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.