Gay Priest Removed from Ministry After Coming Out Earlier This Year

Fr. Pierre Valkering

A priest in the Netherlands has said he was removed from active ministry because he is gay, a claim his diocese disputes.

News broke in early July that Fr. Pierre Valkering was being removed from the Amsterdam parish where he has served for twenty five years. Crux reported on this development in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam:

“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.”

Crux also reported that the decision to remove Valkering had the support of the parish council, which wrote a letter to parishioners announcing the transition. The council claimed “many parishioners got restless due to the confusion about Father Valkering’s situation.” Bishop Jan Hendriks, the diocese’s coadjutor for Bishop Jozef Punt, will administer the parish for the time being.

This removal follows Valkering’s coming out in March. The priest announced he was gay and had published an autobiography during a Mass on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination. Already an LGBTQ activist, he  criticized the “big pink elephant” and, most controversially, admitted to violating his vow of celibacy in the past. In a follow up letter to the bishop and parishioners, Valkering said he tired of the culture of untruthfulness pervading the church, and now, after coming out, was greatly relieved. The bishop, Jozef Punt, has refused to speak with the priest.

Of this latest development, Fr. Valkering told news outlets that he was unsure about his next steps, and would decide whether to appeal the decision or not at a later time. Gay Star News quoted him as saying, “I will let it rest until after my vacation. My life has been turned upside down enough and it is nice to be able to take some distance.”

The situation surrounding Valkering’s removal from active ministry is murky. Was he removed because he was gay? Was it because he came out? Was it because of his biting criticism of the church? Was he pushed out by disgruntled parishioners? Was it simply a reassignment like most priests face from time to time? What role did his admission of violating celibacy play? It is hard to know with certainty and diocesan officials’ intentions cannot be tested.

But the perception of the public is that Valkering is being punished because he is gay. Optics matter. And in the case of Fr. Pierre Valkering, the optics are quite bad. Bishops Punt and Hendriks should engage the priest in dialogue when he is ready. Then they must quickly figure out how to rectify what appears to be a very unjust situation for the harm being done is not only do Valkering, but to gay priests worldwide who deserve much better treatment than they are receiving now.

Here are two ways you can stand with gay priests:

1. Spread the word about New Ways Ministry’s upcoming retreat for gay priests, bishops, religious, and deacons, “All Are Welcome. Are All Welcome?” with Fr. Peter Daly. Over the course of this retreat, attendees will be looking at a variety of questions pertinent to this moment in the Church, such as “Is my ministry welcomed by our church?” The retreat is designed to assist attendees in developing better self-understanding, spirituality, friendships, and relationship with the institutional Church. For more information or to register, click here.

2. Sign “The Gift of Gay Priests Vocations,” a campaign by New Ways Ministry to show our support for gay clergy and vowed religious who faithfully, dutifully, and effectively served the People of God and to call on church leaders to end the falsehoods about and lift the ban on gay priests. To add your name to this show of gratitude and solidarity, click here

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 13, 2019

4 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    It strikes me that there is a deeper issue (or problem) here than the fact of the priest declaring his innate sexual orientation. If a heterosexual priest admitted that he had been having sexual intimacies with a female parishioner, would he not also be dismissed from his active ministry, solely on that basis? Mandatory enforced celibacy is the crucial dysfunction here. Our kindred Anglican, Episcopalian and Lutheran members of the clergy would have no problem at all about being sexually active, as long as they were properly and legally married. Why is the Roman Catholic Church so morbidly phobic about recognizing the normalcy of a legally married clergy? It makes absolutely no sense. It’s one of the worst problems plaguing our alarmingly dysfunctional Roman Catholic hierarchy.

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  2. Deborah Hilbourn
    Deborah Hilbourn says:

    I have zero issues with his sexuality but do have concerns about him or any priest who shows zero lack of self discipline especially without remorse for breaking vow of celibacy as that is a choice priests make when they are ordained. Not saying they are perfect and don’t make mistakes but he blatantly says he refuses to abide by it – why not be a lay person who serves the Church then instead???

    Reply
  3. Allen Boedeker
    Allen Boedeker says:

    How committed is Fr. Valkering to his promise of celibacy? Being gay is not sinful. Causing scandal by sinning against one’s promised celibacy is. That could be the grounds for his transfer. It would be good for the bishop to clarify his reasons for the transfer.

    Reply
  4. Albertus
    Albertus says:

    It is not true that Father Pierre Valkering ”came out of the closet” as a gay man during his 25-year sacerdotal anniversary mass, nor is this the reason for his being dismissed by the Bishop as pastor of the Church of our Lady Queen of Peace, where he was a pastor for 25 years, since his ordination. He was always known to both the Bishop, to felllow priests, and to parishioners as being gay. It was never a secret, nor could it have been, as Valkering was always active in public gay events, and in the Gay Priests Association. During his 25-year ordination Mass he did not come out as gay, but presented his book, which describes in detail his sex life. That is the reason for the upheaval and dismissal.

    Reply

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