The Dutch diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam was forced to deny that they removed a gay priest from his parish because of his homosexuality.
Last week word got out that the diocese had decided on June 24 to remove Father Pierre Valkering from his parish in Amsterdam. The news caused quite a stir in the gay community in the Netherlands, but according to a spokesperson of the diocese, the removal had already been announced after the priest was asked in April to lay down his priestly duties “for the time being, and enter into a period of reflection.”
Unrest in the parish
Valkering was then told he would be transferred to a new parish, as he could no longer work in his parish in Amsterdam. The reason for this was the evolving unrest in his parish caused by him speaking openly and in detail about his homosexuality and his refusal to abide by his promise of celibacy. Another reason for the transfer is simply that Valkering had been working in the same parish since he entered the priesthood 25 years ago.
Diocesan spokesman Bart Putter said that since the scandal broke out in April, “the priest hasn’t taken any initiative to enter into a period of reflection. Therefore, there is no opening as of yet to place him anywhere else. Frankly, nothing new has happened.”
Putter also emphasized that Valkering has not been dismissed from the clerical state and that his homosexuality has nothing to do with the decision to remove him from his parish.
Letter from the parish board
The decision of the diocese was announced to parishioners last Sunday in a letter written by the parish board.
In the letter, the board writes that they have spoken extensively with the coadjutor bishop of the diocese, Bishop Jan Hendriks, about the situation. Hendriks was informed “of the fact that many parishioners got restless due to the confusion about Father Valkering’s situation.”
The parish board also wants to “preserve the unity amongst the parishioners, guarantee peace and understanding of each other and to ensure the future of our parish and its many activities.”
In the meantime, the diocese has appointed Hendriks as administrator of the parish. Valkering has the right to appeal against his removal, but should he decide to do so, the parish board said the canonical process could take months.
Last April, Valkering became the talk of the town in the Netherlands when he spoke openly about his homosexuality in a book and in several interviews.
His autobiographical book about finding his way as a homosexual priest in the Catholic Church was published earlier this year. It was presented during a Mass in honor of his 25th anniversary as a priest.
The Dutch priest spoke about his sexual relationships and also said he visits gay saunas and “dark rooms,” and likes to watch porn.
In a statement to De Gaykrant, a Dutch newspaper for the gay community, Bishop Jos Punt said at the time, that while he appreciated Valkering’s honesty and understood his struggle, he nevertheless asked him to lay down his priestly duties because the priest refused to abide by his promise of celibacy. “This is incompatible with a worthy exercise of the priesthood.”
Valkering has been fighting for years for greater tolerance towards homosexuality within the Church. In 2016, he wanted to be on one of the boats on the Canal Parade float during Amsterdam Gay Pride. The diocese, however, refused to give him permission.
This article was originally published in the Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad. It was translated for Crux by Susanne Kurstjens-van den Berk.
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