Catholic priest vows to fight being fired for living with his girlfriend

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. [more]


Dutch News