Here we go again! The anger and rage on the part of pro-lifers who support Father Pavone is palpable. Here is the text of Bishop Zurek’s letter to his brother bishops on the matter. Then I’ll just throw in a few remarks at the end.
I have decided to suspend Father Frank A. Pavone from public ministry outside of the Diocese of Amarillo to take effect on September 13, 2011. For an indefinite period, I am withdrawing my permission to him to minister outside our diocese and am calling him back to spend time in prayer and reflection. My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priest For Life (PFL) organization. The PFL has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight. There have been persistent question and concerns by clergy and laity regarding the transactions of millions of dollars of donations to the PFL from whom the donors have a rightful expectation that the monies are being used prudently. These financial questions and concerns have persisted with no clear and adequate answers since the time when Father Pavone was under two previous bishop ordinaries. Since he has consistently refused to subject the PFL to a transparent and complete auditing of all expenditures, I have reasons to be alarmed at the potential financial scandal that might arise if it were the result of my failure to correct Father Pavone’s incorrigible defiance to my legitimate authority as his Bishop. Additionally, the PFL financial resources have afforded Father Pavone with a formidable civil and canonical counsel which he utilized to rebuff my every attempt at calling for financial transparency. Thus, my decision to intervene and to call him to accountability is meant to express the dire need to safeguard his priestly ministry to which I am obligated as his father and to help the Church avoid any scandal due to the national scope of the PFL’s work. At a certain point, for me to hold all this knowledge about the PFL and to turn a blind eye would increase my culpability and quote possibly amount to material cooperation.
In his relationship to his bishop ordinaries, Father Pavone has gradually lost his need to show appropriate obedience to his Bishop. It seems that his fame has caused him to see priestly obedience as an inconvenience to his unique status and an obstacle to the possible international scope of his ministry. I would venture to say that the supreme importance that he has attributed to his PFL ministry and the reductionist attitude toward the diocesan priesthood has inflated his ego with a sense of self-importance and self-determination. This attitude has strained his relationship with me and has give me the impression that I cannot invoke obedience with him because he is famous. It is my desire to help him readjust his priestly bearing through spiritual and theological renewal in order to recapture that essential priestly hallmark of respect and obedience. It is also my desire to strengthen Father Pavone’s sense of communio sacramentalis with me so that he may be fortified with a healthy zeal to live in an authentic way his sacramental gift and mystery as a priest of Jesus Christ.
If you judged it to be prudent, I would like to ask that you would inform the Christian faithful under your care to consider withholding donations to the PFL until the issues and concerns are settled.
Taking this opportunity to express my esteem and to ask for your prayers, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Patrick J. Zurek, STL, DD
Bishop of Amarillo
While I am no Vatican insider, my guts tell me that things will be resolved in a manner favorable to Father Pavone and Priests for Life. We can’t go wrong if we are dealing in the truth and seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, there is an unhealthy dose of anger at Bishop Zurek that needs to be addressed.
In the wake of the Father Corapi implosion, many were outraged that he could have been given such independence to amass a Montana ranch, boat dock, boats (yes, plural), luxury vehicles, etc. People rightly asked where his superiors were, where his bishop was.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, and we don’t like that either. The latter half of Bishop Zurek’s letter addresses a concern for Father Pavone falling into the same abyss that claimed Father Corapi. Love for Father Pavone should dictate that we give his bishop the benefit of the doubt, and allow this corrective course his bishop has taken to proceed toward the stated goal. Love for Father Pavone must admit some level of oversight, which always entails the possibility of the type of letter we see here.
For those of us who are Catholics, we need to avoid lashing out at Bishop Zurek. Sit in his chair and look at us through his eyes. Do we wish to convey the impression that the pro-life movement is a bunch of radical firebrands who are too enlightened to deal patiently and charitably with the men who are the Successors of the Apostles?
On the first Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene announced the resurrection to the apostles. John and Peter raced to the tomb, and the younger and more fleet afoot John reached the tomb first, while plodding Peter had to catch up. But John didn’t enter the tomb!
He waited for Peter, and deferred to the one who was given the Keys to the Kingdom!
When they entered, John saw and believed. Peter was confused, and took longer to process what he was seeing.
There is a lesson in that for us. We in the pro-life movement may be more fleet afoot than many of the bishops where the life issues are concerned, and we may even get ahead of them in the race to the tomb. Like John, we have a duty to respect authority.
To wait patiently.
And to not lose heart.
That’s a tall order, but the Easter narrative is our only way out of the anger trap.