Catholic media outlets are claiming pro-life leader and Priests for Life founder Fr. Frank Pavone has been removed from the priesthood, but questions remain.
Church Militant spoke over the phone on Sunday with Fr. Pavone, who claims he is yet to be informed of his laicization by any Catholic Church authority. Regardless of his current difficulties, Pavone is urging people to remain in the Church.
"I'm sticking with the Church," he stated. "No matter how corrupt the various clergy may be, it's NEVER an excuse to go into schism or heresy."
Various media outlets are reporting a letter from papal nuncio Abp. Christophe Pierre, accusing Pavone of "blasphemous communications on social media" and "persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop."
Church Militant obtained a copy of the letter, which states that Pavone "was dismissed from the clerical state by the Holy see on 9 November 2022."
"This action was taken after Father Pavone was found guilty in canonical proceedings of blasphemous communications on social media, and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop," the letter continues.
The letter claims Pavone "was given ample opportunity to defend himself" and "multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop."
The existence of this letter came as a shock to the pro-life priest, as he was told high-ranking Vatican officials were speaking to Pope Francis about resolving the ongoing conflict with his bishop, Patrick Zurek of the diocese of Amarillo, Texas, who has been seeking his laicization for years.
The conflict appears to center on Pavone's permission to do full-time pro-life ministry, permission he was granted in 1993 by the late Cdl. John O'Connor of the New York archdiocese. This permission was purportedly later revoked by Zurek.
"Various bishops have used and pressured Bishop Patrick Zurek (in whose diocese of Amarillo I have been incardinated) to try to block my ministry," writes Pavone in his written response to news of his alleged laicization.
"The Vatican has in various ways backed me up on that despite the obstruction of various American bishops," he noted.
He cited the Congregation for the Clergy's 2005 approval of his request to excardinate from New York to Amarillo, and the congregation's 2012 ruling in his favor "against the invalid attempts of Bishop Zurek to restrict my ministry, telling him instead to 'be generous' in letting me do this work."
He was also backed by the Vatican in 2019 after Zurek tried to punish and restrict him for openly speaking against the pro-death agenda of the Democratic Party.
Controversy arose after Pavone joined President Trump's advisory council in 2020, leading to complaints from Bp. Zurek. The Congregation for the Clergy asked that Pavone avoid political entanglements — a request Pavone quickly obeyed.
Both the Trump Campaign and I willingly and quickly complied with the request of the Congregation for the Clergy, because both the Campaign and I respect the norms of the Church and saw no problem if I didn’t have an official title or position as an advisory board member. The Campaign and I both knew that I would continue to be vocally supportive of President Trump, and that I would continue to be an invited guest at meetings with election volunteers, lead prayers, provide reflections and so forth. In fact, I increased my involvement in these activities. When the Congregation for the Clergy heard that I had complied with their wishes, they expressed quite a bit of joy and gratitude to me.
Zurek has asked that Pavone limit his work with Priests for Life to part-time work while devoting more time to pastoral ministry. It is his refusal to obey this order that seems to be the "disobedience" alleged in the Vatican decree.
On the charge of social media blasphemy, many believe it refers to his past statement against pro-abortion Catholic Joe Biden — calling him a "G*dd*mn loser" on Twitter in 2020.
Pavone claims that is not actually the reason, but rather it is his outspokenness against the Democrats.
"They just don't like the work I'm doing for these babies," he explained. "'Too aggressive on abortion.' 'You're supporting pro-life candidates.' God forbid."
Pavone doubled down on his support of Trump, calling him the "most pro-life president in history": "Really, you want to say something bad about me for supporting President Trump (who got us to this point where we are now)? I will never apologize for that."
The blasphemy is that this holy priest is canceled while an evil president promotes the denial of truth & the murder of the unborn at every turn, Vatican officials promote immorality & denial of the deposit of faith & priests promote gender confusion devastating lives…evil https://t.co/ASzjW7IuAv— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) December 18, 2022
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas spoke out against the accusation of blasphemy leveled against Pavone.
"The blasphemy is that this holy priest is canceled while an evil president promotes the denial of truth & the murder of the unborn at every turn," the bishop wrote, "Vatican officials promote immorality & denial of the deposit of faith & priests promote gender confusion devastating lives…evil."
Since the announcement of Fr. Pavone's alleged laicization, Catholics have erupted on social media expressing outrage at what they see as a grave injustice. Others, however, have expressed reservations.
In a Facebook video published Sunday, Fr. Stephen Imbarrato — a former member of Priests for Life who has known Fr. Pavone for 22 years — said he was "not surprised" by the news.
"I want to warn everybody: Be careful — because we don't know what we don't know," he said. "And that's a question you should ask. What do I know? What do I know and what don't I know about this particular situation?"
"Do I know what I see? What he tells me? What he shows me? His public persona?" he continued.
Pavone canceled his scheduled Sunday Mass, but says he's not going down without a fight. He will be taking "all appropriate canonical and civil action as well as public communications to the Faithful."
The letter from Abp. Pierre is set forth below:
This story is developing.