No, Fr. Pavone, That’s NOT What She Said

No, Fr. Pavone, That’s NOT What She Said October 13, 2016

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(Image via Pixabay.)

Long term readers will know we at Steel Magnificat never set out to opine about culture wars (real and imagined) nor to be frequently recurring to the “pro-life” movement, much less in criticism. But, if you start out with a theme of “everything”, even if viewed from the standpoint of grace, then you can’t be too shocked by finding yourself dealing with anything. Even the above.

As it turned out, Mary did end up writing about culture wars, in what seems to have become an after the fact manifesto of ours. (Although here at Steel Magnificat we still don’t think that the preferential option for non-violence, even metaphorical-conceptual non-violence, is that provocative from a Christian standpoint- bruised reeds, anyone?) And, in due turn, we have also addressed pro-life and whole life concerns (that also started kind of by accident in reaction to an earlier part of this election cycle).

Now, apparently, we have good reason to write, and not just once, about Fr. Frank Pavone, priest-for-confused-witness-on-behalf-what-exactly-I’m-not-sure-anymore. Can I sigh in print? Is that allowed?

First off, Mary wrote expressing her concerns about Fr. Pavone’s zeal for endorsing (without using the word “endorse,” so as to preserve non-political tax status) Donald Trump, who is a lovely family values candidate of wholesomeness.

This is, of course, especially alarming considering that Fr. Pavone has a history of feuding with multiple bishops over Priests-For-Life’s finances. You can read what Mary had to say here. I will add to that two things. First, I heard Fr. Pavone speak in St. Louis once. I believe he is sincere in everything that comes out of his mouth and in his deeds. If only sincerity equaled honesty and accuracy, he would be far more fruitful for the kingdom than he apparently is. (Oh, that we all might be more fruitful for the kingdom than we are!) Secondly, while I am something of the reverse of an avid reader of Fr. Pavone e-mailings, I do receive them and I have noticed what they contain. Primarily, they are appeal after appeal for more money for the work that Priests-For-Life does. But, while all ministries do in fact need funds, and should not be looked down on for asking them, even repeatedly – I don’t think it is very clear what works Priests-For-Life does other than have Fr. Pavone talk a lot in person and in other venues. Regardless, I am convinced that the repeated problems Fr. Pavone has had with his bishops are not caused by some evil conspiracy to silence Fr. Pavone, but by the mundane concern for episcopal oversight of the finances of an organization, led by a diocesan priest, that very publicly collects a large amount of money. In the era of Fr. Maciel, I think Fr. Pavone ought to recognize the validity of such concerns. There might be options other than jumping to conclusions about his bishop’s motives and calling for more financial support when asked to submit to routine audit.

Let me just attach to that the disclaimer that this later business of Fr. Pavone’s suggestions of anti-Pavone episcopal conspiracy is old news from a couple of years ago. I mention it less because of direct relevance as because at this point I might as well throw in my two cents of what I know of Fr. Pavone. What they have in common with the present situation is that I am not the first to think “monomania” when trying to understand why exactly Fr. Pavone so sincerely believes that anything whatsoever that flies from his mouth or keyboard is directly helping to save lives. Moving on.
The debacle continued yesterday. Since Fr. has further remarked on the Facebook thread linked in Mary’s post of yesterday. He writes:

“To continue to respond to your concerns, I did indeed read your post, and want to thank you for sharing your concerns online. Your experience of rape is one that, sadly and as you know, is shared by too many in our world… and the pain is not adequately understood. On behalf of anyone who is insensitive to that pain, especially in the name of prolife, I want to offer my own apology. To say “well you didn’t die” certainly hurts — because it says to people like you, “your pain doesn’t matter, or is not significant.” But it does matter and it is significant. You can be sure that as i do the pastoral and educational work i do in helping prolife people advocate for the unborn, I always try to instill a sensitivity to this pain. What is happening here is that your pain is getting caught up in the crossfire of the current political debate. We need to try to separate the two. No candidate is trying to make rape legal. Some are trying to keep abortion legal. You are opposed to abortion — I know that and appreciate that. And you know that it is the killing of a person. So let’s oppose it, and let’s oppose rape, and let’s be sensitive to your pain, and let’s be sensitive to the pain of the child, and let’s be sensitive to the pain of the mothers and fathers and other family members who have lost someone to abortion — and let’s be sensitive to one another and start communicating rather than trying to generate “viral” online attacks on each other. Patheos, lead the way.”

I will respond only minimally. Fr. Pavone-

Thank you for at least pretending you believe in some kind of sensitivity. It is an improvement over your earlier remarks. However, the context is that you are defending someone who specifically boasts of procuring sexual favors without consent via “kissing,” “grabbing,” and God above alone knows what else. That makes your remarks difficult to believe.

Let me also add that you (one must assume accidentally) have misrepresented Mary’s remarks. What she wanted to go viral was not “online attacks on each other” but rather as accurate as possible a picture of your witness. I have provided an illustration of the impression I receive from your words as to who and what you are witnessing to (it isn’t human life and the sacredness thereof). But, lest my readers be restricted to my impressions I have included your words here as well. That said –

I should include a less oblique remark here, as  to whether or not such verbal deposits are contributing to sensitivities of any benign sort, or to the well-being of any human life or group of lives. I don’t rightly know what to say of my own that I haven’t already, so let me add here the words of fellow Patheosi Scott Eric Alt in response to Fr. Pavone (still on the aforementioned FB thread):

“He is supporting Trump, who is a sexual predator. I don’t say Fr. thinks sexual abuse is good, but his disregard of it in Trump’s case in favor of a bunch of empty promises about abortion and SCOTUS causes scandal and compromises Christian witness to the world. You can support pro-life without supporting Trump.
Trump is a documented liar. I don’t have to have a crystal ball, I simply have to not be gullible, like a cat chasing a red dot.
I reject both Trump and Clinton, which I have said more times than there have been abortions in the history of mankind.

Well said.

Beyond that, let me add something important. Mary and I here at Steel Magnificat are not interested in attacks, viral or otherwise, on anyone. We believe in the preferential option for non-violence where it is possible. We do, however, share Fr. Pavone’s conviction that the true content of his witness, in his own words, should be widely available and left to the interpretation of its hearers.

What we would rather be talking about here is things like beech trees, gardener’s prayers, and picture books.

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