29 December 2022

A Guest Post From Jack Seney

Jack takes a look at the case of Fr Frank Pavone's defrocking.


Now-former Catholic priest Frank Pavone has been a figure I have known from the days of him doing his pro-life ministry here in New York. He had columns in Catholic newspapers to give his pro-life message and had an office for Priests For Life on Staten Island. Pavone was given the full blessing of the late Cardinal O'Connor and it was widely understood that his special mission was the pro-life cause, especially since there was not exactly an army of pro-life priests stepping up to that worldwide task despite the Church being pro-life for all of her 2000 years.
Pavone has moved about the country seemingly having problems with bishops along the way. They have not seemed to like his "outsider" special status as the head of an organization separate from the Church. And there seem to have been personal problems between they and he concerning his style or personality. But Pavone was cleared of numerous accusations in 2011 after a Vatican investigation.
Now, however, Pavone has suddenly been dismissed from the priesthood with Vatican orders that likely came from Pope Francis' own office. He will remain as the head of Priests For Life, but not as Father Frank Pavone, just as Frank Pavone. To his credit, he has accepted this and vows to remain in the mainline Church while appealing the Vatican's decision on him in any way he can.
I have had a few questions concerning Pavone over the years. Pro-life activist priest Father Stephen Imbarrato has indicated some doubts about Pavone's fundraising, which Imbarrato has said stretches well into the millions. Imbarrato works with the Red Rose Rescue group in which priests and laypeople are regularly arrested while peacefully seeking to save babies at abortuaries, so his opinion is not to been taken lightly.
But I have found nothing clear versus Pavone while researching the matter. Charities often have millions of dollars in reserve to help keep their work going. Pavone accounts for his activities in a weekly video log that he posts online, and states Priests For Life activities directly to viewers of his various online channels. Pavone does not do the same direct-action pro-life work as Father Imbarrato. But he has done his anti-abortion independent-media work for decades and no doubt many babies' lives have been saved because of it. It seems several people are turned off by what they say is Pavone's temperamental private personality, but such things are hardly reasons for a priest to be defrocked.
The Vatican's claims against Pavone are vague, confused and non-transparent. He defends himself strongly against what few clear ones there are. For example one claim is that he "committed blasphemy" by having the body of an aborted baby on an altar. But Pavone has countered that he gave the baby a Catholic burial and that the table the baby rested on was not an "altar."
Other claims seem to involve Pavone's repeated endorsements of Donald Trump, "something which a priest is not supposed to do." Give me a break. Priests endorse people in one way or another all the time, just as clergy of other religions do. Pavone is just acting like a New Yorker in being direct and honest about it. This does not mean that I agree with it. Trump is a pro-homosexual who is in the pocket of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Why should he get a priest's endorsement instead of his simple thanks for being pro-life, which just means being basically decent, which is its own reward? But I do not see this as such a big deal that a priest must be stripped of his collar for it.
Pavone has a bigger problem with his hearty endorsement of Florida's governor Ron De Santis, who wants to be U.S. president. The "pro-life" De Santis has supported nothing but a Florida abortion law that allows baby-killing in the womb for almost four months, the time period in which most abortions take place anyway. Therefore De Santis is actually giving legal protection to most of the baby-killing that goes on in Florida!
De Santis plays a game of saying that the Florida legislature should give him a bill with greater abortion restrictions if it wants them. But he is the popular governor of that conservative-controlled state, so why does he not pro-actively call for better pro-life legislation from them? Probably because he does not want to look "extreme" while running for president.
Pavone and other pro-life "leaders" have celebrated De Santis for THIS? Father Imbarrato is right to criticize it and I do as well. But disagreeing on that does not mean opposing Pavone's entire ministry, which has been successful at saving babies.
Father Imbarrato himself is praying for Pavone's family as Pavone's father has just died. Father Imbarrato also supports Pavone in his intended appeal to the Vatican. So what are we actually talking about here? A Catholic man who is imperfect but is still doing good work to save babies from abortion? Sounds like anyone involved in the pro-life movement and sounds like someone who should probably be allowed to remain a priest if that is what he has been.

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