Pavone Skips Meeting With Bishop on Canon Lawyer’s Advice

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 14, 2011   |   5:20PM   |   Amarillo, TX

Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, skipped a proposed meeting with Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek in what would have been the latest in the saga regarding the bishop’s decision to indefinitely have Pavone serve in the Texas diocese.

The bishop’s decision has been filled with controversy — with some pro-life advocates blasting him for preventing Pavone from actively engaging in his pro-life ministry and others saying the bishop’s decision should be respected. Zurek alleges that there are financial irregularities at Priests for Life despite annual audits from one of the nation’s top accounting firms.

Bishop Zurek announced on October 6 that he had invited Pavone to meet with him to discuss the issues, but Pavone did not attend — apparently on the advice of his canon lawyer.

According to the Catholic Culture web site, “On October 14–the day after the scheduled meeting–Father David Deibel, a canon lawyer representing Priests for Life, disclosed that he had advised Father Pavone not to meet with the bishop.”

“Father Deibel said that he had made numerous requests to Bishop Zurek, suggesting mediation, but had received no reply. Reporting that other Church officials had recommended mediation, the canonist said: “The details and history of the present situation are such that moving forward to a resolution is no longer simply a matter of getting together and talking.” He said that it would be best for Father Pavone not to meet with his bishop under a plan for mediation was in place,” the web site continued. “Father Deibel criticized Bishop Zurek for informing the public about his plans to meet with Father Pavone. “All of us want this entire process to be carried out in private rather than through the media,” he said, in a statement released to the media.”

Bishop Zurek told the Amarillo newspaper in response to Pavone’s decision:  “I would welcome a meeting with Father Pavone, face to face, a meeting as his bishop. I am still waiting for a favorable response to that.”

“This is a delicate internal Church matter that needs to be resolved between a bishop and his priest,” he added. “This is parallel to a human resources matter in the secular workplace. And it is even more sensitive when you factor in the relationship between a bishop and his priest as one similar to a father to a son or a brother to a brother. In this case, right now, a real concern for me is Father Pavone.”

Zurek also rebutted some reports that he has prevented Pavone from seeing a doctor or having access to the Internet to conduct some of the work of Priests for Life.

Official Statement from the Rev. David Deibel, Canonist:

As Canonical Advisor to Fr. Frank Pavone and Priests for Life, I have, on numerous occasions, communicated on their behalf with Bishop Patrick Zurek, asking for a mediator as a first step in restoring trust and facilitating healing in the relationship between the bishop and his priest.  I can attest that Fr. Pavone is eager to restore with Bishop Zurek the trust and communication that should exist between any priest and his bishop. Fr. Pavone remains in Amarillo as directed by his bishop, and remains faithful and obedient.

The details and history of the present situation are such that moving forward to a resolution is no longer simply a matter of getting together and talking. Several Church officials have made it clear that they believe mediation is necessary, and that they are willing to undertake a role as mediators. Unfortunately, Bishop Zurek has not responded to or even acknowledged any of these requests.

Instead, he wrote to Fr. Frank, asked him to come to a one-on-one meeting with him, and asked him in writing not to speak to anyone about the meeting.  Then, the next day, before Father Frank even had an opportunity to respond, the Bishop announced the meeting on the front page of the website of the Amarillo diocese.

As his canonical consultant, I advised Father Frank not to have this private meeting until the process of mediation is underway. All of us want this entire process to be carried out in private rather than through the media. He remains hopeful and prayerful that the bishop will respond privately to requests made of him, and that this situation will be resolved shortly in a truly Christian and ecclesial manner.  I ask all to respect Father’s prayerful wishes in this regard.

Reverend David L. Deibel, JD, JCL