Kilimanjaro-climbing Iowa priest nominated to medical board

You may remember the story about Msgr. Frank Bognanno, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro recently.  He’s also a cancer survivor.

Now he’s in the news again:

Three weeks after the Iowa Senate rejected a Dubuque anti-abortion activist for a seat on Iowa Board of Medicine, Gov. Terry Branstad has nominated a prominent Catholic priest for the spot.

Msgr. Frank Bognanno, the pastor at Des Moines’ Christ the King Catholic Church, has spoken against abortion, which his faith condemns. The medical board, which licenses physicians, gets involved in the issue when abortion opponents file complaints about abortion providers.

Democrats controlling the Iowa Senate voted last month to block Branstad’s nomination of Colleen Pasnik to the medical board. Pasnik is a past director of the Family Life Office for the Archdiocese of Dubuque and a past employee of Dubuque County Right to Life.

Among other things, the Democrats noted that Pasnik was photographed with national abortion activist Cheryl Sullenger during a 2010 meeting of the medical board, at which opponents objected to a Planned Parenthood system of dispensing abortion pills via a video system. Pasnik has denied any direct association with Sullenger, an Operation Rescue leader who was convicted of bombing a California abortion clinic in the 1980s.

Bognanno also was part of the anti-abortion delegation at the 2010 board meeting, and he also denies knowing Sullenger. In an interview today, he described himself as “absolutely pro-life,” but said he could be a fair member of the medical board. When deciding issues, he said, “I would have to sit down and actually look at the law and what the law says.” He added that if the law gave room for interpretation in a case, he would come down on the pro-life side, including on the issues of abortion and euthanasia.

The 10-member board generally includes seven physicians and three members of the public. Bognanno, 72, said he has never served on a government board before, but he has done plenty of public work for the church. He has a doctorate in theology, including studies in medical ethics. He said Branstad seemed most interested in those qualifications when the governor called and asked whether he would be willing to serve on the board.

Branstad, who has known the priest for years, lauded him in a statement released today. “Father Bognanno is eminently qualified to serve on the Board of Medicine, and given the role of Catholic Charities in providing health care across Iowa, the governor believes he will bring a valuable perspective to the Board of Medicine,” the governor said. His spokesman did not respond to questions about whether the abortion issue figured into the nomination.

Read more.


  1. Lots of bad judgment going on here. The priest has inherent conflicts of interest, or appearances of conflict of interest. I absolutely hate to see the church diving in to politics like this. Big big mistake.

  2. joe mc faul says:

    Thought problem;

    Medical board licenses physicians and has the power to revoke licenses when a physician acts incompetently. Physician performs legal abortion, female patient dies during procedure. Medical evidence shows physician acted properly–mother died of coincidental unrelated and unantciapted heart attack. How does Fr. Bogganno vote: Revoke license or exonerate physican?

    If he votes to exonerate, then he should sit on the board.

  3. Good job Governor. Don’t tell me both political parties are the same. I didn’t read the original articcle but the clipped section here does not mention that Gov. Terry Branstad is a Republican.

  4. What an amazing story. From couch potatoe to possible summiteer, toclimb Kilimanjaro often starts out as a dare, a why not, a must do. It is a humbling, gratifying and utterly magical experience. An experience quite unlike any other… an experience highlighted by courage and tenacity, determination and focus… and this results in a fantastic story.

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