.- Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas said today that his actions in the situation surrounding Father Frank Pavone are tied to his pastoral concern for the national director of Priests for Life. The bishop also announced that he has invited Fr. Pavone to a private meeting on Oct. 13.
“As a diocesan bishop, I am obligated to show concern for the well being and ministry of all our priests,” Bishop Zurek said in an Oct. 6 statement.
“I support with no exception the various ministries that the priests of our diocese carry out for the common good of the Church,” he added.
Bishop Zurek said that it is because of this concern that he is “seeking clarifications and answers to concerns about the administration of the Priests For Life organization and other related entities of which Fr. Pavone has a leadership role.”
The move is the latest in a situation involving Fr. Pavone being called back to the Amarillo diocese by Bishop Zurek—whose jurisdiction he is under—from his pro-life ministry in New York state.
“I called Fr. Pavone home to his Diocese of Amarillo because of my concern for him as one of my priests,” Bishop Zurek said in his Oct. 6 statement.
“The relationship of a bishop to a priest is one of a father to a son and a brother to a brother. I have asked him to pray and reflect on the sacramental ministerial priesthood that he and I share in Christ Jesus.”
Bishop Zurek had announced in a strongly-worded Sept. 9 letter to his fellow bishops that he had suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside the diocese, beginning Sept. 13.
The bishop cited “deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization.” At the time, available records indicated that the 990 Forms submitted to the IRS from 2008 show Priests for Life had income totaling $10.8 million.
After the bishop’s suspension became public, Fr. Pavone produced professional audits of Priests for Life for the years 2005-2010, which he said were sent to the diocese every year. While the organization did well in previous years, Priests for Life ran a $1.4 million deficit in 2010.
What remains unclear, diocesan officials say, are the finances of Rachel’s Vineyard and Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, two affiliated ministries. According to Fr. Pavone, audits for those groups are still being completed.
Meanwhile, Fr. Pavone is appealing his suspension from active ministry outside the diocese to the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy and is denying charges that he disobeyed the bishop and failed to have Priests for Life audited.
Bishop Zurek clarified in his Oct. 6 statement that ultimately, he wants “what is best for all organizations that support and promote those teachings that come from the heart of the Catholic Church on the dignity and gift of human life.”
“I have always supported the proclamation of the Gospel of Life,” he underscored.
He also said that wants to make “a distinction between my relationship with Fr. Pavone as a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo of which I am the Bishop,” and “my relationship with Fr. Pavone as the Director of the PFL organization and other related organizations.”
“I am inviting Fr. Pavone to a private meeting between me and him in my office on October 13, 2011 to discuss his spiritual progress during this time of prayer and reflection,” the bishop said.
“I invite all concerned to join me in prayer for both Fr. Pavone and myself for a fruitful and productive dialogue. In the end, it is my desire to see Priests For Life and all pro-life ministries flourish.”