Belgian Archbishop Hit with Pie After AIDS, Pedophile Priests Comments

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 8, 2010

The saga of Belgian head prelate Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard took a turn on Nov. 1 when Léonard was hit with a pie during an All Saints' Day mass.

Reuters reported on the "entarté" ("pie-in-the-face") episode in a Nov. 6 article, noting that the pastry-wielding assailant struck after the archbishop had exacerbated outrage over the pedophile priest crisis by saying that retired clerical offenders should not face criminal charges. The archbishop had also raised hackles with a comment to the effect that AIDS serves as retribution against gays for engaging in sexual behavior with one another.

After calling AIDS "inherent justice" for gays in an interview that was included in a book, Léonard went on to clarify his statement, telling the media in October, "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."

Reuters reported that a spokesperson for the church told the media, "The archbishop continued the service and did not want to file charges against the aggressor. We have no idea who it was or what his intentions were."

In a moment reminiscent of the occasion when anti-gay American crusader Anita Bryant was hit with a pie, the archbishop commented that the pastry was "tasty," Reuters said. Bryant, who was hit with a pie during a media conference in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1977, famously quipped, "At least it was a fruit pie."

The pie-throwing incident was only the latest in a string of high profile stories involving the archbishop. After his comments about AIDS and accused clerics stirred outrage, Leonard and his spokesperson, Jürgen Mettepenningen, officially adopted a low profile. "We're in a very serious crisis and the last thing we need is more commotion," Mettepenningen said, according to an Oct. 29 Reuters article. "I've agreed with Archbishop Léonard that there should now be as much radio silence as possible until Christmas."

But a few days later, on Nov. 2--the day after the pie incident--Mettepenningen tendered his resignation, Reuters reported in an article posted that same day. "I no longer want, can and will act as spokesman for Archbishop Leonard," Mettepenningen told the press.

"Archbishop Léonard has sometimes acted like someone who's driving against the traffic and thinks everyone else is wrong," Mettepenningen added in a separate comment. "Archbishop Léonard does not take his leadership duties seriously. But it is above all his surrealist attitude regarding the turmoil stirred up by his remarks that I take too seriously to still support this."

The Belgian government is moving forward with an investigation into hundreds of claims of sexual abuse by clergy that have come to light in Belgium, Reuters reported. The president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy--himself a Catholic--said that he was "shocked, disgusted and angered," and declared, "The Church is ready for a reformation. The real problem is that there isn't any democracy at all in the Church."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. 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.