A gay priest dismissed from ministry after coming out has been reinstated by the Vatican, which reversed the dismissal on appeal due to lack of any clear charges or evidence.
Last month, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy ruled that Fr. Pierre Valkering was unjustly dismissed from ministry by the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam in the Netherlands. NL Times reported:
“According to the ruling, 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. The decree by the diocese of Haarlem must therefore be repealed.”
The dismissal occurred last July, four months after Valkering had come out as gay during the Mass celebrating his 25th anniversary of ordination. Launching his autobiography simultaneously, the priest acknowledged at the time that he previously had broken his vow of celibacy. He also criticized the “big pink elephant” that is a culture of silence around homosexuality in the Catholic Church. Valkering later wrote a letter expanding on these themes and his decision, which you learn more about here.
The diocese, headed by Bishop Jos Punt, denies that Valkering was dismissed from ministry because he was gay and claimed last July it had not sought to have the priest laicized. The problem, according to church officials, was Valkering’s lapses in celibacy. But Punt refused to dialogue with Valkering about the situation, instead choosing to dismiss him and demand the priest’s resignation.
As to where Valkering goes now that he won his appeal to the Vatican, he is unsure. Reportedly, the Vatican in conjunction with Punt and the diocese has asked Valkering to resign rather than continue any further proceedings. NL Times explained:
“The Amsterdam priest is still considering whether he wants to return to the Vredeskerk [the Peace Church where he was pastor], he said. . .He is leaning towards continuing as a priest so that he can keep fighting the culture of silence in the church around homosexuality, according to NOS [a radio station in the Netherlands]. ‘Because I still believe in God and in the church, in spite of everything. 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.'”
Before coming out in 2019, Valkering was an outspoken LGBTQ advocate for a number of years. In 2016, he presented Pope Francis with an Italian translation of the book “Goodbye, Young Man of Light,” which the priest compiled from funeral homilies of Fr. Jan Van Kilsdonk who ministered to hundreds of gay men dying from AIDS. That same year, Valkering appealed unsuccessfully to represent Catholics on the “World Religions Boat” during Amsterdam Pride in 2016 but was denied permission by his bishop.
Lacking the specifics of the Vatican’s ruling, it is impossible to comment on this decision about dismissal from ministry. But clearer in this saga has been a lack of compassion shown to Fr. Valkering by his bishop, in whose care the priest is supposedly entrusted. Bishop Punt’s refusal to even meet with Valkering cut off dialogue. Now that the dismissal has been reversed, rather than further pressuring the priest to resign, church officials should meet with Valkering and find a constructive path forward to which all involved can agree.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 7, 2019