Following demonstrations of support, Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone has asked his supporters to be thoughtful, respectful and prayerful in the dispute with his bishop.
“I would not presume to tell others how to exercise their expressive rights under the U.S. Constitution, but I want to encourage everyone in this great pro-life movement of ours to continue to be to calm, respectful, thoughtful, peaceful and above all prayerful in the manner in which they go about supporting me, personally, and the Priests for Life family of ministries that I head,” Fr. Pavone said on Sept. 27.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside his home diocese, beginning Sept. 13. He cited “deep concerns” about the financial stewardship of Priests for Life ministries and said Fr. Pavone had disobeyed him. Fr. Pavone had failed to audit the financials of all the Priests for Life ministries, he said.
Some supporters of Fr. Pavone organized protests in Amarillo. An airplane and large trucks featuring graphic images of aborted babies circled St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral and school in Amarillo, the Amarillo Globe News reports. One demonstrator, Gregg Cunningham, also was outside the cathedral, carrying a sign asking Bishop Zurek to “free” Fr. Pavone.
Cunningham, who is the executive director of the California-based Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and Kansas-based Operation Rescue president Troy Newman previously said they were mobilizing activists for peaceful protests outside Diocese of Amarillo facilities.
Fr. Pavone did not mention any specific protests in his Sept. 27 statement.
“Priests for Life has not taken the approach of public battles with, or criticism of, the hierarchy,” he said. “When there are problems or disagreements or miscommunications that involve the Church leadership, Priests for Life addresses them quietly, respectfully, and behind the scenes.”
“The current situation has been thrust upon us; we did not seek it, and we hope our actions so far have reflected adequately the respect we have for the shepherds of our Church. Be assured we are neither organizing nor endorsing public protests of any kind.”
Fr. Pavone said he had spent 20 years building up relationships with pro-life activists throughout the U.S. He expressed gratitude for the messages of support he has received.