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‘Divorcees don’t have a place in Catholic schools’

Brussels - Belgium's outspoken Roman Catholic primate, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, stirred the beginnings of a fresh controversy on Wednesday after recommending divorcees not be allowed to teach children.

Never one to mince words, Leonard stated in the October issue of church magazine “Pastoralia” that divorcees did not have a place in Catholic schools.

Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium Andre-Joseph Leonard. Credit: REUTERS

“For those who remarry after a divorce, it is preferable not to be a religious teacher or the head of a school,” he said.

“It's outrageous,” said the head of the Catholic headmaster and headmistresses board, Jean-Pierre Merveille.

“Legislation guarantees a clear distinction between private and public life,” he told the national Belga news agency.

An official at the Catholic education secretariat (Segec), Conrad Van de Werve, said the recommendation would be tantamount to discrimination and a parents' group also weighed in to criticise the archbishop.

“A person must meet the legal requirements to be hired,” in the Catholic education system, with no private criteria taken into account, said the head of the Catholic schools parents' federation, Ufapec, Pierre-Paul Boulanger.

The archbishop, a conservative close to Pope Benedict XVI, is no stranger to controversy.

Late last year he faced accusations of homophobia and calls to resign for saying Aids was justly deserved. He also said that elderly priests who abused children should be spared. - Sapa-AFP

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