Amsterdam priest Pierre Valkering, who came out of the closet during a public Mass in March, has won a Vatican appeal against his dismissal as pastor of the Vredeskerk Peace Church.
Driving the news
Valkering himself revealed the news of his successful appeal against his suspension on radio program Dit is De Dag, as the NL Times reported.
The priest, a long-time LGBT rights campaigner, said that the Congregation for the Clergy, the Vatican department that deals with priestly discipline, had found his April dismissal by Bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam Jos Punt unjustified on the basis of procedural errors.
According to the NL Times, the Vatican upheld Valkering’s appeal for three reasons:
“It was unclear exactly what Valkering had done wrong, the evidence against him was insufficient, and he was not questioned or given the opportunity to give his side of the story”.
Though The Tablet reported that the Congregation for the Clergy supported Punt’s suspension of Valkering in theory, in practice the Vatican ruling means that the bishop’s dismissal of the priest must now be repealed.
The Tablet added that the Vatican has given Valkering permission to say Mass privately again, but not to return to the Peace Church he headed.
The English publication also said that the Congregation for the Clergy has also advised Valkering to resign so to avoid being fired again, and to refrain from speaking in public.
But Valkering is paying little mind for the moment to those supposed Vatican disciplinary measures, saying he’s still weighing up his options for the future.
Why it matters
On a possible return to the Peace Church, the priest said in comments reported by the NL Times: “I have to make a decision about it before Christmas, so I am currently thinking about it”.
“Apparently there are people who have big problems with me and they think I should go to the sidelines for a while”, Valkering lamented.
The cleric hinted that he was leaning towards remaining in the priesthood so he could continue to fight the culture of silence and hypocrisy in Catholic circles around homosexuality.
“Because I still believe in God and in the church, in spite of everything”, the priest said.
“I long for the church to regain its wings, for people to be happy with it.
“It is then important that we treat gay people in a more humane way and especially to not keep silent about it”.
For the record
Valkering made the headlines in March when on Laetare Sunday – when the Church wears pink as a respite from the discipline of Lent – the priest announced to his congregation at Mass that he was gay.
Valkering’s announcement coincided with the 25th anniversary of his ordination, and with the publication of an autobiography which detailed years of sexual activity and relationships despite his celibacy pledge.
In April Bishop Punt asked Valkering to temporarily step aside from his duties at the Peace Church and enter into a “period of reflection with guidance”.
That temporary interruption to Valkering’s ministry as parish priest lasted until June, when Punt fired the priest from the Peace Church.
A diocesan spokesman insisted at the time that Valkering was not being dismissed for his homosexuality, but for his self-admission that he had not kept his celibacy.
“The pastor could… have chosen to talk openly and honestly about his struggles with sexuality and celibacy with the bishop. Such honesty would certainly not have been punished”, the diocese said at the time of Valkering’s June dismissal.