Pavone’s Tangled Web May Have Led To His Downfall After Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Archdiocese of Amarillo, Texas, recalled Frank Pavone of Priests for Life over financial concerns, many of Pavone’s allies lashed out at Zurek. The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform said it would picket Roman Catholic churches in Amarillo for “hindering efforts to protect the safety of unborn children” and Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said Pavone’s suspension was “outrageous,” slamming Zurek for “casting a shadow where none should be.”
Pavone and his friends defended his financial management, but it appears that the group hit a significant financial shortfall. It appears that much of the problem involves one of Pavone’s many spinoff groups, Gospel of Life Ministries. Other Pavone-affiliated groups besides Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries include the National Pro-Life Religious Council, Rachel’s Vineyard and Faith And Action.
According to Religion News Service, Priests for Life faces a serious budget shortfall, partly as a result of its decision to loan “some $879,000 to Gospel of Life Ministries,” which lost its “tax-exempt status because it failed to file any forms for three consecutive years”:
A leading Catholic anti-abortion group whose leader is under scrutiny for failing to disclose financial details reported a $1.4 million deficit in 2010 despite collecting tens of millions of dollars in donations during recent years.
The budget shortfall at Priests For Life and a bishop’s recent decision to sharply curtail its national director’s activities raise serious questions about the group’s long-term viability.
Earlier this month, Bishop Patrick Zurek ordered Pavone to return to Amarillo, Texas, where the priest is officially based, saying Pavone had failed to answer questions about Priests For Life’s finances. The group’s financial troubles appear to partly result from the economic downturn that has hurt many nonprofits.
But an audit for 2010 released this week by PFL shows the problems also stem from debatable management decisions, such as spending nearly all of its reserve funds.
The audit shows that Priests for Life’s income, which is based largely on donations from individuals, went from $9.3 million in 2007 to $10.8 million in 2008 and $12 million in 2009.
In 2010, income dropped to $10.7 million while expenses stayed the same, resulting in a $1.4 million deficit.
Still, Pavone and PFL’s loaned some $879,000 to Gospel of Life Ministries, an offshoot of PFL that Pavone established in 2006 at the headquarters of Priests for Life in Staten Island, N.Y.
Gospel of Life Ministries was intended to unite evangelical and Catholic anti-abortion activists and to be financially self-sustaining. Instead, it relied on funds channeled from PFL to subsidize two cable television programs.
The IRS has revoked Gospel of Life’s tax-exempt status because it failed to file any forms for three consecutive years, according to GuideStar, an online database that tracks nonprofits.
Earlier this month, Zurek told the rest of the bishops in the United States that he was recalling Pavone to Amarillo and restricting his ministry until the priest complied with demands to disclose financial records and ended his “incorrigible defiance of my legitimate authority as his bishop.”
Zurek portrayed Pavone, who spends almost all his time traveling for PFL, as driven by personal ambition. Pavone has appealed Zurek’s ruling to the Vatican and said he will look for another diocese to call home.