Catholic Diocese calls for gay Amsterdam priest's suspension

Rosary on an open bible (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/James Chan) cross, jesus, roman catholic Rosary on an open bible (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/James Chan)

The diocese of Haarlem wants priest Pierre Valkering to temporarily lay down his priestly duties. On Sunday the Amsterdam priest came out of the closet during a mass in honor of his 25 year anniversary at the Vredeskerk in the Dutch capital, NOS reports.

Valkering closed his mass with a speech about the 'big pink elephant' in the Catholic Church. Wearing a pink robe, which he was allowed to wear because the color is part of the fourth Sunday of Lent, the 57-year-old priest criticized the silence that reigns around homosexuality in the church. "I suffered a lot from that", he said. Valkering spoke about his life as a latent homosexual, also describing visits to gay saunas and darkrooms. 

Because it can assumed from Valkering's statements that he did not abide by his vow of celibacy, the diocese demanded that he step down for the time being, according to NOS. "He now unmistakably said in public that he has not kept his celibacy vow, and cannot and will not keep it", the diocese wrote. "Moreover, he also allows other sexual freedoms. For the Roman Catholic Church, this is incompatible with a worthy exercise of the priesthood."

Valkering's admittance of his homosexuality was special, Professor of Church History Paul van Geest said to NOS. According to him, it rarely happens that priests of any sexual orientation openly assert that they do not live a celibate life. "That the church suspends him is logical, because you promise to be celibate. But Valkering's honesty is punished in this way. The signal that the church is giving with this is that you are out if you speak. Priests who are less courageous will see that too and will therefore keep their mouths shut."

Van Geest believes that the church must emphasize much more what it means to live a celibate life to priests in training, and that anyone who doubts that they can do it should not become a priest. "The church is not doing that now", he said to NOS.

A recently published study by sociologist Frédéric Martel showed that a large proportion of the clergy in the Vatican are homosexual. Valkering referred to this study during mass on Sunday. He too believes that gay men more often opt for the priesthood than heterosexuals. For him, becoming a priest was an "escape option for his homosexuality", he said in an interview with De Gaykrant. He called the choice of becoming a priest "denial and repression os his own homosexuality."

Valkering's sexual orientation was known to a small circle and he regularly stood up for homosexual office holders in the Catholic Church, according to the broadcaster. In 2016 he wanted to sail with the World Religion Boat in the Europride boat parade in Amsterdam, but could not get permission to do so, Het Parool wrote at the time.