Belgian Catholic leader defends controversial remarks
The embattled head of Belgium's Roman Catholic church defended on Thursday his controversial remarks on AIDS, gays and paedophile priests, insisting that his words had been twisted.
Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard has been accused of homophobia and his spokesman abruptly resigned after the church leader described gay love as a travesty of nature and AIDS as "a sort of intrinsic justice."
He also sparked outrage last month when he implied that elderly priests who sexually abused children long ago should be spared.
In a five-page letter published in the official church website www.catho.be, Leonard said his words were taken out of context or misinterpreted by the media.
"I, myself, would react sharply to these 'remarks' in the way they were presented to you," Leonard wrote in the letter titled "I owe you an explanation..."
The Catholic primate, a conservative close to Pope Benedict XVI, denied that he had implied that AIDS had been a divine or human punishment.
He reiterated his belief that it "could possibly be considered" as "a sort of intrinsic justice," but he stressed that he meant to say the emergence of AIDS was a consequence of "risky sexual behaviour."
On homosexuality, Leonard vehemently denied that he implied that gays were "abnormal" but insisted that "there is in the homosexual tendency and practice an orientation that is not coherent with the objective logic of sexuality."
Leonard also sought to clarify his remarks on elderly priests accused of abusing children, when he said last month that he was "not sure that exercising a sort of vengeance that will have no concrete result is humane."
The archbishop noted that he has insisted since April that victims should seek justice.
He added that in cases in which the statute of limitations has expired and victims do not want to pursue charges, it might be better to let the abuser "admit his crime" in front of his victim than "forbid this old priest from taking part in the mass celebrated by the chaplain of his retirement home."
© 2010 AFP