An aide to Frank Pavone, a pro-life leader whose dismissal from the Roman Catholic priesthood became known Saturday, said Monday that the ex-priest still hasn’t received a formal notice of his removal from ministry.
Priests for Life spokeswoman Leslie Palma said Mr. Pavone has not received an explanation of which specific social media communications were “blasphemous,” as one of the charges against him stated.
Mr. Pavone also was charged with “persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.”
In an interview on Tim Constantine’s Capitol Hill Show, a podcast that is hosted by The Washington Times, the Priests for Life president said the disobedience charge wasn’t accurate.
He has been attached to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo since 2005. Bishop Patrick J. Zurek has clashed with Mr. Pavone numerous times since the bishop was appointed to lead the West Texas diocese in 2008.
“The vicar for clergy of the very diocese I’m incardinated into sent out a public letter years ago, saying Father Frank has complied with everything we’ve asked him to do,” Mr. Pavone told Mr. Constantine.
“If what they mean is that I have not complied with orders to shut up, to walk away from my pro-life work, to abandon the 50 people that I employ in this ministry and all my colleagues in the pro-life movement, who respect and follow my leadership — well, of course, I haven’t complied with that, because for me, that would be a sin,” Mr. Pavone said on Monday’s podcast.
Mr. Pavone has drawn flack for a 2016 election-year video in which the remains of an aborted fetus appeared to have been placed on a consecrated altar. He said the surface was not an altar, but a large table sometimes used in observances at the Priests for Life headquarters in Florida.
He also was criticized for using the word “Goddamned” in describing pro-choice politicians, but he later said he repented of this and had gone to confession over the matter.
Neither incident was specifically mentioned in the official communication about his dismissal.
A native of New York state, Mr. Pavone has spent decades in the pro-life movement, most of it as president of Priests for Life, a Florida-based group that receives between $10 million and $12 million a year in donations.
The organization is not formally a part of the Catholic Church, and a Vatican representative said any decisions about Mr. Pavone’s future with the group is not a church matter.
A Dec. 13 letter from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, said the decision to remove Mr. Pavone from the clergy “with no possibility of appeal” was issued Nov. 9 by the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy.
“Father Pavone was given ample opportunity to defend himself in the canonical proceedings, and he was also given multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop,” a statement released with the letter said.
Requests for comment to the Diocese of Amarillo and to the office of Archbishop Pierre did not get a response.
Mr. Pavone, speaking to Mr. Constantine, said of Pope Francis that “if he closes the door, I’m standing there on the other side of the door … I’m gonna keep knocking.”
The Priests for Life president said Francis “has heard from some of his closest advisors that this was not a good idea; that there’s a better solution, which is to put me under the authority of a different bishop, because that bishop of Amarillo has been the cause of a lot of the trouble here.”
He said that “if I have to wait” for the next pope to reverse Francis’ decision, he’s willing to do so.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going away from the pro-life work. My staff, my board are with me 1,000%. The work is not even slowing down, much less stopping,” he said.