Belgian Cardinal Gustaaf Joos Dies at 81

Belgian Cardinal Gustaaf Joos, who derided lesbians and gays as "sexual perverts," died Tuesday, local church officials said. He was 81.

The cardinal died at home. He fell ill after leading Mass Tuesday morning at a church in Landskouter, 27 miles north west of Brussels, which he had led since 1970, the diocese said. It did not release the exact cause of death.

Joos, who was appointed cardinal last year, studied with Pope John Paul II before he became pontiff.

The cardinal gained notoriety earlier this year when he said in an interview he thought almost all homosexuals were "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 percent 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 Catholic leaders, including Belgium's top cardinal, Archbishop Godfried Danneels, distanced themselves from Joos' comments.

Joos made the remark in an interview on the state of Roman Catholicism in overwhelmingly Catholic Belgium, where gay marriages were legalized last year and same-sex couples may soon be allowed to adopt children.