Belgian cardinal Gustaaf Joos, who derided lesbians and gays as "sexual perverts," died Tuesday, Belgian church officials said. The 81-year-old cardinal died at home at his parish. He fell ill after leading Mass on Tuesday morning at a church in Landskouter, 28 miles northwest of Brussels, which he led since 1970, the Ghent bishopric said. It did not release information on the exact cause of death.
Joos, who was appointed cardinal last year, studied with Pope John Paul II before the latter became pontiff in Rome. The cardinal gained notoriety earlier this year when he said in an interview that he considered up to 95% of homosexuals to be "sexual perverts." "I am prepared to sign here in my blood that of all those who say they are lesbian or gay, at most 5% to 10% are effectively lesbian or gay. All the rest are simply sexual perverts," Joos said in a January interview in the news and entertainment weekly P-Magazine.
"Don't hesitate to write that down. I demand you write it down. If they [homosexuals] come to protest on my doorstep, I don't care. I will not open the door," he said.
Other leading Catholic leaders, including Belgium's top cardinal, Archbishop Godfried Danneels, distanced themselves from his comments. Joos made his comments in an interview on the state of Roman Catholicism in overwhelmingly Catholic Belgium, where same-sex marriages were legalized last year and same-sex couples may soon be allowed to adopt children.