The Diocese of Amarillo confirmed to CNA that despite an invitation from Bishop Patrick J. Zurek, Fr. Frank Pavone did not meet with him on Oct. 13 and has instead asked for mediation.
“I advised Father Frank not to have this private meeting until the process of mediation is underway,” Father David Deibel, canon lawyer for Fr. Pavone and Priests for Life, said in an Oct. 14 statement.
“All of us want this entire process to be carried out in private rather than through the media.”
On Oct. 6, Bishop Zurek had invited Fr. Pavone to come to his office and explained that his actions in the situation are tied to his pastoral concern for the national director of Priests for Life.
His invitation to meet privately with Fr. Pavone was the latest move after he called the priest back to the Amarillo diocese from his pro-life ministry in New York state.
The Amarillo Globe-News reported, however, that by 5 p.m. Thursday—diocesan office closing time—Fr. Pavone had failed to arrive.
“I would welcome a meeting with Father Pavone, face to face, a meeting as his bishop,” Bishop Zurek told the Globe-News. “I am still waiting for a favorable response to that.”
On the afternoon of Oct. 14, Fr. Pavone tweeted a link to a statement from Fr. Deibel, who said he advised Fr. Pavone to not meet with Bishop Zurek because the bishop has allegedly not responded to requests for mediation.
“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,” Fr. Deibel said.
“Several Church officials have made it clear that they believe mediation is necessary, and that they are willing to undertake a role as mediators,” he added. “Unfortunately, Bishop Zurek has not responded to or even acknowledged any of these requests.”
Fr. Deibel also accused Bishop Zurek of asking to meet one-on-one with Fr. Pavone and telling the priest to not write or speak of the meeting publicly.
“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,” Fr. Deibel said.
A response to the statement by Fr. Deibel from the diocese has not yet been issued.
The situation involving Fr. Pavone and his ministry with Priests for Life first became public when Bishop Zurek's issued a strongly-worded letter to his fellow bishops on Sept. 9. The bishop said in the letter that he had suspended Fr. Pavone from public ministry outside the diocese, beginning Sept. 13.
He cited “deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization.”
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.
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 an 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.”