During her life, McCorvey said the same in public speeches and remarks.
But, the priest said, during their friendship he was humbled by “the effort that she made day-by-day, to strive to get beyond that pain.”
“You know when you know a person. And that was our experience of her,” he said.
As to charges that McCorvey was used by the pro-life movement, Pavone said that from his perspective, “I’ve never subscribed to the idea that the pro-life movement used her.”
The priest conceded, however, that “one would have to say that, as in any movement, when there’s a convert, you’ve got to be careful not to put them into the lights and the cameras before they’ve had the healing that they need.”
McCorvey was often thrust into situations for which she wasn’t ready, he said, as she also had been during her alliance with abortion advocates, and that caused her considerable hardship.
As to McCorvey’s apparent suggestion that her pro-life advocacy was a charade, Pavone said, “I can even see her being emotionally cornered to get those words out of her mouth, but the things that I saw in 22 years with her— the thousands and thousands of conversations that we had -- that was real...Her conversion was very, very sincere, and she paid a price for it.”
Pavone said that McCorvey was never on the payroll of his organization, Priests for Life. He said the organization did help her to arrange speaking engagements, until McCorvey decided that frequent travel and speeches were too emotionally difficult.
“When we were helping her cut down on her travels, we, and a number of other pro-life people and groups, knew that she was close to destitute, so we would help her” financially, Pavone said.
“She needed help, she asked for help in various ways, she accepted it, but if the person helping gave the impression that they were trying to control her, or if she felt that the person helping her was smothering her, she would push back,” Pavone said, adding that the two had difficult moments at various points of their affiliation, but, he said “you could always work things out and resolve it.”
“She suffered in so many ways. As she went through Rachel’s Vineyard, she was so very wounded,” Pavone said.
“It was a painful journey.”
Pavone said that in his view, McCorvey struggled in her final years, especially after a move from Dallas to Katy, Texas.
“In that final year, she was outside of the support network that a lot of her friends were providing in Dallas,” he said.
“There were a lot of people in those last years— even at her funeral— who were pushing themselves into her life. It was a bit of chaos in that last year of her life,” he added.
The priest said he can’t speculate about what McCorvey might have said in the forthcoming documentary, or why. He said he will be watching, from the perspective of a person who knew McCorvey for decades.
As with most of Norma McCorvey’s life, both pro-life and pro-choice advocates will be carefully watching the documentary, looking to understand the complicated truth- whatever it is- about the woman who began Roe vs. Wade.
“AKA Jane Roe” premieres May 22 on FX, and May 23 on Hulu.