VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Four Roman Catholic bishops denied claims Tuesday by a gay rights activist that they have homosexual tendencies. Two of the four threatened legal action.

The claims by gay rights activist Kurt Krickler were widely condemned by homosexuals, Catholic church leaders and prominent politicians.

In a sharp rebuke, Vatican Radio said the accusations were ``without substance and come close to being pathetic.''

Krickler offered no proof for his claim, made at a news conference Tuesday, that the four bishops _ Christoph Schoenborn, Andreas Laun, Klaus Kueng and Egon Kapellari _ have homosexual tendencies.

Laun, a bishop in Salzburg, said he had already instructed his lawyer to take court action against Krickler.

``I'd like to tell Mr. Krickler that he cannot produce any witnesses for my alleged tendencies, because they do not exist,'' Laun told the Austrian Press Agency.

Kapellari, bishop in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia, also said he would bring a court action for Krickler's ``violation of basic principles on which a democratic society rests.''

Schoenborn and Kueng also denied Krickler's accusations.

Austria's church has been in turmoil since the spring, after Vienna Archbishop Hans-Hermann Groer was accused of sexually abusing minors more than 20 years ago.

Groer did not deny the allegations, sparking a debate about alleged homosexuality among Catholic priests and widespread calls for reforms that would let priests marry and permit women to be ordained.