Alexa

Spokesman for Belgium's Catholic archbishop quits

Spokesman for Belgium's Catholic archbishop quits

The spokesman for Andre Leonard, Belgium's ultraconservative archbishop, quit Tuesday, saying he can no longer speak for a "loose canon," who has shocked Catholics by sympathizing with priests accused of pedophilia and condemning homosexuals.
The resignation of spokesman Juergen Mettepenningen reflected turmoil in Belgium's Catholic Church that began with a June 24 police raid on church offices, part of an investigation into hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests.
Aggravating matters _ at a time when the church needed public support _ Leonard has aired conservative views, calling AIDS "immanent justice" for homosexuals and saying that prosecuting retired priests for child abuse cases would be "vengeful."
Mettepenningen said Leonard is out of touch with Belgium's Catholic base.
"At times, he behaved like a loose cannon who thinks everybody else is wrong," Mettepenningen said at a news conference. "I was his GPS for three months. But it is the driver who has his hands on the wheel and sets the course."
In recent weeks, mainstream Catholic organizations have publicly spoken out against Leonard's conservative views.
On Tuesday, socialist legislator Jean-Marie de Meester filed a complaint against him with Belgium's anti-racism center for his "homophobic" viewpoints.
Mettepenningen said Leonard has ignored an agreement between the two of them to refrain from controversial statements until Christmas.
At an All Saints Mass in Brussels on Monday, Leonard spoke publicly _ and unapologetically _ about his conservative views. "I understand your concerns," he told the congregation, but added: "There you have it. Think of this as you may, with the help of God."
In an interview with the Brussels daily De Standaard last weekend, Mettepenningen first signaled he had had enough. "Many people wonder, 'How does he (Mettepenningen) keep this up? Well, I ask myself the same question," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
The sex abuse scandal involving Belgian priests is part of the broader one that engulfed the Catholic Church in Europe and beyond, with reports of abuse of youths at seminars, schools and other church-run institutions.
In Belgium, at least 500 people have filed sex abuse cases against priests with the Brussels' prosecutor's office. The most notable one involves Roger Vangheluwe, the former bishop of Bruges who resigned in April after admitting he sexually abused a nephew for years.
As the archbishop of Belgium, Leonard is the country's Roman Catholic primate. He was appointed on Jan. 18 by Pope Benedict XVI whose choice for a very conservative hand on the wheel of the Belgian church has disappointed many in this country.
Leonard succeeded Godfried Danneels who was more moderate but whose reputation was blemished by the church abuse scandal, which broke after his retirement and has shown him as lackluster in cracking down on abusing priests.


Updated : 2021-04-17 02:55 GMT+08:00