Prominent international pro-life leader Father Frank Pavone said Monday Pope Francis “definitely signed off” on a letter that reportedly states the Vatican has laicized Pavone, for “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.”
“I have received nothing,” Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, told The Star News Network during a telephone interview Monday. “And what’s worse, that has been the pattern for the last 20 years of abuse by church authorities.”
“The pope definitely signed off on this,” he said. “And I also know that the pope has been advised that this is not the right move to make because there’s an easier solution to this, which is one actually that the Vatican already took.”
Pavone explained that three years ago, the Congregation for the Clergy authorized his transfer from the diocese of Amarillo, Texas, under Bishop Patrick J. Zurek, to another diocese.
“And the only reason that didn’t go through is that again, it was a lack of honesty and transparency,” the pro-life leader said. “It wasn’t just a matter of what bishop am I going to be under.”
Pavone said there are some bishops he can work with, and others he can’t.
“I can’t work with the one I’m connected with now, in Amarillo,” he added, “but I said there’s plenty of bishops who understand and support our work and who I respect and can communicate with – put me under one of them and we’ll move forward.”
“But when they authorized the transfer, they also threw in this ‘Oh, well, yeah, but you can only do your pro-life work 50% of the time,’ and I said, ‘What? Give me one reason, give me a single reason.’ So, the point is that the problem doesn’t lie with me. The problem is somewhere over there.”
Pavone added that, at the Vatican, “there is someone who is either getting the word from some of the American hierarchy, or has it in their own mind, that for some reason, I shouldn’t be doing this work, and that’s the nub of this problem.”
“It’s somewhat bizarre, but I’ve been actually saying to people, you know what? They’ve given us 21 years to prepare for this, because it’s the same kind of bizarre behavior that some, not all, but some of the bishops have exercised towards me and my work ever since 2001,” he said.
Also serving as the national pastoral director of Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry for women who have had abortions, Pavone said some bishops have already expressed willingness to accept him into their dioceses, and have communicated with the pope about their readiness.
“So, they know, in Rome, that there is a peaceful solution for them,” he told The Star News Network.
Pavone added, however, this “no-brainer solution” ends up not solving “the problem” for the Vatican.
“In fact, it makes it worse, because they’re trying to delegitimize this ministry,” he said.
Asked if this situation reflects a systemic problem in the Roman Catholic Church, given the sanctity of human life is one of its central teachings, and whether his own situation is representative of an emerging schism within the Church, Pavone said:
It is systemic. And I think the results of it are yet to be seen. I like to think of it in these terms. I mean, I remember talking with a Vatican cardinal some years ago, about four years ago. He said, “I’m not saying a schism will happen. But, it is no longer unreasonable to think of that as a possibility.” I agree with that. I think that’s a very reasoned assessment. It’s no longer unreasonable to think of it as a possibility now, but I prefer to think about this in terms of what the Church calls the sense of the faithful, sensus fidelium. That we believe the Holy Spirit who, you know, inspires the scriptures, is the Spirit of Christ, who is the gospel, and is behind all the key official teachings of the church, also resides in the people.
“So, the Holy Spirit enables the people to receive and understand the teaching, that is in the scriptures in the Catechism,” he explained. “If those who are appointed as the primary teachers of those scriptures in the Catechism, depart from its message, the people are going to sense that, because it’s the Holy Spirit speaking in them, saying, ‘Wait a second, these leaders who have real legitimate authority are nevertheless misspeaking, right now.’”
Pavone said he has received many messages of support from other Catholic and pro-life leaders.
“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,” Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted.
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
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, who worked with Pavone leading Pro-Life Voices for Trump, posted her reaction to Twitter as well:
Frank and I have worked so long together, I know his tenacity. I have learned so much from him and will continue to lean on him. He and I see it the same way: This is only the beginning of the pro-life movement and he has only just gotten started. 2/2
— MarjorieDannenfelser (@marjoriesba) December 19, 2022
Other leaders showed their support for Pavone:
A reminder to all the pro-abortion media gloating over Fr. Frank's laicization:
Every Catholic in the world, both priest and layperson, is required by the teachings of Christ and His Church to be 100% opposed to the killing of children in the womb.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) December 19, 2022
I stand with @frfrankpavone and his defense of life and the unborn.
— Jenna Ellis 🍊🦅 (@JennaEllisEsq) December 18, 2022
Praying for a resolution that honors the church & the preborn.https://t.co/3g56PwcgDl
— Kristan Hawkins (@KristanHawkins) December 19, 2022
Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported Saturday a letter by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, which the news agency obtained and said was “confirmed by multiple sources as authentic,” stated the prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy issued the decision regarding Pavone’s dismissal from the clergy on November 9, and added there was “no possibility of appeal.”
The CNA report of a “separate statement attached to Pierre’s letter” continued:
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. It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.
The letter, however, reportedly did not contain any specific actions that led to Pavone’s dismissal.
On his personal website, Pavone made the statement:
Cancel culture is alive and well in the Catholic Church. I’ve experienced it firsthand. And the more we are aware of it, the better we will be able to defend ourselves and others from it..
Steve Bannon’s War Room International Correspondent Ben Harnwell reported further on the move by the Vatican:
Pavone told Bannon himself that he received pushback from some of the bishops for his support for former President Donald Trump, who Pavone, and other pro-life leaders, call “the most pro-life president in the United States.”
“Some of these bishops have been angry at me for my support of Donald J. Trump and for the fact that I had told them – all the way up to the pope himself – I told them I will not back away from supporting the most pro-life president of the United States,” he said.
In response to the news of Pavone’s laicization, former Planned Parenthood director-turned pro-life leader Abby Johnson, who was mentored by Pavone during her conversion to Catholicism, said in a statement:
The Vatican has stripped Father Frank Pavone, one of the most dedicated prolife warriors, of his priesthood.
So, let’s tally the score. Fr. James Martin … gay priest who supports gay “marriage” and loads of other immoral acts – priest in good standing who continues to move up the Vatican chain of command.
Fr. Frank Pavone … faithful priest who has been the director of Priests for Life for decades and has fought tirelessly for the unborn, their mothers and former abortion clinic workers – removed from the priesthood.
“Fr. Frank has been a mentor to me for years,” Johnson said. “He shepherded me into the Church. He walked alongside me through my conversion. He is a part of our family. He is my oldest son’s godfather. He is an amazing man. I wish all clergy were as vocal as he is. He is willing to give us everything for the unborn.”
“The enemy is in our churches, friends,” the pro-life leader asserted. “Every faith tradition. All different congregations. All ages. All cultures. He is sly, charming, unassuming and incredibly convincing. Good will indeed look like evil and visa versa.”
“Stay in the word. Pray constantly. Use discernment,” Johnson warned.
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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “Frank Pavone” by Bannon’s WarRoom.