.- Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, says he has begun the process of appealing his suspension from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo.
In a letter to the United States bishops, Fr. Pavone denied charges made by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo—whose jurisdiction he is under—that he had disobeyed the bishop and had failed to allow the Priests for Life to undergo auditing.
Bishop Zurek announced in a 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.” The 990 Forms submitted to the IRS from 2008, the most recent date available, show Priests for Life had income totaling $10.8 million.
He said that persistent questions have been raised about the way millions of dollars in donations made to the pro-life organization were handled. These questions have remained unanswered, the bishop said, because Fr. Pavone “has consistently refused to subject the PFL to a transparent and complete auditing of all expenditures.”
In addition, Bishop Zurek expressed concerns about Fr. Pavone’s obedience. “Father Pavone has gradually lost his need to show appropriate obedience to his Bishop,” he said. “It seems that his fame has caused him to see priestly obedience as an inconvenience to his unique status and an obstacle to the possible international scope of his ministry.”
In an official response, Fr. Pavone said that he was “perplexed” by Bishop Zurek’s demand.
“I have begun a process of appeal to the Vatican,” Fr. Pavone said. “This process aims to correct any mistaken decisions of the bishop in my regard and to protect my commitment to full-time pro-life activity for my whole life. We are very confident that the Vatican will resolve this matter in a just and equitable fashion.”
Fr. Pavone also responded to Bishop Zurek in a Sept. 12 letter to the American bishops. “Priests for Life has provided the diocese of Amarillo with full and complete annual audits of the finances of the Association every year since I have been incardinated in Amarillo,” he said in the letter.
Fr. Pavone stated that independent audits were conducted on Priests for Life between 2005 and 2010, but that the diocese never acknowledged the receipt of those audits.
He added that he does not receive a salary from either Priests for Life or the Diocese of Amarillo. He acknowledged that the organization does provide for his residence and ministry-associated expenses, but said that “these expenses are very small,” around $2,000 per month.
In addition, Fr. Pavone denied the charges of disobedience in connection with his ministry, saying, “I acted at all times in full obedience to my Ordinary.”
Fr. Pavone also noted that, according to the Church’s canon law, his appeal to Rome has effectively put his bishop’s order that he return to Amarillo on hold.
“Nevertheless, because of my great respect for this Bishop and my commitment to be fully obedient at all times, I am reporting to Amarillo this Tuesday, in hopes that I can sort this problem out with the Bishop in a mutually agreeable and amicable way,” he said.
Fr. Pavone has been featured for several years on EWTN’s audio series, “Defending Life.” EWTN responded to the news of Fr. Pavone’s suspension by saying that it is “in ongoing conversations with both the Diocese of Amarillo and Father Pavone to clarify the exact nature of the restrictions and their potential impact on EWTN's ability to continue to air programming featuring Fr. Frank.
“While these discussions are continuing, the Network encourages our EWTN Family to keep this matter in your prayers.”