Belgian archbishop's AIDS comments spark national fury
The Belgian primate's comment that AIDS is "a sort of intrinsic justice" sparked fury Friday across a country still reeling over recent revelations of massive child abuse in the Catholic church.
Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, a conservative close to Pope Benedict XVI who was made head of the Belgian church last January, made the comments in a Dutch translation Thursday of a 2006 book in French which had already caused uproar.
The comments immediately caused fresh outrage, headlining radio and TV news as well as dailies, only weeks after a church commission revealed nearly 500 cases of abuse by priests since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide.
In his book, a compilation of interviews he gave, Leonard rejected the notion that AIDS was "a punishment from God", instead saying that "this epidemic is a sort of intrinsic justice, not at all a punishment".
"When you mistreat the environment it ends up by mistreating us in turn. And when you mistreat human love, perhaps it winds up taking vengeance without there needing to be a transcendental cause," he said in the updated edition of the book.
"Mistreating the deep nature of human love always ends up spawning catastrophes at all levels," he said.
Gay groups, anti-AIDS activists and political parties across the board responded angrily.
"Statements like these demonise all AIDS sufferers," said gay rights organisation Cavaria.
"It is unacceptable to say that people who are HIV positive merited it," said the head of anti-AIDS group Prevention SIDA, Thierry Martin. "What would one say of an HIV positive baby who's just been born?"
© 2010 AFP