storm clouds over Amarillo
Don't look now, but the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, the religious order founded in 2005 by Father Frank Pavone, has quietly been disbanded. The Missionaries continue to exist as a lay association, but the lay members may be confused, since they originally signed up as lay affiliates of an order that no longer exists.
The disappearance of the religious order reflects a decision by the Amarillo (Texas) diocese, ratified by the Vatican. In the long run, the move may presage further troubles for Priests for Life, Father Pavone's more successful venture. The Missionaries were only a small part of the overall operation of Priests for Life. In fact, Church leaders had grown increasingly concerned that the religious order could be inappropriately controlled by a secular corporation-- and a corporation with a strong political bent, at that. But there's more to the story. Church officials in Amarillo and in Rome were reportedly concerned about possible confusion in fundraising between the religious order and the secular corporation. Beyond that there were-- and still are-- concerns about the successful fundraising by Priests for Life, a group that has been raising tidy sums with minimal ecclesiastical control.
Father Pavone is no stranger to conflict with diocesan officials. He enjoys his independence. Diocesan officials are rarely comfortable with priests who operate independently. So a conflict should not come as a surprise.
Nearly a year ago, when this conflict was first beginning to unfold behind the scenes, Father Pavone made an unusually acerbic column on his blog:
Put simply, there are too many leaders in the Church who are more concerned about controlling God’s work than about doing God’s work. The control freaks want everything done at their command and according to their specifications - or not done at all.
Now you know what that was about. But to be fair, the same criticism might be turned on Father Pavone, who has been reluctant to cede any control over his own movement.
The question isn't whether or not the Church will support pro-life work. The question is whether priests and religious, when they engage in pro-life work, remain subject to ecclesiastical discipline.
The answer, by the way, is Yes. You can learn that the easy way or learn it the hard way.
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