Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, Belgium’s Catholic Church leader, this month blamed AIDS deaths among gays on the sinful behavior of homosexuals. Namely, inserting penises into anuses. Are gay rights advocates correct in calling it slander?

In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI pal Leonard writes, “When you mistreat the environment it ends up mistreating us in turn. And when you mistreat human love, perhaps it winds up taking vengeance. All I’m saying is that sometimes there are consequences linked to our actions … [the AIDS] this epidemic is a sort of intrinsic justice.” (Leonard also said this month that retired priests accused of child molestation should be made aware of the allegations, but not prosecuted, because what good would judicial punishment do. After much pressure, he released a statement reversing his opinion.)

Not cool, says gay rights lawyer Jean-Marie De Meester: “I believe the archbishop is violating anti-discrimination law and committing slander.”

Even other church types aren’t cool with Leonard going off the deep end.

Fellow church-leaders have publicly distanced themselves and a petition circulated this weekend at the Catholic University of Louvain, one of the country’s biggest, demands Leonard resign from a post as chancellor there for remarks “which bring shame on the university.”

The latest sign of growing unease within the church was the announcement Tuesday by his spokesman Juergen Mettepenningen that he was quitting the job only three months after joining the archbishop’s office.”Monsignor Leonard at times acts like a motorist driving on the wrong side of a freeway who thinks all the other motorists are wrong,” Mettepenningen said at a press conference. He said the archbishop had promised him he would avoid statements to the media but had failed to keep the pledge. “A lack of trust means that I neither wish nor want to continue working as Monsignor Leonard’s spokesman,” he said.

A public affront to Catholic leaders saying awful things about gays and defending pedophiles? Sorry, Mettepenningen, I’m not sure there’s much work for you left in the church.


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