NEW YORK (RNS) The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life and a leading anti-abortion crusader, was braving freezing temperatures with thousands of others at the annual March for Life on Wednesday (Jan. 22), but at least he can look forward to a warm embrace from the Catholic Church.

After years of tensions with various bishops, Pavone has complied with demands to straighten out the group’s finances and to become accountable to his home diocese in New York.

A year ago, the Rev. Frank Pavone was facing an unexpected existential crisis, confined by his bishop to a diocese in the Texas panhandle and fighting accusations of financial mismanagement. Now Pavone is back, with a new mission: defeating Barack Obama and making his anti-abortion group answerable only to Rome. RNS photo by David Gibson

The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life and a leading anti-abortion crusader, was braving freezing temperatures with thousands of others at the annual March for Life on Wednesday, but at least he can look forward to a warm embrace from the Catholic Church: After years of tensions with various bishops, Pavone has complied with demands to straighten out the group’s finances and to become accountable to his home diocese in New York. RNS photo by David Gibson


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The news came in a December letter sent to the nation’s Catholic bishops by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, where Priests for Life has been based for several years.

In the letter, part of which was reproduced this month in a Long Island Catholic newspaper, Zurek said Pavone had restructured Priests for Life so that it would become “a true ecclesial association.” Zurek also said Pavone, under the direction of the Vatican, had complied with his request “for more adequate and transparent reporting of finances to the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Pavone has long been known — and revered by his supporters — as an independent-minded priest with a passion for battling abortion and a penchant for picking fights, both political and ecclesial.

But when reports in 2011 showed that his group was running a $1.4 million deficit — despite taking in tens of millions in donations — and failing to make proper tax filings, Zurek denounced Pavone’s “incorrigible defiance of my legitimate authority as his bishop.” He ordered Pavone to suspend his ministry and remain in the diocese until he straightened everything out.

Pavone had decamped to Amarillo from New York in 2005 after clashing with then-Cardinal Edward Egan of New York. Zurek’s demands stunned the anti-abortion community and sparked another controversy.

In an interview with RNS in late 2012, Pavone was unapologetic and said he was hatching plans to make Priests for Life answerable directly to the Vatican, which he saw as more amenable to his ministry. “Priests for Life has outgrown its canonical structure” as a group that answers to a local bishop, he said.

In November 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy decided that Pavone’s group should answer to the archbishop of New York — currently Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whom Pavone has also publicly chided — and Pavone is now back in Staten Island. Records also indicate that the group’s tax filings are up to date, though there was no further information on the financial health of the organization.

“I am happy that this process is at an end and I hope and pray that Father Pavone and PFL may now continue its important work in the defense of all human life, especially that of the unborn,” Zurek said in his letter.

In an email, Pavone also declared himself “happy with the developments that have transpired.”

“We have had a fruitful year in 2013, and we look forward to an even more fruitful year in 2014, in full communion with the church and the entire pro-life movement,” he wrote. He also indicated that the organization is gearing up to fight the Obama administration’s contraception mandate and to defeat Catholic politicians who support abortion rights in this fall’s midterm elections.

KRE/MG END GIBSON

13 Comments

    • Demonstrate by force of principle and logic that Pavone is corrupt. I was hoping you, Earold, wouldn’t fall into that trap that is the essence of contemporary liberalism: being judgmental about groups that liberals accuse of being judgmental, and possessing nothing of a coherent philosophy to underpin your judgments in the first place.

      Earold, yours above is but an emotional tantrum. You seem to have none of it for some glaring abuses by government officials we have elected.

      Come on, Earold, and return with some reasoned responses to issues.

      By the way, I’m glad that Pavone was forced to straighten out the books. That’s as it should be. Too bad we’ve nobody to force Congress and the administration to do likewise.

      • Ignorance trolling Duane again?
        Did you read the article before spouting off?

        Pavone’s own church was accused him of financial impropriety and tax fraud. The bishop of the region where the organization was formed leveled the accusations against Pavone.

        Pavone restructured the organization to avoid the hammer falling. Essentially the Catholic Church took direct control of the organization in light of the improprieties.

        So now you are defending tax fraud and embezzlement? I guess I was right. As long as you agree with their cause, you will support any kind of person. Regardless of their character.

        • Larry, you are the troll you accuse others of being. I said directly–can you read?– that I’m glad Pavone straighted out the books. Apparently whatever he did has not got him into trouble with the IRS here at home, and the Vatican exercised oversight–for a change.

          You read what you wish to read into what others write, and I accuse you of having a rather limited ability to correlate your “feelings” with what someone actually has said or written.

          As is your wont, you’d have the IRS come down on him and throw him in jail simply to satisfy your hate. That hasn’t happened so you turn your hate to anyone supporting Pavone’s mission.

          Let me make it simple for you, Larry: I support Pavone’s positions; I am glad that he’s cleaned up what required cleaning; I have no problem with the Vatican having voiced its concerns directly and through the American bishops.

          You an entrepeneur with your demonstrated limited ability to read and understand? Somehow I think fiction plays a large role in your perceptions.

          I remind you also that I defend your decision to provide healthcare to your employees, and I condemn any interference by the federal government in your decsion. Perhaps, however, your “management” is another fiction. Don’t know and don’t care; we’re arguing philosophical principles here–well, I am even though you never do.

          • Do you know what they call an embezzler who puts money back to the accounts they stole from?

            An embezzler.

            Pavone got Vatican oversight because they did trust his control of the organization. The fact that he did not get in trouble with the IRS (yet) tells us more about their lack of ability to enforce the laws and the opacity of the finances involved than anything else.

            You are more than willing to overlook impropriety as long as he squares it with the Church. Not much different than how the Church handles other forms of abuse.

          • Larry, if Pavone is an embezzler in the IRS’s mind, then it is up to them to pursue justice. I have no problem with that. It would seem, given Pavone’s place as a rather public figure, that “government” would already have gone after him.

            Perhaps you know embezzlement better than the government and can communicate your concerns and even give them in-service on the subject.

          • Yes it is a matter of the law and the church should have no business interfering with any such investigations, should they be leveled.

      • Duane, it is not my fault you were unable to understand both my principle, and logic. Maybe you need to clean the right wing fog from the inside the bubble in which you reside, so you can actually read the words I wrote, which contained no reference to Pavone.

        I had some hope for you Duane, as I recently saw a comment where you typed two whole sentences without using the word “liberal” once, but alas my hopes have been dashed.

        So, even though you went all ad hominem on me, calling my comment “emotional tantrums”, which by the way made me cry, lie on the floor, hold my breath and kick my feet, I’ve now composed myself and will try to give you the explanation you desire, although I owe you nothing.

        I am almost positive you know how I feel about the catholic church but let me just write a few things, so you may have no misunderstanding. You see I have principles, morals, and ethics that are diametrically opposed to this organization. They have child rapist and sexual molesters within it. They have known this for many years. Not only did they not stop this from happening and turn these criminals over to the law, they moved them from one parish to another to save the reputation of this church, giving these criminals fresh victims to abuse as well.

        Although I’ve suspected this has been known by the church hierarchy, I’ve always measured my words carefully because no evidence had been presented. This recently changed in Chi-town, and it is clear that it was at least was know to these bishops, and I still suspect much higher. Therefore I called it a morally corrupt organization, although this is just one reason, but one I hope you can find easier to comprehend.

        Now onto the Priests for Life; this organization is fighting against the very principle of the fourteenth amendment, that is American citizen have equal rights and protection under the law. Although it is legal under our laws, I do not like abortion, and would want those American citizens who choose to have it performed, not to have done so without thought. However, it is not for me, or anyone else to say what is right or wrong for a free American citizen to do what the law of this great country allows. They must deal with their choices, just like everyone else does.

        It is especially reprehensible for an organization based on superstitious belief, so full of judgment to itself judge; both hypocritical and immoral. There religious text tells tails of their god killing so many people, even children for simply making fun of a bald man, but they have the unmitigated audacity to point at these Free American citizens and say they are doing anything wrong. This organization has kindred spirits in other immoral organizations like the westborogh baptist church, and those muslim sects that want to force everyone in their country to follow sharia law, only theirs comes from the bible, a supposedly holy book full of atrocities, contradictions and fallacy, therefore I called it a morally corrupt organization.

        Perhaps my meaning can best be summed up in a simple phrase.

        Religion is poison!!

        • Earold, if I accomplished nothing else, I drew out more explanation from you of your positions, most of which I can understand and some of which I can agree with. Thanks.

          I agree with the tone of your comments about the Catholic Church, and I agree that these perverts should have faced justice. Where I disagree is your generalization from this that the Church is essentially corrupt. I say this as one raised in the Church who spent years in seminary, but has since distanced myself from active participation in it. That the conduct within the Church that was kept under wraps is scandalous and crippling to the Church in general, at least in this country and in Europe, all this is without question. It does not touch the essential doctrines that the Church holds and proclaims, however. I cannot ignore the fundamental truths.

          You’ll have to explain how the 14th Amendment impacts on abortion law. I don’t see it. I see an “expanded” reading of the Constitutiion giving cover to a nine-member gaggle of jurists cover for their rulings–well, at least majority rulings. If you want to talk about “equal protection,” perhaps you can explain what is equal in this protection as far as a fetus is concerned, especially one well along in its development. I know you are not in favor of abortion yourself, but I can’t understand what you see in the Amendment even to permit SCOTUS to justify it.

          And then there’s the “privacy” issue which the Warren court used in Roe v Wade. If privacy is paramount, then I should have the right to privately off an individual if I feel like doing so.

          I’ll say again what I’ve said elsewhere, Earold, concerning the horrors found in the Old Testament: Christianity is not much based on the OT. The Jesus of the New Testament gives an entirely different emphasis to the place of God in the lives of people and the relationships among people. What do you find superstitious there? Where’s the evil? Yes, there was the Inquisition, but what has that to do with the NT itself. Yes, it had plenty to do with that admixture of the state and the church in those times–which probably figured prominently among the Founders when they decided we didn’t need another country with an established religion.

          Radical Islam? Yes, it’s a would-be political force with an agenda foreign to most Muslims’ thinking. Islamist mullahs should be “taken out of service” and likewise their followers who’ve organized and led the gullible terrorists. Westborn is a small congregation, entirely devoted to its special brand of harrassment. We can conclude, thusly, that what Westborn does is the essence of Westborn. That can’t be said of the Catholic Church except in a small way in some of its parts. Abuse is not of the essence of the Church.

          Perhaps this latest exchange, Earold, finds us more in agreement than disagreement.

  1. Duane, “That the conduct within the Church that was kept under wraps is scandalous and crippling to the Church in general, at least in this country and in Europe, all this is without question.” You forgot a few other locations where sexual predators are feasting on their sheep while wrapped in wolf skin Duane, so I’ll fill them in for you. Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America. That pretty much covers most of the world. This is organizational wide.
    “It does not touch the essential doctrines that the Church holds and proclaims, however.” I would disagree, I believe it is mostly driven by the doctrine of celibacy for humans.

    “If you want to talk about “equal protection,” perhaps you can explain what is equal in this protection as far as a fetus is concerned, especially one well along in its development.” Equal protection for “American Citizens”, unborn have not yet reached this status, therefore do not have this protection, but the mothers do.

    As far as christians distancing themselves from the OT; if I were one, I would, as it is simply indefensible. However they have an issues with several of the NT verses like those found in Matthew 5 & 15, Luke 16, Mark 7, Timothy 3, and John 7 & 10.

    As far as your statement “Abuse is not of the essence of the Church.” we do have common ground. It is not the church that is abusive, it is religion itself. It is a fabrication created to control people, to keep them from thinking logically and with reason.

    Got to go make the donuts, have a good ay!

    Religion is poison!!

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