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September 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — A new biography about Cardinal Godfried Danneels, former primate of Belgium, alleges that he “congratulated” Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt when same-sex “marriage” was made legal in the country in 2003. The book, which is coming out this week, says that while the cardinal was opposed to calling homosexual unions “marriages,” he expressed satisfaction over the disappearance of “discrimination” against LGBT couples.

In an article presenting the forthcoming book by Jürgen Mettepenningen and Karim Schelkens about Cardinal Danneels, who headed the Catholic Church in Belgium from 1979 to 2010, De Standaard quoted their allegation in its headlines on Friday, making Danneels’ approval of homosexual unions the focal point of his office.

Jürgen Mettepenningen is a former Benedictine monk who after having been ordained a deacon left his monastery in order to study theology. He married and taught theology at the University of Louvain before joining the diocese of Brussels as spokesman for Archbishop André Léonard; he is now active in the Study Center of the Christian Democrats. His co-author, Karim Schelkens, is a Church historian and Catholic theologian, who teaches contemporary Church history at the University of Louvain in Belgium and in the Tilburg University across the border in the Netherlands.

Well-respected in their own domain, Mettepenningen and Schelkens can hardly be suspected of sensationalism.

In their biography of Cardinal Danneels, they affirm that his congratulations about same-sex “marriage” reached Verhofstadt in the form of a letter at the time when he had been called upon by the King to form a cabinet shortly after the general election the Belgian liberal-democrats had won in May 2003. Same-sex “marriage” had been voted into law in February of that year and became effective on June 1.

Going out of his way to speak his satisfaction to the new prime minister, the cardinal made clear that homosexual unions were “fine” as far as he was concerned, so long as they were not called “marriage.” “He wanted an end to discrimination between married ‘heteros’ and homos, lesbians and bisexuals in a lasting relationship. As long as there was no confusion about the use of the term ‘marriage,’” according to Mettepenningen and Schelkens.

De Morgen, another Belgian daily, clarified later on Friday that Verhofstadt says he does not remember the letter. “But I never had problems with the Cardinal. Our relationship was a good one,” he agreed.

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Danneels’ biography covers the 30-year period during which he was the leading bishop of Belgium. During those years, says De Standaard, the country was secularized at a “phenomenal rate.” Churches emptied and the Christian-Democrats lost their traditional influence over Belgian politics.

Belgium is now one of the most “progressive” countries in the world. It was one of the first countries to legalize euthanasia, together with the Netherlands but in more sweeping terms. It was also the second country in the world to make same-sex “marriage” legal, one year after the Netherlands, and it allows single women to obtain assisted reproduction.

Abortion was legalized relatively late in Belgium, compared to its European neighbors, in 1990; Danneels is said to have tried at the time to convince King Baudouin to sign the abortion bill into law even though the monarch was deeply reluctant to go against his conscience in this matter. The King was finally to step down for 36 hours, leaving the throne “vacant,” so as not to be obliged to sign a text that had the approval of the Belgian Parliament.

Cardinal Danneels has refused to comment on allegations regarding his role in the abortion affair made by another biographer, Peter-Jan Bogaert, in April this year.

Despite his age – 82 – and his record, Cardinal Danneels is one of Pope Francis’ personal invitees to the Synod on the Family next month. Archbishop Leonard, the current primate of Belgium, will not be in Rome, having reached the age limit at 75.

The pro-life coalition Voice of the Family has recently listed the many recent occasions when Cardinal Danneels has made “progressive” statements regarding among others “sex education” and “homosexual unions.” But it had not been known previously  that he gave his moral approval to those responsible for legalizing same-sex “marriage” at the time the bill was passed.