"Her story, and really anybody's story, especially if they've been on a journey, can't be told by an interview, a snapshot. It has to be told through a look at the whole journey."
Pavone himself is no stranger to controversy. The priest has been criticized for his engagement, as a cleric, in the political campaigns of President Donald Trump. In 2016, Pavone made a video in which he showed the body of an aborted baby on a table on which Mass was regularly celebrated, while he advocated for the election of Donald Trump, an act which his own bishop called a "desecration."
CNA has previously covered those controversies, and has raised questions yet unanswered about Pavone's diocese of incardination and status in the Church.
But the priest spoke with CNA May 19 only about his relationship with McCorvey.
Pavone said he met McCorvey when she was baptized, and the two struck up a friendship. A few years later, when McCorvey told him she'd decided to become a Catholic, the friendship deepened. Pavone concelebrated the Mass at which she was confirmed and received into the Catholic Church.
Pavone told CNA that just weeks before McCorvey died, she spoke with him about a message she hoped he'd convey at the annual March for Life, encouraging young people to oppose abortion.
"There was no indication whatsoever, at the end of her life," that she had recanted her pro-life positions, he said.
He wondered about the context of the quotes shown in advance of the documentary's release.
"What was said before that? What was said after that? What does the raw footage show?" he asked.
Pavone said that in his view, McCorvey carried a lot of pain, from the difficulty of her life, and a sense of responsibility for the Roe vs. Wade decision, and its consequences.
During her life, McCorvey said the same in public speeches and remarks.
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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."