God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Sic tacuisses: AIDS = Justice – Belgian Catholic Archbishop of Brussels claims

The Catholic Church in Belgium has been battered by scandals and missteps over the past year, and now its new leader, the conservative Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Brussels, has sparked a fresh controversy with comments declaring that people afflicted with AIDS are receiving “a sort of immanent justice” for their sexual practices.
Léonard, who Pope Benedict XVI appointed this year to replace a much-loved liberal, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, compared the suffering of AIDS victims to human-caused degradation of the environment, for which people themselves then pay the price.
“Maybe human love also responds when she is treated badly, without the need of a transcendent source,” Léonard said in a just-published book of interviews he gave to two Belgian journalists over the past few years. “Badly handling physical nature causes it to treat us badly in turn, and badly dealing with the deeper nature of human love will ultimately always lead to catastrophes on all levels.”

The reaction against Léonard’s comments has been swift and sharp.

Belgian parliamentarians have called the archbishop’s statements “disgusting” and “stupid,” and some are calling for the government to re-examine the favorable tax status of the Catholic Church, which receives hefty government subsidies.
Even conservative Christian Democratic party leaders expressed outrage. Léonard’s words “strike me speechless. For Jesus there were no justified illnesses,” said parliamentarian Mia De Schamphelaere, according to a National Catholic Reporter story.
Such official condemnation comes at a difficult time for the Belgian church, which is engaged in a tug-of-war with government investigators who have seized documents in a probe of clergy abuse of children going back decades.
Léonard’s comments are also not winning him or the institutional church many points with Catholics themselves, who are increasingly indifferent to their religion, as is the case in many European countries.
The clergy scandals have shocked Belgians, with revelations of at least 475 victims over the decades, 13 of whom committed suicide. The reports brought down the country’s longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, and even tarnished the legacy of Cardinal Danneels, whose negotiations with an abuse victim were surreptitiously recorded and released, portraying him in a harsh light.

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HIV, Development and HOPE – thoughts of a Catholic priest

Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and social development in Africa has its challenges. You will find stories and reflections about my work, about the church, South Africa and Africa, about politics and whatever triggers my interest. You are most welcome to leave a comment or to get in touch with me. Blogging means to initiate thoughts and discussions and for the writer to formulate what is loosely running around in the heart and mind in need of being sorted and spoken out.

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