FaithWorld

Pie in the face for controversial Belgian Catholic archbishop (video)

pie 00723It has not been a good few weeks for Brussels Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the embattled leader of Belgium’s Roman Catholics.

The outspoken conservative prelate has been under fire from his brother bishops, Catholic publications and politicians for weeks for mishandling the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, calling AIDS a kind of punishment for sexual freedom and urging leniency for retired priests accused of sexually abusing minors in the past.

His spokesman quit last Tuesday, saying he could no longer work for a man he compared to someone who drives down a highway against the traffic and believes all the other drivers are wrong.

The series of misfortunes has now reached new heights — or lows — with the news that he got a pie in the face during an All Saints Day service last Monday in the cathedral in Brussels. A young person dressed in black ran up and “pied” him as he stood at a lectern while the choir sang a hymn. The embattled archbishop calmly cleaned off his glasses and licked his fingers clean. One newspaper reported that he later joked it was quite a tasty pie.

RTL television quoted diocesan spokeswoman Claire Jonard as saying: “The archbishop continued the service and did not want to file charges against the aggressor. We have no idea who it was or what his intentions were.”

Spokesman for embattled Belgian archbishop quits, cites loss of trust

mettepenningen2The spokesman for Belgium’s Roman Catholic leader quit on Tuesday, citing a loss of trust in the archbishop who has caused a storm with harsh comments on AIDS and caring words for some paedophile priests.

Jürgen Mettepenningen, a theologian who became Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard’s spokesman in August, announced his decision only days after the prelate agreed to stop speaking in public until Christmas to calm the storm engulfing the Church. (Image: Jürgen Mettepenningen, 2 Nov 2010/screengrab RTL video)

His resignation reflected growing criticism of Léonard within his own church, where bishops have cautiously spoken out against their leader and lay Catholics are turning increasingly caustic. Politicians have also stepped up criticism of him. It also highlighted the damage that scandals of clerical sex abuse of minors have done to the Church in Europe, especially in Belgium and Ireland where bishops reacted in defensive ways that further angered Catholics and public officials.