Catholic priest challenges suspension for living with girlfriend

An 81-year-old Dutch Catholic priest, who lives with his 85-year-old girlfriend, says he will take his expulsion from priesthood to the European Court of Human Rights.

As reported in CathNews, Jan Peijnenburg, who has lived with his girlfriend for 46 years, was told he either had to separate from his girlfriend or leave the Catholic priesthood, was sent a letter at the weekend telling him he has been suspended because he refuses to leave his partner.

Peijnenburg is retired and only rarely fulfills church duties, so the suspension will have little effect, however 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.’

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

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

Diocesan spokesman, Michiel Savelsbergh commented last month on the case, saying, ‘We cannot allow him to do that which is forbidden to others.’


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