One of Belgium’s deputy prime ministers has called for the anti-gay head of the Belgian Catholic Church to be replaced after he questioned the government’s right to decide issues of marriage and sexuality.
Primate of Belgium André-Joseph Léonard said he did not approve of government using the ‘majority rule’ principle to decide issues of great social importance like the definition of marriage and the “difference between men and women”, Dutch-language Deredactie reports.
Deputy Premier Laurette Onkelinx said in response that she disliked “provocation against democracy” and said the people of Belgium, who have Europe’s only openly gay male Prime Minister, “deserve another representative”.
The comments were made in the Belgian Primate’s new book, ‘Handelen als Christen in Leven en Wereld’, ‘Acting as a Christian in Life and the World’, which was released earlier this month.
75% of the Belgian population identifies as Roman Catholic, but fewer than 10% now attend church weekly.
Léonard has regularly courted controversy with anti-gay statements. In 2010, he said AIDS was “intrinsic justice” for homosexuality.
At one point he also espoused a view that retired priests found to have sexually abused children should not be punished, questioning whether it was “humane”.
His spokesman Juergen Mettepenningen reportedly resigned over the remarks.
George Broadhead, Secretary for the humanist Pink Triangle Trust, told PinkNews.co.uk that religion should not enjoy “a privileged position in a democracy”.
He said: “Religious tenets should be treated just the same as those of non-believers, including humanists and secularists. They have an equal right for their views to be counted.
“Also, the Roman Catholic Church itself is hardly a model of democracy. On the contrary, It is is the epitome of authoritarianism. It makes every effort to impose its policies concerning issues like abortion, contraception and homosexuality on everyone.”
Last month, Belgium appointed Europe’s second openly-gay Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, after the country went a year and a half without a central government. Di Rupo was appointed by the king to lead a complex coalition of parties.
Archbishop Léonard has been recorded as saying his views on homosexuality are “the same as Freud: it is an imperfectly developed stage of human sexuality which contradicts its inner logic.
“Homosexuals have encountered a blockage in their normal psychological development, rendering them abnormal. I know that in a few years, I will risk prison by saying this, but it could offer me vacations.”
On 5 January this year, he was appointed by the Vatican to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, tasked with promoting Catholicism in areas of the West where faith is waning.