AMSTERDAM (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican has reinstated a homosexual Dutch cleric dismissed by his bishop for violating his priestly vow of celibacy.
Father Pierre Valkering told Dutch radio earlier this month that the Congregation for the Clergy has granted his appeal, six months after Bp. Jozef Marianus Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam removed him as pastor of Vredeskerk Peace Church.
The longtime LGBT activist said his dismissal was overturned owing to procedural errors.
"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 NL Times reported Dec. 13.
In March, Valkering announced to his congregation during Mass that he was gay. His "coming out" coincided with the release of Standing Undressed, Not Naked, a scandalous autobiography in which he detailed years of homosexual promiscuity, including visits to gay saunas and dark rooms, as well as an addiction to pornography.
In response, in April, Bp. Punt directed Valkering to step aside as pastor of Peace Church "for the time being, and enter into a period of reflection." But the wayward priest remained unrepentant, and in June, Punt dismissed him from ministry.
In a statement, the diocese stressed that Valkering was dismissed because he refused to live in accord with his vow of celibacy, not because of his sexual orientation.
"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 statement reads. "On the contrary, Father Valkering could have sought ways to reflect on this and receive help."
Additionally, Bp. Punt told Dutch LGBT newspaper De Gaykrant, that "while he appreciates Valkering's honesty and understands his struggle, he nevertheless asked him to lay down his priestly duties because the priest refuses to abide by his vow of celibacy," noting it is "incompatible with a worthy exercise of the priesthood."
The bishop added, "The Church understands human weakness and everyone's personal struggle to grow in holiness, but Fr. Valkering now declares that he doesn't even want to try and live an ordered, celibate life."
Some reports suggest that the Congregation for Clergy backed Punt's decision to suspend Valkering, and that it is urging Valkering to resign to avoid another attempt at dismissal. But in granting the priest's appeal, it has forced Bp. Punt to rescind the priest's removal. The Vatican has given the go-ahead for Valkering to say Mass privately, though he has not been allowed yet to return to his Amsterdam congregation.
"Apparently there are people who have big problems with me and they think I should go to the sidelines for a while," Valkering told the NL Times.
He indicated that he intends to remain a priest to continue his LGBT activism. "Because I still believe in God and in the Church, in spite of everything," Valkering said. "I long for the Church to regain its wings, for people to be happy with it."
But observers note that Valkering wants to be happy with the Church on his own terms. In his book, he slammed the Church as "shrinking and sectarian," and he continues to agitate for Catholic teaching on homosexuality to be overturned.