Frank Pavone, the head of the prominent anti-choice group Priests for Life, has been suspended from his position because of concerns over financial improprieties. Pavone is a priest in the Roman Catholic diocese of Amarillo, Texas, but has used his position in Priests for Life to be a full-time political activist. He garnered national attention during the Terri Schiavo case when he called her husband Michael “a murderer.” He gained more notoriety after bringing in Alveda King to Priests for Life, when he launched “Freedom Rides” in the South in an attempt to connect abortion rights opponents to the Civil Rights Movement. Pavone increased his standing by working with Republican leaders including John McCain and Sam Brownback. Catholics for Choice has consistently warned about financial inefficiencies in Pavone’s organization and “PFL’s electoral campaign-style selling of Pavone as antichoice personality.”
The Amarillo Globe-News reports:
Amarillo’s Roman Catholic bishop ordered a nationally known anti-abortion leader back to his diocese starting Tuesday, citing concerns about a “potential financial scandal” over the priest’s management of millions of dollars in donations.
The move against the Rev. Frank Pavone, announced in a fiery letter from Bishop Patrick J. Zurek to his fellow bishops across the country, ignited a clash reaching all the way to Rome. Pavone said he’d comply with the suspension of his public ministry outside Amarillo, but he’d already appealed to the Vatican.
Priests for Life, Pavone’s Staten Island, N.Y.-based charity, “has become a business that is quite lucrative, which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight,” Zurek wrote in his Sept. 9 letter. Pavone’s fame, Zurek added, “has inflated his ego.”
The steady flow of donations has been accompanied by growing worries over how the money is used, according to Zurek’s letter.
“The financial questions and concerns have persisted with no clear and adequate answers since the time when Father Pavone was under two previous bishop ordinaries,” Zurek wrote.
Pavone called Zurek’s assertions that he has refused to provide financial documentation “completely false.”
Pavone said in a statement:
This past week, however, I received a letter from the Bishop insisting that I report to the Diocese this Tuesday, September 13 and, for the time being, remain only there.
I am very perplexed by this demand. Despite that, because I am a priest of the diocese of Amarillo, I will be obedient and report there on the appointed date, putting the other commitments that are on my calendar on hold until I get more clarity as to what the bishop wants and for how long. Meanwhile, I continue to retain all my priestly faculties and continue to be a priest in “good standing” in the Church. The bishop does not dispute this fact. Rather, he has said that he thinks I am giving too much priority to my pro-life work, and that this makes me disobedient to him. He also has claimed that I haven’t given him enough financial information.
Therefore, in the interest of preserving my good reputation as well as protecting the valuable work done by the Priests for Life organization, I have begun a process of appeal to the Vatican. This process aims to correct any mistaken decisions of the bishop in my regard and to protect my commitment to full-time pro-life activity for my whole life. We are very confident that the Vatican will resolve this matter in a just and equitable fashion. Because of this confidence, we are not currently making any changes in any positions at Priests for Life, or in any of our projects and plans.