News

Head of Belgian Catholics: AIDS is ’Inherent Justice’

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Oct 18, 2010

A recent pedophile priest scandal in Belgium is flaring up once more with the publication of a book in which the head of the Catholic Church in that country suggests that AIDS is an affliction targeting gays as punishment for their sexuality.

The claim comes from Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who wrote that AIDS constitutes a "sort of inherent justice" punishing gays for their "mistreatment of the profound nature of human love." The remarks are part of a new translation of a book by Leonard, who reiterated his message in an Oct. 15 press conference, reported the GlobalPost on Oct. 16.

"When we adopt a form of behavior that is not right, there are consequences that let us know that it's not correct," Leonard said. "At the beginning of this epidemic, if I've understood the scientific articles, there were risky practices, sex with multiple partners, anal relations instead of vaginal which allowed this proliferation to happen. So we can say, if we want to reason in that way, that nature is taking revenge if you don't use your body correctly."

Globally, the epidemic has ravaged parts of Africa, where heterosexuals are the predominant victims of the disease. In other parts of the world, heterosexual women are among the populations with the highest rates of HIV infection. In the United States, minority women are disproportionately hard hit by HIV/AIDS.

The Archbishop's comments, coming in the wake of the latest chapter of the church's ongoing pedophile priest crisis, drew sharp criticism. "If God exists, maybe he could provide a punishment for someone who utters such nonsense," Wallonia's prime minister, Rudy Demotte, said.

Another politician, Wouter Beke, of the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party, said, "This statement is far removed from Christian charity."

The cleric's comments were denounced as "absolutely medieval" by health professionals at the AIDS center at Antwerp's Institute of Tropical Medicine.

The comments are included in a newly published Dutch translation of a 2006 book that was originally published in French in 2006. The archbishop has also said that AIDS in not a "punishment from God" and claimed that he is sympathetic to persons living with HIV/AIDS.

A report released last month indicated that a rash of sexual abuse had taken place in Belgium, affecting nearly 500 known alleged victims. The perpetrators were priests and others associated with the church, according to a Sept. 10 Sapa-AFP story. The report said that the perpetrators targeted children, and noted a "high rate of suicides" among the alleged victims, 13 of which had killed themselves. Six others claimed to have tried to kill themselves.

The report compiled the stories of 124 alleged abuse victims, two-thirds of whom were men. The victims were contacted and interviewed after the church forced a bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, to resign after Vangheluwe confessed to having abused his own nephew over a 13-year period. The commission compiling the report suspended its investigation and published what it had gathered after police staged a raid looking to evidence of criminal conduct and church cover-up, so the report as it stands--which covers half a century of alleged abuse--may not be comprehensive.

Even so, the report weighs in at 200 pages, and is filled with the testimony of those who say that abuse at the hands of priests has have a significant impact on their lives. A Sept. 10 New York Times article quoted from the report. "My life has been essentially nothing but running away, surrender, solitude, sickness, humiliation, tears, silence, mistrust and REGRETS," one individual wrote. Another described a life marked by depression and attempted suicide.

The report seemed to refute a claim made by some within the church who seek to blame gays instead of pedophiles for the abuse scandal. Those who assign blame to homosexuals say that the victims were teens and that the abusers were "ephebophiles," not pedophiles. But the Belgian report notes that among boys, victims between the ages of 10 and 14 were hardest hit. Among girls, victims were more likely to be assaulted as they reached adolescence.

A flood of departures from the church has been unleashed in the wake of the scandal, a Sept. 19 follow-up story in the New York Times reported, with former Catholics requesting to be "de-baptized."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Comments

  • fernsky, 2010-10-22 12:25:02

    here is a contact address if you’re interested, they maybe able to give you the gay view on the subject. http://www.telsquels.be/cms/?-Contacts,43- The speak English! All I can say is that churches in Brussels sometimes are crowded due to the influx of tourists, even the believers disagree with the Vatican on the main topics, abortion, contraception and homosexuality; also pedophilia has always existed since the world exists. I grew up in the ’60s and homosexuality was never ever mentioned, whispered sometimes a picture of a naked person was pornography and could you in jail. Very conservative still but changing.


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