Catholic Bishop to Keep Father Pavone in Texas Indefinitely

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 4, 2011   |   3:53PM   |   Amarillo, TX

Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas has released a new letter concerning the status of Father Frank Pavone and has said the Priests for Life leader will be forced to remain in Texas indefinitely.

The letter, which appeared publicly on the Diocese of Amarillo website and which LifeNews blogger Gerard Nadal obtained, claims Father Pavone “remains suspended,” even though the Diocese had said publicly repeatedly before that that was not the case and that Pavone was a priest in good standing.

Zurek writes on September 30 that “at my discretion,” Pavone “has faculties for ministry in the Diocese of Amarillo. He does not have permission for ministry outside the Diocese. He is to remain in the Diocese for an indefinite period of time for prayer and reflection.” [related]

Over the weekend, Father Pavone emailed LifeNews with a response to the letter, saying, “I’ve been told by my diocese, at the same time, that I am both “suspended” and “a priest in good standing.” Now I’m neither a canon lawyer nor a bishop, so I will admit that I’m a little confused.”

“The only thing I’m really sure of at this moment is that I am a priest, sitting in Amarillo, patiently awaiting clarification of my own status, and meanwhile, continuing to comply completely with the requirements of my Bishop,” he said.

In September, a statement issued by the Diocese of Amarillo indicated the Priests for Life leader is not accused of wrongdoing. The Diocese, in a statement obtained by LifeNews and written by reverend Monsignior Harold Waldow, Vicar of Clergy for the Diocese, said Pavone is accused of no wrongdoings.

“As the Vicar of Clergy for the Diocese of Amarillo and the Moderator of Curia I want to publicly state that Reverend Frank Pavone of Priests for Life is a priest in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church. He has all the faculties for ministry that every priest of our diocese has in and for the Diocese of Amarillo,” Waldow writes.

“I would also like to clarify a point that because there is a dispute about the auditing process and the complete audit for all the entities of Priests for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard, and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life does not mean that Father Pavone is being charged with any malfeasance or being accused of any wrong doing with the financial matters of Priests for Life,” the statement continues.

Those comments were a confirmation of a statement Waldow already made in an interview with the Catholic News Service, where he said “Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, remains a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.”

Father David Deibel, JD, JCL, Chief Canonist for Priests for Life, agrees and says it is “absolutely false” that Pavone is supposedly not in good standing with the Catholic Church.

“Father Pavone is and has been a priest in good standing. Moreover, the canonical language of “suspension” in this regard is a mistake. Father Pavone has not in any way incurred any ecclesiastical penalty. Nor is Father Frank under the threat of any penalty,” he said.

As a priest in good standing in the Amarillo diocese, Father Pavone has celebrated Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Amarillo.

As LifeNews has reported, the pro-life movement has been abuzz with the news that Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo has asked Father Pavone to come back to serve in the diocese and has temporarily prevented him from exercising his duties as the head of Priests for Life. Zurek alleges, with little supporting evidence, that there are financial irregularities at Priests for Life despite annual audits from one of the nation’s top accounting firms.

Priests for Life released a statement early in the discussion over Pavone’s status responding to some of the misreporting in the mainstream media making it appear Pavone has been “suspended” as a Catholic priest or from the organization. Priests for Life said it was widely misreported in various Catholic and secular media that the Most Reverend Patrick Zurek, Bishop of Amarillo, had “suspended” Rev. Frank Pavone, a priest of his diocese, and put him “on leave.”