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Thursday, March 30, 2017
Date Posted:
2/9/2004

Cardinal Gustaaf Joos


Maverick Cardinal Faces Court Action


Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley

Four months ago he was an unknown priest.  Now he has outraged Belgians by denouncing gays as ‘perverts’ and criticising democracy – in a trashy magazine.  Freddy Gray and Gaby Gatacre on the strange case of Cardinal Joos.

It is the question on the lips of every liberal Belgian this week.  Who on earth is Cardinal Joos – and why won’t he shut up?

Until last year, Gustaaf Joos was an elderly parish priest and moral theologian.  Almost no one had heard of him.

Then he was unexpectedly given a red hat by his old friend, Pope John Paul II – and proceeded to address some extremely frank views to his fellow countrymen.

In an interview with the Belgian equivalent of a lad’s magazine, Cardinal Joos said he wanted it written down – “in blood”, no less – that the majority of gays and lesbians were “sexual perverts”.

His advice: “Don’t become gay, you will end up sad.”

He also took a potshot at the centrepiece of liberal democracy: the principle of one man, one vote.

“Democracy? Politics? Don’t make me laugh,” he scoffed.

Why should “snot-nosed” teenagers have the same voting rights as married people with lots of children?

When bien pensant Belgians had picked themselves off the floor, they looked for ways of shutting up the 80-year-old prelate.

The government-backed Centre for Equal Opportunities and Struggle against Racism has announced that it is looking to sue him for violating an anti-discrimination law.  But the cardinal is not remotely repentant.  “I say what thousands think,” he told Belgian television after the row broke.

The Belgian Catholic Church, meanwhile, has gone into full damage limitation mode.

An embarrassed spokesman said cardinal Joos, a professor of moral theology and canon law, was speaking in a private capacity and the country’s conference of bishops was not in a position to reprimand him because as a cardinal he was under Vatican jurisdiction.

In his interview with P-magazine – by any standards, an odd choice of organ – Cardinal Joos said: “I am prepared to write down in blood that of all the people who say they are gay or lesbian, only five to 10 per cent actually are, the rest are just sexual perverts.

“Real homosexuals do not wander the streets in colourful suits.  They are people who have a serious problem and have to live with it.

“And if they make a mistake they will be forgiven.  We have to help these people and not judge them.”

Fearing he might not have made his point clearly, the cardinal added: “I demand that you write this down.  If they all come and start protesting at my door, I don’t care.

“Don’t become gay, you will end up sad’ – that is a golden piece of advice from a homosexual who came to his senses.”

Cardinal Joos did not stop there.  He also spoke out against the political values of modern society, condemning parliamentary democracy as a “joke”.

He said: “It’s all well and good but it’s a joke.  On what basis are people voting?  Not on reason, but on the values of the media.  It is the most sympathetic, not the most sensible, who is victorious in politics.

“Whether he is an oaf or a decent man is irrelevant.  As a result, there are a lot of airheads in politics.

I find it strange that a snot-nosed 18-year-old has the same vote as a father of seven.  One has no responsibilities whatsoever, the other provides tomorrow’s citizens.”

Asked about contraception, Cardinal Joos argued that condoms brought out the “bestial” aspect of sexuality and should never be used.

Belgian Catholics have every reason to feel confused.  Only the week before, Cardinal Godfried Danneels said that a man with Aids must use a condom if he feels obliged to have sex. 

Cardinal Joos disagreed.  “Do you have to be abstinent to not get Aids?” he asked.  “No, you have to be abstinent to be happy, and not getting Aids is a bonus.”

He did, however, offer guarded support for clerical marriage.  “I have no problem with married priests.  I only have a problem with people blaming celibacy for the lack of vocations,” he said.

The new cardinal’s critique of modernity goes against the secular tide that has swept through Belgium.  Belgian politicians have recently passed radical legislation in favour of euthanasia, abortion and gay marriages.  The Church has suffered severely, with a 50 per cent drop in priestly vocations in the last five years.

Cardinal Joos was plucked from obscurity as a parish priest in Landskouter to become a cardinal in October 2003.

Indeed, he was so little known that the Belgian media mistook him for another priest, Mgr Andre Joos.  His only previous brush with public attention was when he gave consent for Helmut Lotti, a Belgian pop star, to have his marriage annulled.

The fact that Joos had been a friend of the Pope since their days as students at Rome’s Belgian College has been viewed with suspicion.  The newspaper L’Express described the nomination as “the Pope’s way of saying goodbye to an old friend”.

But Gustaaf Joos is not ready to say goodbye just yet, it seems.

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