Catholic World News

New disciplinary action looming for Father Pavone?

December 11, 2014

Father Frank Pavone, the founder of Priests for Life (PFL), once again faces possible disciplinary action because of his refusal to allow episcopal oversight of his organization’s finances.

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has revealed, in a letter to the bishops of the US, that the Vatican conducted an apostolic visitation of Priests for Life last year. After that investigation, the cardinal says, he was asked by the Congregation for the Clergy to “assist Father Pavone with several necessary reforms.”

However, Cardinal Dolan writes, Father Pavone has not cooperated with the reforms. As a result, the cardinal has told the Vatican that “I am unable to fulfill their mandate, and want nothing further to do with the organization.”

“What the Apostolic See intends to do, I have no idea,” Cardinal Dolan tells his brother bishops in his letter, dated November 30. (CWN has obtained a copy of the letter.) The cardinal’s letter, reporting Father Pavone’s refusal to undertake reforms, points toward the possibility of action by the Vatican against the controversial priest.

In his letter Cardinal Dolan reminds the other American bishops that Father Pavone has a history of clashing with the prelates who have sought to oversee his work. PFL was founded in New York, but after disputes there with Cardinals John O’Connor and Edward Egan, the pro-life activist sought and received a transfer to the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. But his troubles continued there, and he was eventually suspended by Bishop Patrick Zurek. The suspension was lifted in 2012 after an appeal to the Vatican, but the difficulties persisted, leading to the apostolic visitation.

Father Pavone’s disagreements with his bishops have usually involved control of PFL finances. Persistent questions have been raised about the proportion of PFL’s annual budget that is devoted to fundraising, the salaries given to executives chosen by Father Pavone, and loans given to other pro-life organizations. When he took disciplinary action against the pro-life priest in 2011, Bishop Zurek said that Father Pavone had managed to “rebuff my every attempt at calling for financial transparency.”

Cardinal Dolan sounds a similar note in his November 30 letter. He disclosed that he had called for a full audit of PFL expenses and the creation of a new independent board to give the organization proper oversight. “Although Father Pavone initially assured me of his support, he did not cooperate,” the cardinal reports.

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  • Posted by: wcbeckman51 - Dec. 12, 2014 9:04 PM ET USA

    What reason has Fr. Pavone put forth for not obeying lawful Church authority? None quickly comes to mind. I think it's time for him and Priests for Life to show cause why they should not be held in contempt (to use a courtroom term). And please, save us from the "victim" ruse employed by the defenders of Fr. Corapi.

  • Posted by: jimr451 - Dec. 11, 2014 8:14 PM ET USA

    I'm a little disappointed at the repeated controversy with this group. I used to support them financially, but stopped a few years back. While Fr. Pavone may not done anything improper, it seems a reasonable request to explain where the money goes.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 11, 2014 6:39 PM ET USA

    I am at a loss to understand Fr. Pavone's apparent inability to practice the virtue of obedience to legitimate authority. It gives me great sadness because the cause of defending life is so vital in our secular, me-first society. Such obstinacy cannot help but imply the existence of some level of misfeasance or even malfeasance in the operation of PFL. It may be time for the Holy See or the Archdiocese of New York to take receivership of the organization.