God bless and keep Father Frank. Please Lord, heal him and restore him to your company.
I’ve read the blog posts written by my colleagues. I’ve gone to the Amarillo diocesan web site and read their official declaration about Father Pavone. I am also privy to the concern within the pro life movement about his increasingly destructive behavior these past four years.
To put it simply, Father Frank has gone rogue. He’s out there alone in his wild-eyed craziness. He’s left the legitimate pro life movement to engage in tactics that, while they reflect his sincere passion for the lives of the unborn, are potentially destructive to the cause he’s fighting for.
He has become more and more extreme in the legislation he’s backing and the politicians he supports. He careens about like a car skidding on the ice, colliding into anything and everyone.
Lately, he has taken to saying things that belie his priesthood itself, threatening people with hell if they don’t vote as he tells them to, and just recently, cursing and taking the Lord’s name in vain in public tweets.
This is heart breaking.
I don’t know Fr Pavone very well, but I got a couple of glimpses of the change in him through time. The first time I met him, we started out talking about politics and ended up with him giving me what was unselfish pastoral advice. I was a relatively high-profile convert with a high profile past as a pro choice advocate.
I will never stop being grateful for the forgiveness and love that the Catholic Church poured down on me, the open armed, open hearted way they embraced me. I love the Church and its good people.
But a few of the professional pro life people were much colder in their intent. I had to fight a few pro life organizers who were into showbiz conversions to keep my integrity as a human being. They wanted to use me as a trophy. I will never forget my outrage when one of the television priests from EWTN, who wanted to put me on tv, encouraged me to go on and break down and cry because it would be “more effective” if I did.
Father Frank was nothing like that. Every bit of advice he gave me was about me, and for my own healing. He never once tried to use me in any way.
Years later, when I was nearing the end of my time in public office, I saw Father Frank again at a convention. He was still a true priest at that point, but I could already see that something had changed in him.
Obama was president at the time, and we were fighting to defund Planned Parenthood. The Ds had stopped the measure containing this from coming to a vote in the Senate with the threat of a filibuster.
I knew we could wire around that if we wanted to. I tried to explain to him how we could get the thing to a vote and pass it out of the Senate. We both knew that President Obama would veto it, but I was the kind of legislator who always kicked the can down the road as far as I could and made my opponents do the things they threatened. I’ve found it to be an effective long-term strategy for change.
Fr Pavone wasn’t interested. His only focus was on electing more Republicans. He wouldn’t even consider the rather obvious fact that Republicans had never defunded Planned Parenthood, not even when they held both houses of Congress and had a Republican in the White House. I’m sure that he doesn’t admit that, Trumpian bragging aside, it still hasn’t been defunded.
He was past looking at political reality. In fact, I don’t think he ever had understood political reality. What he’d had before this blindness and fanatic Republicanism overtook him was the heart of a priest. He’d understood conversion and the immense worth of every single human being.
Now, he’d gone blind and deaf. He couldn’t see with his nose pressed to the hide of the big red elephant. He couldn’t hear with the roar of political ranting in his ears.
I’ve never seen Father Frank again. But I haven’t been entirely surprised by the things he’s done.
Every one of the outlandish behaviors he’s engaged in — from putting the corpse of an aborted baby on the altar in a church in order to use it and the altar as a campaign set piece, to backing destructive legislation, supporting a child molesting senate candidate, deifying Donald Trump, to throwing around his collar in an attempt to coerce votes with threats of hell, to, finally, taking the the name of the Lord Himself in vain in a political rant — all of this, every bit of it, is nothing more than the outward manifestations of an inner breakdown and loss of faith.
Father Frank has stopped trusting God. He is instead trusting a political demagogue who is without conscience or morality of any sort. Father Frank’s fall is both public and tragic. It breaks my heart to see it.
The reason behind Father Frank’s trip and fall into lostness is obvious. He is a priest. Not a politician.
Politics and the priesthood have a lot of superficial similarities. They require some of the same talents and abilities. But they are in truth vastly different enterprises.
Politics and the priesthood have two entirely different anointings. They are not interchangeable.
It is true that politicians are often jealous of the power that priests have, and priests are often equally jealous of the power the politicians have. The talents that either vocation requires are so similar that each of them looks at the other and thinks “I could do that.”
Even more to the point, both politicians and priests are gifted people. Giftedness is freighted with ambition. It is easy, so easy, to jump over the fence and gather up some of the power that belongs to the other.
But politicians who wave around Bibles and preachify instead of doing the job they were anointed to do become demagogues. By the same token, priests who forgo conversion and leading people to heaven in order to organize their flocks as a voting block also become demagogues.
They both become salt without savor.
They become active destructive forces for evil who participate in the destruction of the very things they were given power to build.
Politicians who become demagogues attack democracy. They destroy the common good. They trample on the rights that are inherent in human dignity. Over time, they lose their own dignity and become corrupt, debauched mockeries of what they claim they believe.
Priests who get into politics seem to lose themselves faster, perhaps because God lets go of them sooner. The depths of behavior I’ve seen in some of the political priests and bishops these past few months are so bleak that it’s impossible to think of these men as priests at all. Their behavior mocks the priesthood. It also makes it easy for people outside the Church to mock faith and Christ Himself.
I think Father Frank is a special case in this. There’s nothing cheap or lightweight about his witness for the sanctity of human life. He has worked for decades to try to save the lives of unborn babies. He has always been stubborn as a rock about this.
Looking at it from the outside, it seems as if his fall from grace began, as these things often do, with money. There have been questions for a long time about Priests for Life and money. I don’t know what the exact problems are. But I do know that the almost daily appeals I got for money from Priests for Life were excessive.
Now, his bishop has instructed the faithful to “Disregard” what Father Frank says, and “Pray for Father Pavone.”
This statement seems to answer the on-going question as to who is Fr Frank’s bishop. His bishop, or at least the one who’s issuing instructions to the faithful about his behavior, is Bishop Patrick Zurek of the diocese of Amarillo. Fr Frank’s talk about finding another bishop sounds as if he’d like to move, but nobody else will take him.
When it comes to who he obeys and gives his loyalty to, it appears that Fr Frank has basically taken Donald Trump as his bishop.
Aside from the fact that he’s abandoned his vocation to go chasing after a political demagogue, what Father Frank is doing makes no political sense.
I won’t belabor this in this post, but we already have 5 Supreme Court justices who have said they are pro life. They can overturn Roe anytime they want. If they don’t, we’ve been lied to. What that means is that it’s time for a new strategy. We’ve been doing the court packing thing for over 50 years. If it doesn’t work now, it’s time to re-think.
The HHS Mandate, which appears to be his other concern, has been beaten soundly in the courts. We’ve already won. No matter who wins this election or what grandstanding they do about it, it’s a dead issue.
I care about Father Pavone. I want to see him go back to being the priest he is.
He needs our prayers.