Following the controversy surrounding a call from his bishop to return to his diocese as a response to unsubstantiated allegations that he is unresponsive to the bishop and Priests for Life has financial problems, Father Frank Pavone is considering a new step.
While he has been faithful to the call and has returned to Texas as requested by Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek, who left town for two weeks the day Pavone returned, Pavone is considering other options. He has already appealed to The Vatican to help him in his quest to return to full-time pro-life ministry with Priests for Life, but Pavone told EWTN he may consider another option if the Catholic Church doesn’t resolve the matter or Zurek doesn’t allow him to resume his role.
Pavone says if Bishop Zurek doesn’t grant him permission to return to full-time pro-life ministry, he will consider either being incardinated in another Catholic diocese or founding a new religious order for priests seeking to be involved in full-time pro-life work.
In an interview with EWTN News, Pavone said the situation is frustrating because Zurek left town and did not provide him any duties or assignments — so he has been conducting his Priests for Life work from Amarillo. He said he had been in discussions with Bishop Zurek about doing more in Texas and sent him a list of dates he requested when he could do that — which the bishop now claims he never received.
“We have been talking with the bishop for years about these issues,” he said, abbot the issues the bishop says are unresolved.
But he told EWTN he may look elsewhere if the situation can’t be resolved amicably.
“I do have various options,” he said. “The Church is bigger than Amarillo. The Church is the Church. “I have experienced the call to full-time pro-life work. I want to do that for the rest of my life. It’s a vocational matter”
Pavone pointed to other religious orders established by prominent Catholic figures who, at first, had tenuous relationships with the Church that eventually moved in a positive direction.
In a followup to the question of a potential new religious order, Pavone told Lifenews there “is no specific plan right now” to create one. “These are just theoretical possibilities that we’ve been discussing from the very beginning of Priests for Life,” he added.
Meanwhile, Monsignor Harold Waldow, vicar of clergy for the Diocese of Amarillo, who released a statement yesterday saying Pavone is not under investigation by the Catholic Church for any wrongdoing and that he is a priest in good standing. Waldow described more of the issues the diocese has with Priests for Life, saying that while PFL provided its financial details, other portions of financial information from Rachel’s Vineyard and Missionaries of the Gospel of Life are missing.
“Two of the major pieces of the international pro-life movement and national pro-life movement are missing,” he told the Amarillo Globe-News, adding that he believes the money Priests for Life brings in belongs to the Catholic Church. “This is patrimony of the Church. It belongs to the Church. People give their money over the understanding that it goes to the Church or Church auspices and programs and ministries.”
“I’m sure that our bishop does not stand alone on this,” he added. “I think Rome has been quite clear the bishops of the United States need to exercise more prudential guidance and governance over the patrimony of the Church.”
The dispute between the diocese and Father Pavone has caused quite a debate within the pro-life Catholic community as both supporters of Pavone and Priests for Life and naysayers are squabbling over whether Pavone or the Texas diocese is correct.