Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's going on with this Fr. Frank Pavone business?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Well, many of you have probably heard something of the recent and unfortunate news about Fr. Frank Pavone, the priest in charge of Priests for Life and a priest I've mentioned previously in my posts about the Mass he celebrated with Gianna Emanuela Molla and about his work in bringing Baby Joseph to the United States for palliative care. As always, I begin by reminding all of us that I don't know much about this situation, and neither do you. With that disclaimer in mind, I am always happy to share my own understanding of the Catholic news in a way that is easy to understand, so here it goes.

Fr. Frank Pavone is the head of Priests for Life, which is headquartered in Staten Island, New York. However, Fr. Pavone is incardinated in the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, and Bishop Patrick Zurik, Bishop of Amarillo, has recalled Fr. Pavone to his Diocese and has restricted his priestly ministry to that Diocese for an unspecified time of prayer and reflection. Bishop Zurik, in a now public statement addressed to his brother bishops and cardinals, explains that he is recalling Fr. Pavone due to a lack of obedience, and specifically because he has "deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization." Fr. Frank Pavone responded with his own public statement, in which he mentions his own appeal to the Vatican in regard to his current recall to Amarillo, but also his obedience to the bishop and his return to Amarillo.

So what we know is this:
  1. Bishop Zurik has some concerns about Fr. Frank Pavone's obedience, and the financial administration and stewardship of the Priests for Life; 
  2. Fr. Frank Pavone is incardinated in the Diocese of Amarillo and has returned there under obedience, though not without an appeal to the Vatican; 
  3. Fr. Frank is still a priest in good standing and is able to exercise his priestly ministry within the Diocese of Amarillo at this time;
  4. there's a whole lot of information that we do not, cannot, and probably never will know about this whole situation; 
  5. we should all pray for Bishop Zurik, Fr. Frank Pavone, and the Priests for Life.
Situations like this always make me wish that I was a canon lawyer, because it is in canon (or church) law that we can find many clarifications to a complex situation like this. For example, what does it mean that Fr. Pavone has permission to lead the Priests for Life and is under obedience to a Bishop who has oversight of that organization, but that he is still incardinated in Amarillo and is still responsible and vowed to obedience to that Ordinary (or Bishop) as well?

Well, my friends, we're all in luck, because whenever I have a canon law conundrum, I can always count on canon law blogger Edward Peters to clear things up. In his post on the Zurek-Pavone dispute, he does just that, and I really recommend reading his article in full. It gives good clarifications and perspective on the situation.

As you may have guessed, I like what little I know of Fr. Frank Pavone and his ministry. I met him briefly this summer at a Mass he celebrated at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestachowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on the occasion of the first US visit of Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Molla, and he seemed to be sincere and firmly committed to the faith and to working on behalf of the unborn and all human life. Apparently some of his activities have been controversial, but I don't know much about that, nor do I know anything about the financial stewardship of the Priests for Life. I also don't know anything about Bishop Zurik, but I pray that everything will be resolved as quickly and amicably as possible, and that the good work of the Catholic Church, especially on behalf of all of the poor and defenseless (particularly the unborn) might continue on. I always hate when things like these cause scandal to believers and unbelievers alike, and I encourage everyone to take heart and keep these people in prayer. One of my favorite things about being Catholic is that I know that I am not responsible for judging these people or this situation. I hope that's a load off your minds, as well.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

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