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.




Father Frank Pavone, founder and national director of Priests for Life, and Janet Morana, executive director, were in Rome this past week on their annual visit that includes meetings in some offices of the Roman Curia. Father also teaches some courses at Regina Apostolorum seminary. We always get together several times during their visits, as we did this week – Monday night for dinner, Thursday night dinner at my house and the traditional meal the night before they leave for the States.

Yesterday, as we traditionally do their last night in Rome, we planned on going to 5:45 pm Mass at the basilica of Our Lady of the Angels and Martyrs with the Santa Susanna American Catholic community and follow that up with dinner at La Scaletta.

Thursday I had interviewed Janet about their Rome visit, the March for Life last month in DC and all the pro-life activities of Priests for Life. We talked at length about Vice President Pence’s appearance at the March in Washington and the pro-life, pro-religious freedom direction the Trump administration is embracing. The March for Life of course is dedicated to efforts to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.

As we spoke Janet reminded me that someone we both know, Norma McCorvey, the ”Roe” of the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, was failing in health, and suggested that I interview her about this woman who made history in the U.S. and then spent a lifetime trying to undo that history.

It was Norma’s courageous decision later in life, to renounce abortion – the goal she had espoused as the plaintiff in Roe v Wade – and to denounce it as the deliberate killing of a human being in its mother’s womb that led her to turn her life around completely. She spent decades trying to overturn the law she had been instrumental in creating – even though she never set foot in court. She found out about the SCOTUS 1973 decision that legalized abortion the morning afterwards when she opened her front door and saw the headlines on the daily newspaper.

Nor did she ever have an abortion. Prior to 1973 abortions were illegal, even though some states had rare exceptions, such as the life of the mother being in jeopardy.

Janet and I agreed to do that interview and decided to meet before going to Mass yesterday. It took just under 15 minutes and we were soon on our way to the basilica.

After Mass, in the car on the way (we thought) to the restaurant, both Father and Janet were getting messages and tweets on their phone and we learned that Norma, after a battle with COPD, had died while we were in church. Father Frank called Norma’s daughter Melissa and, learning that the family was gathered around Norma’s bed, he prayed with them over the phone.

Father Frank returned to the apartment that Priests for Life has in Rome to briefly work on his computer and to take and make phone calls from his staff, the news media, etc. He did a Facebook Live (link is below) and wrote the letter you see below.

We eventually made it to the restaurant but dinner was punctuated by countless phone calls from the media. Janet handled calls from the Priests for Life staff as well.

I had time to remember how I first met Norma on Staten Island in November 2013.

Father Frank was celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood and the 20th anniversary of the founding of Priests for Life. There were several days of celebrations, meetings, Masses and meals. Norma was one of the many cherished guests at all the celebrations, and I had a number of meals – breakfasts, lunches and dinners – with her to learn her amazing story.

Here we are at the dinner celebrating Father’s ordination anniversary: Norma is in the center of the first photo –



She was so down to earth that I felt like I’d known her for years and yet, her story, from childhood on, was so totally unlike my life and my memories that I felt I was participating in a movie, something that was make-believe. It was not make-believe. It was history in the making.

The most striking part of her story was her feeling that, all those decades ago, because she was so young and vulnerable she had been used, deceived, misled by the lawyers she trusted to help her with their third pregnancy, an unwanted one.

Here, as promised, is Father Frank’s message written just an hour or so after Norma’s death yesterday at the age of 69:

I am sorry to have to inform you that a great friend of the pro-life movement, and of me personally, died a few hours ago. Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs Wade decision, was called home by the Lord today at 11:07am Central Time.

I got to know Norma in 1995, when she first became pro-life and was baptized by my friend Rev. Flip Benham. We stayed in touch regularly. Three years later I was privileged to bestow upon her the Sacrament of Confirmation as she entered the Catholic Church. Over the years, our Executive Director Janet Morana and I connected with Norma regularly, both on a personal and professional basis.

Despite the heaviness on her heart over the killing of some 58 million children since Roe vs. Wade, she always knew how to take the Lord’s hand and let his grace lift her up. She experienced the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat program to help heal her wounds (even though she never had an abortion herself), and she devoted herself in ways big and small to bring an end to the tragedy of abortion.

Friends, Norma’s story will live on. It is a story of hope. If she can convert, and find forgiveness from her involvement with abortion, then anyone can. And if she could say one thing right now to the world, I’m convinced it would be, “Learn my story, and have hope.”

You can see the Facebook Live video I made shortly after I heard of her passing — https://www.facebook.com/fatherfrankpavone/videos/10154072760790670/ — and can see our press release as well as a lot of articles and interviews with Norma at www.PriestsForLife.org/Norma.

Also I am happy to tell you that in the coming months, we will be organizing special memorial services in various regions of the country to remember Norma, commend her to the Lord, and commit ourselves even more to live out the lessons her life teaches us. So please stay tuned for those announcements!

And if you have a moment, please

  1. a) Share this email and its links so that others may learn about Norma, and
  2. b) Send a message of condolence to her family by clicking here.

I’ll have more to say about Norma in the coming days on my Facebook Live broadcasts at www.Facebook.com/FatherFrankPavone. Please join me there!

God bless you!