BRUSSELS, June 5, 2013 ( – Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the former archbishop of Brussels and known as a leading “liberal” figure in the Catholic Church, has told media that “gay marriage” laws are a “positive development.”

“I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want,” the cardinal told the Dutch language newspaper De Tijd, even as he said he thinks such unions should be given a different name than marriage.

In the eyes of the Church, he said, this is not “real marriage,” which is only that between a husband and wife. “But it’s legal,” he added, saying that “the church has nothing to say” about such laws.


According to Danneels the Church today has developed a more “nuanced,” position without being “fixated” on moral principles. “How can a man not identify with his orientation? I think there is a clear evolution in the thinking of the Church.”

He compared the situation to the treatment of suicides, who at one time were denied burial in a Catholic cemetery, saying the Church now looks at the “totality” of the person.

The French language paper L’Echo, also quoted the cardinal saying that the French people should “obey the law” and not oppose “gay marriage.” France just recently passed a gay “marriage” law after a heated debate that saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the street in protest.

“We need to understand: The Church has never objected to the fact that there is a sort of 'marriage' between homosexuals – however  we're talking about a sort of marriage,” the cardinal said. “This is not the same as the true marriage between a man and a woman, so we need to find another word for the dictionary.

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“However, insofar as it is legal – that it has been rendered legitimate by law – the Church has nothing to say about it.” 

Also quoted in the De Tijd piece was Brussels archdiocesan media spokesman Jeroen Moens, who said that the current archbishop, Andre Joseph Leonard, known widely as a “conservative” supporter of orthodox Catholic teaching, agreed with his predecessor’s statements. De Tijd quoted Moens saying, “Monsignor Leonard has no problem with a legal commitment between gay men. But he would not call it marriage. Let us say that a gay commitment Monsignor Leonard endorses.”

However, Moens told this week that his comments had been “misrepresented” by De Tijd. Leonard, he said, had only meant that any two persons should be able to create a legally binding agreement on the disposition of their property. 

“Neither the cardinal nor the archbishop are in favour of homosexual civil unions,” Moens told LSN. 

With Cardinals Carlo Maria Martini of Milan and Basil Hume of Westminster, Danneels was long known as one of the three European principals of the “liberal” bloc of the Catholic Church leadership. During his tenure as archbishop of Brussels and as chairman of the Belgian episcopal conference from 1979 to 2010, he many times publicly opposed Catholic teaching on sexuality and the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS. He approved and protected from criticism a sexually explicit school curriculum that taught children how to masturbate and try out homosexual acts. His alleged role in covering up hundreds of cases of homosexual abuse of young people by his “progressive” clergy has come under investigation by Belgian police. 

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In a 2001 interview with the US liberal Catholic magazine America, Danneels said, “Before Vatican II, in theology, as in other areas, the discipline was fixed. After the council there has been a revolution – a chaotic revolution – with free discussion on everything. There is now no common theology or philosophy as there was before.”