In Time for the March for Life: All Clear for Fr. Frank Pavone!

Fr. Frank Pavone in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

I told this story over at the Kresta in the Afternoon blog, but I want to be sure you don’t miss it.

Bishop Patrick Zurek, bishop of the Diocese of Amarillo, has sent a letter to all the bishops of the United States, announcing that his concerns about the financial management of Priests For Live have been resolved, and PFL national director Fr. Frank Pavone is free to resume his ministry.

More than two years ago, in September 2011, Bishop Zurek had restricted the movements of Father Pavone, suspending him from active ministry outside the diocese and confining him to a convent outside of Amarillo.  At that time, Bishop Zurek wrote:

I have decided to suspend Father Frank A. Pavone from public ministry outside of the Diocese of Amarillo to take effect on September 13, 2011. For an indefinite period, I am withdrawing my permission to him to minister outside our diocese and am calling him back to spend time in prayer and reflection.

My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priest For Life (PFL) organization. The PFL has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight. There have been persistent question and concerns by clergy and laity regarding the transactions of millions of dollars of donations to the PFL from whom the donors have a rightful expectation that the monies are being used prudently. These financial questions and concerns have persisted with no clear and adequate answers since the time when Father Pavone was under two previous bishop ordinaries. Since he has consistently refused to subject the PFL to a transparent and complete auditing of all expenditures, I have reasons to be alarmed at the potential financial scandal that might arise if it were the result of my failure to correct Father Pavone’s incorrigible defiance to my legitimate authority as his Bishop. Additionally, the PFL financial resources have afforded Father Pavone with a formidable civil and canonical counsel which he utilized to rebuff my every attempt at calling for financial transparency.

Thus, my decision to intervene and to call him to accountability is meant to express the dire need to safeguard his priestly ministry to which I am obligated as his father and to help the Church avoid any scandal due to the national scope of the PFL’s work. At a certain point, for me to hold all this knowledge about the PFL and to turn a blind eye would increase my culpability and quote possibly amount to material cooperation.

Bishop Zurek

Now, in a new letter mailed in December 2013, Bishop Zurek exonerates Fr. Pavone and confirms that he is now authorized to resume full ministry on behalf of Priests For Life.  In the new letter, Bishop Zurek confirmed that his concerns had been “favorably received and addressed by the Congregation for Clergy.”  He wrote:

 “My concerns included some restructuring of PFL so that it would have juridic personality and become a true ecclesial association. Also included was a request for more adequate and transparent reporting of finances to the competent ecclesiastical authority. Both of these requests have been favorably addressed by the Congregation of Clergy.”

In fact, the Congregation for Clergy ruled in November 2012 that since the principal office of PFL is in the Archdiocese of New York, the Archbishop of New York is the competent authority to exercise vigilance over the association.

Bishop Zurek added in his letter:

“I am happy that this process is at an end and I hope and pray that Father Pavone and PFL may now continue its important work in the defense of all human life, especially that of the unborn.”


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