Facebook Twitter Linkedin Google Plus Tell a Friend
Home| Columns| Features| International| In Dutch| Dictionary| What's On| Jobs| Housing| Expats| Blogs| Books
««« previousnext »»»

Catholic priest vows to fight sacking for living with his girlfriend

Tuesday 06 December 2011

An 81-year-old Catholic priest, expelled from the priesthood because he lives with his 85-year-old girlfriend, says he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, Trouw reports on Tuesday.

Jan Peijnenburg, who has lived with his girlfriend for 46 years, was sent a letter at the weekend telling him he has been suspended because he refuses to leave his partner.

According to Trouw, the suspension will have little effect because Peijnenburg is retired and only rarely fulfills church duties.


Peijnenburg and his friends are now preparing legal action to find out 'if the rights of the church conflict with the rights of the citizen,' the NRC quotes him as saying.

Rik Torfts, a professor in religious rights, told Trouw Peijnenburg has little chance of success because freedom of religion laws have priority over the right to marriage.

A survey among Dutch priests last year showed four in 10 want to reopen the discussion on celibacy.


Although other priests are known to live with partners, Peijnenburg was very open about his position and published pamphlets calling for an end to celibacy rules.

‘We cannot allow him to do that which is forbidden to others,’ spokesman Michiel Savelsbergh told news agency AFP last month.

© DutchNews.nl

Subscribe Newsletter
News archives

Readers' comments (25)

I'm Catholic, have been my whole life, and frankly, I've ALWAYS believed that the celibacy rules were stupid and unnatural. I think that Holy Mother the Church could dispense with a whole lot of scandal if she would just join the real world and let priests marry just like normal people.

By The Cat Lady | December 6, 2011 9:26 PM

‘We cannot allow him to do that which is forbidden to others"
Wisdom listens while ignorance speaks nonsense of celibacy. Good for the 81 yr old Catholic priest who stands up against such fools and their subservient rules. Foolish men who assume they are all above God's real words. In the early centuries priests and bishops could be married—the practices in the West and East were the same—but celibacy was soon preferred, and eventually it became mandatory. By the early Middle Ages, the rule of celibacy, in the Latin or Western Rite, was firmly in place. Note that this was a disciplinary rule, not a doctrine. The imposition of the rule did not imply a change of doctrine.

By Wisdom | December 6, 2011 11:35 PM

I am orthodox, a religion extremely close to catholicism. They have the same root and they separated due to some doctrine issues. Orthodox priests are married and in fact they must be married until they receive a parish. Only the monks are not married. It is normal, isn't it? And if you think that orthodox religion is unchanged for almost 1500 years! Seems more modern!

By Lefty | December 7, 2011 7:01 AM

The point of celibacy is that he is supposed to put his parish family first and to be available to them.
I feel bad for the man, but he has lived a lie for 46 year, putting his own desires before the church he professed to serve selflessly. He also hurt the woman because he obviously didn't love or respect her enough to resign his priesthood and properly marry her and give her a family.
This is the height of arrogance in my opinion.

By Anna | December 7, 2011 7:14 AM

Frankly, it doesn't matter what you think about celibacy. He's a priest and it's part of the deal. Period, end of discussion. Besides, he has a moral responsibility to Catholics.

By elleblue | December 7, 2011 7:43 AM

I agree with elleblue. It is not a matter of agreeing or not with celibacy. Nobody obliged him to be a priest, he went for it he knew that he had to obey some rules, and one of them was celibacy. If he were serious, he would have quit his office when he realized that he was not complying with his "contract". Or he could become priest of a religion allowing marriage. It is simply a matter of being consistent. I know being consistent is not really popular nowadays but I am really expecting that at least from a priest.

By joanna | December 7, 2011 8:16 AM

I want to be muslim and eat pork. Should I be able to? It doesn't matter. If you join "club" with some rules set you must follow those rules regardless if it reasonable or not, or quit the "club".

By Jet | December 7, 2011 10:13 AM

If Jesus could travel openly with a select group of men... with one of them described as his 'lover'... then why not a priest with a heterosexual lover?

By Don Prange | December 7, 2011 12:50 PM

Moral responsibility to Catholics? Part of who’s deal? End of discussion? Only an end for ignorant people who refuse to see the real truth. The priest's only moral obligation to Catholics or anyone in his parish is to teach God's scriptures without having to give up his own human rights. Or would you rather be taught by some inhuman machine. If it’s so wrong to be in love then why wasn't celibacy enforced from the very beginning? A shame that overly religious Catholics would rather believe foolish man-made rules some decided to change long ago. Have to wonder what these Catholics would say if someone one day changes everything in the Bible to suit their ideology.

By Wisdom | December 7, 2011 3:33 PM

Anna: The point of celibacy has nothing to do with his capability to serve his parish members nor that he can love a woman for 46 yrs. The only arrogance here is that people speak without thinking logically. Put yourself in a similar position. Are you less capable of being a wife after having children? Are you less of a Catholic or Christian if your husband forgets his moral responsibility of faithfulness in the marriage? What if you divorce and choose another man who is faithful? Or do you actually believe you are bound forever by words “for better, for worse, to love, to cherish, till death do us part” even in an adulterous or abusive marriage? Think again.

By Skylar | December 7, 2011 3:51 PM

Skylar, Wisdom, DonPrague...
I have been a very convinced atheist for decades now, so it is not about being catholic or muslim.
It is not about how good the priest is at his "job", and I may agree with you that based on religion principles he should obey only to his supreme employer God. Unfortunately religions have been organized by men for centuries, so you do not agree with the "organization" rules you do not join. The rules may be old, out of fashion, unnatural...you name it and I agree, but those are their rules and if you join you respect them. otherwise you stay out or you pick an organized religion whose rules are fine with your life style.

By joanna | December 8, 2011 10:23 AM

joanna: "pick organized religion whose rules are fine with your life style"
Funny, Can’t recall any organized religion that permits rape and sexual molestation in their rules but the Catholic Pope , priests have immorally covered- up these heinous acts only to maintain their parishioner donations. Take away something that comes natural to man (like emotions aka love, sex, etc. and they become inhuman without feelings – You also end up with innocent children living in fear from priests using religion to silence them from speaking out of the harm done to them. Unless you understand the complexity of celibacy, know that these rules were made by man and not God.

By Skylar | December 8, 2011 6:04 PM

If you're an atheist, why do you even care if others stand up for their human rights? Are you human? I’ll stand up for this priest any day as he didn’t need the church’s blessing to remain faithful to his girlfriend of 46 yrs. Most religious people can’t say that of their marriage vows. God blessed them for 46 yrs. His commitment to her and his parishioners as a Catholic priest is what’s important. He wasn't doing evil deeds with young boys destroying their lives and the reputation of the Catholic Church.

By Marion | December 8, 2011 6:36 PM

Resist organized religion, and you resist one of the greatest forces of evil in history. I believe in God but don’t need idiotic rules to dictate personal choices in life. Religious people tend to be the most bigoted and non-accepting people on earth. They’re the least trustworthy and pretend they’re doing good, but they’re really collaborators in a system designed to push people into unconscious slavery to a higher authority.

By Diana | December 8, 2011 7:23 PM

joanna: I'd have to wonder how many simple "rules" you've broken in your lifetime. Example -not implying that you’ve ever taken a pen /pencil home from your workplace? Company handbook rules usually state office supplies are not to be taken from the workplace, yet how many employees don’t follow this simple rule so they are now a thief who broke their employer’s simple rule. Should they be fired? According to you that answer would be “yes.” If you can honestly say you’ve followed every rule, speed limit, etc. in your lifetime- then you must be God-like. Unfortunately, the rest of us are human who can change the world if necessary. In this case, change is good.

By Wisdom | December 8, 2011 9:47 PM

Frankly my dear 'elleblue' it does matter what other people think about celibacy, etc. Its people like you who don’t understand about positive change. He is a priest but he is first a “man” with human needs. Are you a nun? A great visionary once said... -Steve Jobs- “Don't be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. People, who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. They push the human race forward.

By Katie | December 8, 2011 10:18 PM

Skylar: what Church did when covering up those abuses is digusting. Though there is no scientific evidence that celibacy leads to child-abuse or rape, I agree with you that if priests could have a sexual life perhaps all those things had not happened. Said that, there are million of catholics who are married and still are "serving" God, but they cannot call themsleves priests.
I admire the love between a man and a woman which has lasted 46 years, but if it cannot be in the picture of being a priest, it simply cannot. And it is true, it is a man-rule, not a divine one, but 99% of religious rituals are human and not divine, including the bible.

By joanna | December 9, 2011 10:28 AM

Wisdom, I have broken rules in my life, but your example with the stealing from the office does not work (btw people are sacked for that reason if caught).
Would you get a job in company whose ethics is 100% against yours?
Seriously it is the same principle as those civil servants being sacked for not officiating gay weddings. It is part of their job to do that, they must do it. It is "part" of the job of the priest to keep celibacy and he must accomplish. You don't, pick another job.

By joanna | December 9, 2011 10:31 AM

joanna: The point was that rules set long ago might need to be changed as society changes. Forward -not backwards as our economy is doing now. If rules were followed the EU, US, etc. wouldn't be in the mess they are in now. Rules can be changed if one looks at things from outside the box and not from one view. History repeats itself when people use the same level of awareness which created the problem. He is 81 yrs old - was open about his relationship with this woman so it was common knowledge long ago. May luck be on his side to change the rules for others who desire priesthood without having to give up their human rights

By Wisdom | December 9, 2011 6:01 PM

Not everyone wants the title of ‘priesthood’ but does it really make a priest any less capable of performing his pastoral duties if he was allowed to have a personal relationship if he so chooses. Personally, I’d rather accept a priest like Jan Peijnenburg any day rather than speculate if I would truly forgive a priest who harmed someone’s child in his care. Your definition of ‘priest’ differs from mine - I was taught - a priest is someone who teaches the Holy Scripture. If he can carry out his pastoral duties to his parishioners and chooses to have a partner; it is no different than being both wife and mother, father, husband and priest.

By Skylar | December 9, 2011 6:43 PM

Life will always be a hall of learning. Many follow old rules out of ignorance and are afraid of change. Don’t succumb to living in the beliefs of some who confine free thinking. We should always be open to change. May God’s blessings always shine upon you Fr. Jan Peijnenburg. And may it be one day said, that out of many stood one who made a difference...

By Peter | December 9, 2011 7:07 PM

A bit extreme sacking someone who inadvertently takes a pen or notepad from work.0= I do it many times - Never know when the big boss will call after hours - to take a quick memo or set up some appointments before he gets in the office. Should demand over-time as stated in our employee handbook. Yeah, I might be sacked if I made my employer adhere to his own rules. ;(

By nicole | December 9, 2011 9:51 PM

Celibacy mandated by the Council of Nicaea, 325 (Canon 3).

Eastern rites broke away at the Quinsext council of 692 which was never accepted as ecumenical by the Latin rite west.

Clerical celibacy goes back right to the beginning.

To state it was a medieval 'invention' or that it was first promulgated by the papacy is quite false.

The 1135 Lateran council merely reinforced the rule in the face of laxity.

Celibacy is the rule of the 'club'.

By London | December 9, 2011 10:26 PM

joanna "Would you get a job in company whose ethics is 100% against yours?"
Sometimes that's not an option especially in this failing economy. We have to 'change' our thoughts and realize that feeding and housing our children come first. I don't like gas powered cars that are slowly killing our environment and making the oil leaders rich but electric cars are way too expensive so even though it's against my ideals, I have to drive to work- in the more affordable gas-powered car. Have worked in govt jobs that were against my principles but I know how to put personal views aside realizing a job doesn’t define me or my beliefs. It’s a paycheck needed for survival.

By Wisdom | December 10, 2011 12:58 PM

What about God part in preists who find themselves in love. God's greatest gift and they are supposed to ignore it? Throw it away. As much as rules are set in every 'club' you can not compare a club to a religion that your whole value systems is shaped around. I think we make rules and God laughs.

By das ist | December 17, 2011 4:41 PM

Newsletter| RSS| Advertising| Business services| Mobile| Friends| Privacy| Contact| About us| Tell a Friend
Apartments for rent Rondvaart - Amsterdam