Frank Pavone has been Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Frank Pavone has been Accused of Sexual Misconduct January 25, 2023

Frank Pavone
image via Wikimedia Commons


In case you haven’t heard: the disgraced defrocked former priest Frank Pavone has now been publicly accused of sexual misconduct.

Multiple victims have come forward and alleged that Pavone groomed and sexually harassed them while they worked for Priests for Life. This is being reported in The Pillar and Church Militant. Neither of those are my favorite publications for journalism, and I usually wouldn’t post a link to the latter, but in this case the reporting seems perfectly responsible.

The Pillar has a long interview with one of the alleged victims, whose story is gut-wrenching: she reports that she was groomed, sexually harassed, and touched inappropriately by Pavone on multiple occasions; he even came into her hotel room to sit on her bed and sat with his legs around her on a log flume ride. This has let to some lifelong trauma, and my heart goes out to her. Church Militant reports that several witnesses corroborate that there were multiple victims who had to be paid off. Father Stephen Imbarrato, who is not my idea of a feminist ally, claims that he was so concerned that he refused to step down from his position at Priests for Life until after they’d set up an independent committee to handle abuse allegations. If someone that misogynistic thinks there’s a problem, there must be a severe one. And please note that Imbarrato alleges that there was abuse when he worked at Priests for Life, starting in 2015. That means that he’s talking about a different victim from the victim interviewed by The Pillar, whose abuse took place in the early 2000s.

I think it’s important to note that, while we don’t have absolute proof that these allegations are true, they are extremely credible. Firstly because so many people who used to work Priests for Life have corroborated the story, including those who have nothing to gain by speaking up. Secondly because, as The Pillar has quoted, Leslie Palma, the director of communications for Priests for Life, who is taking Pavone’s side and not trying to throw him under the bus, did not deny that there were reports of abuse– she only said that the reports were “resolved.” If there were no reports of abuse, she’d say there weren’t any. And finally because, while so many people were expressing their shock at the allegations last night, people who knew Pavone were insisting that it sounds like something he’d do. Other women who went to lunch with him in a professional context were talking about his inappropriate hugs.

I have been reporting on Frank Pavone’s inappropriate and scandalous treatment of human corpses for six years now, so it doesn’t surprise me in the least that he’s been caught abusing live women as well.

I have been deeply concerned that this man, who seems to lack even a rudimentary conscience, runs a charity which claims to counsel traumatized women. I can’t even begin to name the number of ways in which that’s inappropriate. I can’t imagine the number of women he could have hurt in that capacity. It terrifies me.

It also terrifies me that so many of Pavone’s followers are still insisting that he’s innocent and the victims of his alleged abuse are part of the vast conspiracy to persecute a saint.

I am looking back at reporting on Priests for Life’s concerning past financial dealings, and I am looking a Imbarrato’s allegations that Priests for Life used donations to financially compensate at least one victim, and I have serious questions. I wonder if the people who donated money to him during that time do as well.

I wonder why, if these allegations are true, Imbarrato wasn’t publicly blowing the whistle back in 2018 when he left Priests for Life. Why did he wait? Who else was hurt while he hesitated?

I wonder why, if there were so many credible accusations, the Dioceses of New York and Amarillo didn’t say anything publicly. If these accusations really were part of the reason for Pavone’s brief 2011 suspension and 2022 laicization, why wasn’t anyone told? And if they weren’t, why not? Aren’t credible accusations of abuse enough? I’m pleased that Bishop Zurek was concerned about the fate of “Baby Choice” as I was, but isn’t the suffering of a live human woman a much more urgent reason to stop a madman?

Most of all I’m just weary. I’ve been trying to get somebody to stop Pavone before he hurts anyone for six years.

It should not be too much to ask that we police our own.

People claiming to be on the side of the angels should be better behaved than anybody else. People insisting they just care about human life from conception until natural death should be more horrified by abuse in their ranks, not less. They should be quick to expose and punish abusers. It’s scandalous in the extreme that they close ranks around abusers and help them hurt other people.

I’ve lost all confidence in the pro-life movement. Everyone involved in this catastrophe should be deeply ashamed.

If the victims are reading this: than you for your courage, and I am so sorry for your suffering. I believe you.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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