PURSUING THE TRUTH: THE FRANK PAVONE STORY
In the segment I prepared today for “At Home with Jim and Joy,” I try to answer their question: “What am I Hoping and Yearning for This Christmas?” My reply was that my hope at Christmas and beyond is to be open to God’s plan, to say ‘yes’ daily to His plan for me.
Sometimes being open to ‘yes’ can be difficult. Obstacles arise. The unplanned happens. Fatigue can set in. There can be events that pull us away from our goals, from our ‘yes’ to the Lord, to our family, to our colleagues and to all those who depend on us. In those moments, we have to pray for strength, for guidance, for the ability to do what is right. More than anything, I daily ask the Lord to help me in my work of bringing the truth to people, of educating them in the faith, of answering questions – or even objections – with truth and kindness and caring.
How many times yesterday and today did I ask the Lord for help in bringing you the truth about a story that has left me dumbfounded!
I awoke Sunday to read the CNA story in the National Catholic Register of the laicization of Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life (PFL) and an anti-abortion leader for 30 years. To say I was stunned to read this of a man I’ve known for years left me speechless.
So how do I comment on the story if I am speechless?
The document announcing this news referred to him as a ‘layman’ and Frank Pavone. He told the CNA reporter that her question Saturday was the first he had heard of the news that he was a layman! He said he had not received any official statement or declaration or admonishment from the Vatican, from the Dicastery for Priests or from the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. He still refers to himself as a priest.
I do not know how many hours I’ve spent online on this story, researching, reading hundreds of posts by Catholic faithful who have followed Fr. Pavone’s ministry for decades and posts by priests and bishops, visiting his website, etc.
You too may have read those Facebook posts.
For now, I ask you to pray, to refrain from judgement. I think we all have legitimate questions and want more information.
The Saturday, December 17 CNA report, and another one today, states, “In a Dec. 13 letter to U.S. bishops obtained by CNA and confirmed by multiple sources as authentic, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, wrote that the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy issued the decision on Nov. 9, adding that there was ‘no possibility of appeal’.
“The letter indicated that Pavone has been dismissed from the clerical state for ‘blasphemous communications on social media’ and ‘persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop,’ CNA reported yesterday. The communication from Pierre does not specify the actions that led to Pavone’s dismissal or name the bishop he disobeyed.”
The more I read, the more questions I had, in particular regarding the specifics of the dismissal, the laicisation of a priest and whether or not an appeal is possible. You will absolutely want to read what canon lawyer Fr. Gerald Murray has to say on this: Canon Lawyer on Father Pavone’s Dismissal from Priesthood: Only the Pope Can Issue a Decision Without Appeal| National Catholic Register (ncregister.com)
I said earlier I’d known (Fr.) Frank Pavone for years. I don’t remember exactly when we first met, whether it was in Rome or in the States. I’ve interviewed him for my radio show, Vatican Insider, just as I’ve interviewed Janet Morana, executive director of PFL. I met him many times in Rome when we broke bread together, both in restaurants and my home, when we talked of PFL news and events, upcoming programs or books, perhaps even preparing for a March for Life in Washington.
I attended the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of his priesthood and an anniversary of the founding of Priests for Life in November 2013, where I met his wonderful parents. Also present were Cardinal Renato Martino and Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Vatican representative to the U.N. At my table was Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” of “Roe v. Wade,” a convert to both Catholicism and to the pro-life movement.
I have followed the news over the years of Pavone’s run-ins with the bishops of the dioceses in which he was incardinated. I knew he had been criticized for being involved in politics, an area in which Catholic priests are forbidden to be active. I had also read reports of financial irregularities.
Given all this, I still have questions as to the specific accusations in this case.
The Vatican does not usually comment on cases like this. In fact, if you go to vaticannews.va and search Father Frank Pavone or Frank Pavone you will get “there are no results.”
At this point, I think everyone awaits a word from both the Vatican and the bishop in whose diocese he is incardinated.
I will stay on top of this and bring new information or developments as they occur.
In the meantime, let’s all just pray.