Speaking on WLR local radio on Thursday, Bishop Cullinan referred to the HPV vaccine saying: "It's not only a medical issue, it's a lifestyle issue".

Adding that it affects the lifestyle of young people in the country, he said: "We have to do better than to give our boys condoms and our girls injections at the age of 12."

On Friday, Minister for Health Simon Harris described the suggestions by Bishop Callinane that vaccinating 12-year-old girls against the HPV could lead to promiscuity as "ignorant" and "pathetic".

The statement from the Association of Catholic Priests warned that parents who may be convinced that the bishop of Waterford and Lismore has some competence in this area could unwittingly put their children at risk by following his advice.

The association said it laments that the bishop's public comments last week brought the Catholic Church in Ireland into what it terms "further disrepute" and that they suggest a "nonchalance about women's health and an obsession with sexuality".

The statement also asks the country's bishops, who gather for their autumn meeting on Tuesday, to disassociate themselves from Bishop Cullinan's comments and to support what it calls "the medical and scientific evidence that makes the vaccine a vital protection against cervical cancer".