Topless Activists Drench Anti-Gay Belgian Archbishop with Water in Anti-Homophobia Protest


A group of topless activists drenched Belgian Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard with water yesterday in Brussels, the NY Post reports:

With messages scrawled on their torsos, the members of the group FEMEN crashed Leonard’s planned lecture on blasphemy at ULB university and screamed insults at him while dousing him with water. Leonard, 72, has come under fire for his opposition to gays and a willingness to express it publicly.

“Homosexuality is not the same as normal sex in the same way that anorexia is not a normal appetite,” he said in a Belgian television interview.

More photos (work-unfriendly) here.

You may recall that Leonard was pied in the face by activists a year ago after suggesting AIDS stemmed from the wrath of God and calling it "a sort of intrinsic justice."



  1. Paul R says

    Obviously I support the intent, but does this achieve anything? People opposed will likely grow more resolutely opposed, and people in support will say, Yeah sure. It won’t change minds, and could be negative. It’s not like ACT UP protests. The topless angle is also a bit baffling, as it undermines the seriousness of the situation—even in Europe—and makes them seek like they just want attention.

    Which I realize is part of the point. And I’d love for guys like him not to exist, but throwing water on him means…what? Suddenly it’s holy water?

  2. Jeff says

    “Homosexuality is not the same as normal sex in the same way that anorexia is not a normal appetite”

    Idiot. A far more apt comparison would be that “Celibacy is not the same as normal sex in the same way that anorexia is not a normal appetite!”

    In reality, some people perfer pork while others prefer fish. And these are normal, healthy appetites!

  3. Sam says

    His views are abhorrent and not in keeping with the times, but these women have done more harm than good. Folks might cheer them on, but no one will take them seriously.

  4. V-8 says

    I take them very seriously… the nudity is brilliant because it makes the cause human, not neutral, but specific… specially if one considers that in the Catholic Church gays and women r at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak…

    equal rights does not mean erasure or assimilation of differences, but the celebration of diversity… if a man can go shirtless and dance for the pope, these women can go shirtless and protest at this archbishop…

  5. Jack M says

    @Sam, I disagree. I think the wet archbishop might take them seriously. The old fogies need to be shaken up, and I think this was a great idea. He won’t forget them as long as he lives.

  6. Fenrox says

    @Sam, totally wrong. You can not throw a rock into a lake and not make ripples. Youth see these people, I see these people and supporters see them. Their actions have and will effect people.

    Also, crazy hot, if I was straight I would be proposing to those awesome ladies.

  7. Michael says

    As much as I may be concerned about the “mean” side of such a protest, I can only ask: Does the Archbishop now have a better understanding of how human beings feel when they have been described in vile terms and made the subject of discrimination and hatred? Unfortunately, I don’t see any chance they these “religious bigots” even considering treating everyone with respect and dignity. Now his has been hurt.

  8. Caliban says

    You make a very good point, Jeff. Anorexia is the refusal of food. Celibacy is the refusal of sex. Ergo, celibacy has far more in common with Anorexia than homosexuality does!

    And effectiveness of this tactic aside, his “excellency” certainly looks like ostentatiously pious and self-righteous tw@t in that 2nd photo.

  9. jamal49 says

    Um, the news item doesn’t say but, after the water was thrown on him, did the archbishop start screaming “I’m melting! Melting! Oh – what a world – what a world!”?

  10. Paul R says

    Completely with Sam. This helps kids how exactly? If they’re closeted (and especially if religious), it scares them. If they’re out, it seems pointless like it does to most adults. It seems self-serving.

    I dislike most religious figures, but physically attacking them while half-naked isn’t going to do much for us.

  11. Brian says

    Since I was busy on the jeremy irons post saying the protest against him was misdirected, this creep is a great example of the kind of person we should be protesting against. I would definitely do it differently, but at least they chose the right target.

  12. Guy says

    This is the type of actions that make all of us look bad. This will not change his views – only enhance them. We change minds one person at a time using rational means – not one that adds fuel to the fire.

  13. Dastius Krazitauc says

    I’m just curious: What would have happened if Towleroad had posted the photos without the breasts blurred out and without the NSFW *warning*? What would have happened? Would Towleroad be fined?

    The idea that these photos are somehow prurient, and that we have to be protected from them, makes me far more uncomfortable than seeing them.

  14. StevyD says

    Dastius Krazitauc | Apr 24, 2013 10:51:57 AM

    I agree, but we all know that straight men can’t be held responsible for their actions when faced with bare breasts. Since this is obviously not a problem with the Catholic Clergy, maybe they’re afraid of arousing Towleroad’s Lesbian audience

  15. RMc says

    What a waste of perfectly good water. Unless it was holy water then by all means splash that evil spawn of Satan who pretends he is of God with more. He deserves it.

  16. Mary says

    I’m surprised at the number of people on Towleroad who are equating celibacy with anorexia as something unhealthy. The analogy doesn’t hold. Food, some amount of it at least, is necessary to nourish and sustain the body. Too little of it is unhealthy. The same is not true of sex. Sex is a natural and pleasurable part of life, but it isn’s strictly speaking necessary. No one dies for a lack of sex. (I speak for individuals, a whole society of people who didn’t have sex would obviously not survive because no one would reproduce.)

    The church considers celibacy a gift. It knows that not everyone is capable of it. And this is one reason why societies have traditionally frowned upon people remaining single past a certain age – they know that most people desire sex in their lives.

    I agree that homosexuality should not be considred abnormal, but are we now going to take the stigma that once was put on gays and put it on celibate people? And if celibacy is abnormal how do we help those who have this “condition?” This argument is on very shaky ground.

  17. Randy says

    Femen is an anti-male hate group (just visit their website and look around, if you don’t believe me… look for the fun castration images). We don’t want them on our side.

  18. Fenrox says

    @Paul R, kids are not a binary system for your lazy commenting. Maybe don’t try to speak for all of them? Some kids and people will find that inspirational, some will find it scary, some wont care, ALL ARE AFFECTED. If they ever use that in any judgement or thought after seeing it, then it affected them.

    @Randy, there is no our.

    @Mary, you say you don’t need sex to survive but that is a total crap statement. There is no study on what permanent virginity could do to someone, your argument involves too much fantasy.

  19. Mary says

    Fenrox, I’m not quite sure what you mean. Priests and nuns practice celibacy (and yes, I know some violate their vows, but I’m talking about MOST of them. Let’s not stereotype based on the recent molestation cases.) Many people after a spouse dies don’t find another partner. Many don’t even date, hence, they go the rest of their lives without sex. I’m not saying that this is an ideal situation or that they don’t miss this aspect of their lives. My point is that they don’t NEED it the way you need food or oxygen.

    Also, many people are just not very sexual and the lack of sex in their lives isn’t considered a big deal. I personally fall into this category. But I don’t condemn others who fall into the “I really need sex to feel like I’m living a complete life” category. I accept that people differ.

    As for studies about long-term virginity or sex abstinence and their effect on one’s mental health, I would place zero credibility in such studies. Knowing the American intellectual classes, the only outcome of such a study could be that people who don’t have sex are at risk for serious mental disturbances (drug abuse, alcoholism, etc….) Reporting anything that contradicts the theories of the sexual revolution would never be allowed.

  20. Paul R says

    Sorry, Fenrox, I never realized that throwing water at someone while screaming and topless achieved a lot of social change. I retract my naive statements.

  21. jaragon says

    Celibate as choice is not abnormal- like food everyone does not have the same need for sex. That protest will only make this idiot look like a saint in the eyes of his followers.

  22. GCS says

    It’s hilarious how quickly Mary can change from being a “str8 ally 4 life” to “you gays need to STOP attacking the poor church/celibate people!”. It’s almost like a really trite comedy.

    Perhaps you need to step back for a few seconds and see the jocose tone used by the people in this thread when they turned this archbishop’s words against himself (in a much more apt comparison). Or maybe you are one of those who believes in “systematic demisexual/asexual/aromantic/demiromantic/vanilla oppression”. In which case then ha-ha-ha.

  23. Mary says

    GCS, I’m a little confused by your post, but I’ll try to reply. For the record, I AM an ally of the LGBT community. I was responding to what FENROX said. I didn’t accuse the whole gay community of believing that celibacy is some kind of abnormality or sickness. Nor did I claim that the Archbishop was a victim or that he shouldn’t be criticized.

    However, I didn’t read the whole post and probably should have before commenting. I believe the Archbishop’s words saying that homosexuality is to normal sex what anorexia is to a normal apetite is just plain dumb. However, that doesn’t mean that its any less dumb to claim that celibacy, if chosen voluntarily, is some kind of abnormality or problem. I think its clear that Fenrox was not being jocuse but perfectly serious when he claimed this.

    Also, the bishop’s words that AIDS is a “sort of intrinsic justice” are shocking. What purpose is served by telling gays essentially “you got what you deserved?” No one comes to Christianity because of statements like this.

    As for the “systematic demisexual/asexual/aromantic/demiromantic/vanilla oppression” I really don’t know what this is, so I can’t comment on it.

    Please keep in mind that I’m new to the pro-gay cause and am still learning what is appropriate to say and what will be considered homophobic/insensitive. As an example of my ignorance, I still don’t know what a “nelly queen” is – I’m serious.

    I’m doing the best that I can.

  24. Eric says


    People are only equating the two because the archbishop himself equated homosexuality with anorexia (did you not read the article?! It’s like 11 lines long!). Of the two, homosexuality and celibacy: one is a natural human condition and desire for intimacy, and one is an unnatural rejection of the act that brings to people together and that has the potential not to allow the human race to die out.

    You said yourself that as a society, we need sex or we die out. In anorexia, you are lacking food and will eventually die. The comparison is much better than homosexuality and anorexia.

    As for the topless protestors, I’m not offended by it. The catholic church is so anti-women, anti-sex, etc., that going without shirts is just another part of their protest of all the things that are wrong with the catholic church and its patriarchal structure. I almost think that it’s necessary for them not to have shirts on.

  25. Burt says

    Celibacy is a gift now? Yet another way in which the RC church has warped its world. Priestly celibacy was concocted by a rich church fearful that surviving spouses of priests would lay claim to some part of the wealth and take it away..

    Instead, pedofile-harmed children and their families have taken on that task, and done very well at it.

    Beware of unintended consequences!

    That old codger bishop needed a good douching… he was smelling a bit rank..

  26. says

    Now he’s seen as a suffering person who prays while his critics scream. That photo of him wet, eyes closed, head down, fingers knitted is a plus for him. Dommage.
    He deserves much less sympathy than he’ll get.

  27. Mary says

    Hrm, now imagine several priests doing that to a woman about to speak in favor of unrestricted abortion-on-demand and paid-for-by-the-government.

    Somehow it’s ok when the victim of an assault and battery is a Catholic Priest.

    Disgusting for anyone believing in the freedom of speech.

  28. Mary says

    Is that “MaryM” who just commented, because it wasn’t me. I’m the only person on Towleroad who goes by “Mary.” However, I agree with what this Mary the Second says.

  29. GCS says

    Yes Mary, go ahead and continue showing your true “ally” colors. You cannot even begin to comprehend the horrible oppression that LGBT people face in these disgusting churches, so it’s best that you just shut up.

  30. Mary says

    GCS, there’s no reason for us to exchange comments. You obviously are reading into my words what you choose to and will view me as an opponent no matter what I say.

    Have a good evening.

  31. redball says


    I think you’re wrong. Celibacy *is* abnormal–unless you’re one of the estimated 1% of human beings who is asexual (this estimate comes from Wikipedia’s citation of a 2004 study; I’m not aware of any other estimates).

  32. redball says


    I do think asexuals are oppressed/”invisibilized”in our society. For example, just about all of us grow up assuming that people mature, fall in love, marry,, and have kids (not necessarily in that order). But we are not taught that some people are simply not sexually attracted to other people.

    This can lead to ruined marriages. One of my friends’ parents divorced after the dad realized he was asexual, which explained why he felt fine but his wife had been sexually frustrated for, oh, “only” a decade or two.

    Asexuals–all of us, actually–are never taught that asexuality is an actual orientation and that it’s okay to be that way!

  33. Da' Coach says

    Typical Fag/dyke/pervert behavior. These people and their entire bogus movement are disgusting. First, you people need to read a book. I am not talking about a Bible either, though would be a good one for each of you heathens. No, the book I suggest is any elementary biology book. Read it carefully and discover that nowhere in it does it have “man,” “alimentary canal,” and “penis” anywhere near the verb “insert.” And you emotion-driven idiots who support these deviant people are just as disgusting as they are.

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