The diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, has made it clear that although a priest who recently revealed his homosexuality has been removed from his parish, he is “absolutely not” being removed from ministry completely because of his “orientation”.
Driving the news
Last Sunday, the faithful of the Our Lady of Peace parish in Amsterdam received the news that their pastor of 25 years, Pierre Valkering, would not be returning to their local church, also known as the Vredeskerk.
The announcement came after Valkering came out of the closet in March in a public announcement from the pulpit during Mass, coinciding with the release of an autobiography that detailed many years of visits to “dark rooms” and gay saunas, a long-term relationship with a same-sex partner, and an ongoing porn addiction.
For the record
Contrary to fake news reports, Valkering hasn’t been “fired” from the priestly ministry, but remains on leave while the diocese pushes him to undertake a “period of reflection with guidance”.
“Frankly, there has been nothing new,” diocesan spokesman Bart Putter told the Katholiek Nieuwsblad, insisting that Valkering has yet to obey the orders of the local bishop Jos Punt. “To date, the parish priest has taken no initiative regarding a period of recollection with guidance, which means there is no opening yet for a possible new nomination” to another parish, continued Putter, making it clear that should Valkering pay heed to the instruction, he could receive a new assignment.
Valkering remains a priest of the Catholic Church. Though he has been removed from ministry at the Vredeskerk, because of the “unrest” his revelation has caused parishioners, though he still resides in the rectory there.
One level deeper
Bishop Punt made it clear after Valkering’s coming-out that he didn’t so much have a problem with the priest’s sexuality as much as his refusal to live celibately, which had forced the Church “into a corner”.
“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. On the contrary, ways could have been explored with Fr. Valkering to reflect on this and to get help. This has happened in the past with a few other priests”, read a March statement from the bishop’s office.
“In the public news, it’s usually forgotten that Fr. Valkering, on the grounds of previous declarations and publications, had been having talks with the diocese for a longer time. During these talks the bishop explicitly indicated that he didn’t intend to get rid of him because of his orientation, but he did ask him to stick to his promise of celibacy that he made when he was ordained”, continued the communiqué.