Pavone Story Still Murky

I got an email from someone the other day asking me why I have not written about the Fr. Frank Pavone story since the day it broke.

The short answer is, because we really don’t know anything more today than we did on September 13 — things are still pretty murky, but this week, the water got stirred a little…which means it’s even murkier.

Pavone is still in Amarillo; contrary to hyper-dramatized internet reports that he is being held prisoner in a remote and horrible convent where he is unable to watch tv or contact anyone, he is in fact living in a perfectly nice convent I’m sure the sisters would not like having impugned as a prison; he has his own kitchen and his own car; he comes and goes as he pleases, and — as evidenced by his near-constant presence on social media — he is not being “shut up.” He was asked by Bishop Patrick Zurek, who has expressed some concerns about financial matters pertaining to Priests for Life, to take some time for prayer and recollection. That, we I have no way of knowing if he’s doing. (I know if my bishop asked me to do the same and set me up in a nice quiet location, I’d take advantage of the chance to move deeply into prayer, but that’s just me! :-) )

It does seem clear, however, that this is a tussle between two strong-willed men. The bishop made a public invitation to Pavone to meet with him this week — a kind of “thrillah in Amarillah” as Deacon Greg might say — and Pavone was a no-show

Canon Lawyer, Ed Peters writes:

Maybe Pavone saw in Zurek’s letter only an “invitation” to meet and did not know, or want to know, that, in diocesanese, an “invitation” from a lawful superior to a recalcitrant subject to meet privately is tantamount to saying “here is our chance to talk behind closed doors before this gets any nastier”. Perhaps Pavone narrowly read the “invitation” from Zurek as something he was free to accept or decline. But if so, good manners should have led Pavone to let the bishop know that he was declining the invitation. And a lot of folks could have then saved their prayers for a meeting that Pavone apparently had no intention of attending.

But even if word-splitting accounts for Pavone’s refusal to meet with Zurek, a strict ‘parsing-of-words’ defense is not one I would suggest for Pavone: whatever the character of Zurek’s overture to Pavone, the topic of their meeting was to be Pavone’s “spiritual progress during this time of prayer and reflection”. What, therefore, Pavone rejected was a meeting with his own bishop to discuss matters squarely and unquestionably within the authority and responsibility of his bishop. It’s just not where a priest who, as I have said several times, has suffered some injustice in the course of this dispute, wants to draw a line against his bishop. He’s bound to lose that one.

Meanwhile, Pavone’s own canon lawyer, defends the no-show

I think probably both priest and bishop have legitimate issues, but things are so murky — and people are so busy taking sides in the murk — I believe I’m going to go back to not writing about this story until there is something to write about. Pissing contests, as a rule, are not that interesting to me — even when they’re between churchmen.

A very big fan of Pavone’s expresses disappointment with how he’s handling this matter.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Victor

    (((Pissing contests)))

    Interesting choice of words Anchoress!

    Are you being sarcastic sinner vic?

    Who MOI?


  • TXRed

    I was in Amarillo a few weeks ago and there was a plane towing a banner for Fr. Pavone’s group. Later a panel truck was driving around in Amarillo with a rather graphic picture on it, again supporting Priests for Life. Apparently someone missed the memo that the Father’s problem is not about “choice vs. life.” SIGH.

  • arial

    Fr Pavone has posted the website of the convent he is staying in.
    Follow him on twitter if you want to hear him speak for himself.
    Other people may not like to be in a quiet peaceful area, but many
    of us do. He is not a prisoner there. I don’t think he should meet
    privately with the bishop, I think the bishop may be his enemy.

  • Amos

    I’ve read that Father’s Canon Lawyer advised him not to attend the meeting until the Bishop replies to Father’s request that a mediator be appointed. It was pointed out that a request for a mediator was within Father’s canonical right.

  • kenneth

    I’m thinking I need to make a career change to “insubordinate priest.” Where else can you get a salary, full medical, meals and housing, tell your boss to urinate up a rope whenever he gives you any flack, conduct online Charlie Sheen-esque rants against him, and then go on paid indefinite leave to do more of the same?

  • Mabelita

    Like many, I’ve been following with much interest the ongoing saga of Bishop Patrick Zurek and Fr. Frank Pavone. I must admit that I’ve long been a fan of Father Frank. After all, anyone who won the unconditional endorsement of Blessed Mother Teresa – as Father Frank did – must be on the up and up. Still, when Bishop Zurek released the “private” letter he wrote to his brother bishops to select members of the news media, I wondered what was going on. Upon closer investigation it appears to me that the bishop is trying to have things both ways. On the one hand he accuses (falsely as it turns out) that Father Frank has raised so much money for Priests for Life that there must be something scandalous in the ministry’s operations and Father Frank must be hiding millions of dollars. But on the other hand, Father Frank is accused of mismanaging Priests for Life because Priests for Life lost $1.4 million in contributions in 2010 and is struggling to have donations meet operating expenses. Well, which is it? Of course there’s no truth to either charge. Priests for Life has raised a lot of money because pro-life activists like me recognize that the best way to put one’s scarce pro-life dollars is to entrust them to Father Frank and Priests for Life because I know they are effective and through their non-stop preaching of the Gospel of Life they are winning countless numbers of Americans over to the side of life. As for the decrease in donations last year, sadly, the current economy prevents me and a lot of other folks from giving Priests for Life more money than we would like. When all is said and done, it seems Bishop Zurek and others who are uncomfortable with Father Frank’s relentless drive to end abortion – something the U.S. bishops tell us is the “fundamental civil rights issue of our day” – feel the only way to end their discomfort is to crucify Father Frank, silence his pro-life voice, and destroy Priests for Life. There is another way, though, Bishop Zurek: JOIN HIM ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE FIGHT!!!