Archive for the ‘Priests’ Category


News comes today from the Religion News Service that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose oversight of Priests for Life’s finances was welcomed by Father Pavone several months ago, has turned sour, leading Cardinal Dolan to express the same exasperation as several of Father Pavone’s previous bishops. From RNS:

NEW YORK (RNS) In the latest clash between the Catholic hierarchy and one of the church’s leading anti-abortion crusaders, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan accused the Rev. Frank Pavone of continuing to stonewall on financial reforms, and Dolan said he is cutting ties with his group, Priests for Life.

In a Nov. 20 letter to other U.S. bishops, Dolan said he did not know if the Vatican would now step in to take action against the New York-based priest, who for years has angered various bishops by rejecting oversight of the organization by church authorities and for refusing to sort out his group’s troubled finances.

“My requests of Father Pavone were clear and simple: one, that Priests for Life undergo a forensic audit; two, that a new, independent board be established to provide oversight and accountability,” Dolan wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Catholic World News.


“Although Father Pavone initially assured me of his support, he did not cooperate. Frequent requests that he do so went unheeded. I finally asked him to comply by October 1st. He did not,” Dolan wrote.

Dolan, who had been asked by the Vatican to help Pavone restructure Priests for Life, said in the letter that he has informed Rome that “I am unable to fulfill their mandate, and want nothing further to do with the organization.”

The cardinal said he had “no idea” what the Vatican intends to do now.

In a statement emailed to Religion News Service on Monday (Dec. 15), the Staten Island-based Priests for Life rebuffed Dolan’s criticisms, contending that the group has had “clean” audits for 15 years and saying the dispute is, in fact, “about control.”

That last statement from PFL is regrettable, and one that I fear may signal a return to the smear campaign deployed against Bishop Zurek by several of Father Pavone’s supporters a few years ago. Is it really all about control? So far the bishop’s complaints have never progressed beyond the issue of accounting and accountability, so the charge about control really comes off as a smokescreen tactic to many faithful Catholics who are every bit as pro-life as the staff at PFL.


In the last go-round on this issue, several supporters of Father Pavone mercilessly smeared Bishop Zurek as wanting to ruin Father Pavone, to wreck his ministry, of being a pawn of Satan. As many are not Catholic, it was easy to chalk much of that invective up to ignorance of the very nature of a bishop and his sacred office, of the respect and obedience due him from every Catholic, but especially from priests who register sacred vows of respect and obedience at their ordinations. What was appalling was the silence from PFL in the face of this merciless pillorying of Bishop Zurek.

At the time, Bishop Zurek indicated the nature of the problem, as retold by RNS:

In 2011, Zurek denounced Pavone’s “incorrigible defiance of my legitimate authority as his bishop” and suspended his ministry. It then emerged that Priests for Life had been badly mismanaged, running an unsustainable $1.4 million deficit and failing to make key tax filings or allow proper financial oversight and safeguards.

Pavone moved back to New York, saying he had the Vatican’s support and that he would not be cowed by any bishop. Then earlier this year, he and Zurek said they reached a settlement in their standoff and the problems seemed on their way to a resolution.

But that apparently wasn’t the case, and Pavone’s fate now seems to rest with Rome.


So what will it be now? Will the narrative be that Cardinal Dolan really isn’t all that pro-life? That gay-loving prelate who welcomed a gay contingent into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York! On a few occasions when I have thought Cardinal Dolan erred badly, I wrote about it. But I didn’t smear him. I didn’t impugn his motives. I didn’t encourage a rebellion against him. I encouraged him to look to the examples of his predecessors in office. And all of that raises what is really at issue here.

What does it mean to be a faithful son of the Church?

At its core it means fidelity to the Magisterium and to one’s bishop. This fidelity is required of laity as well as clerics and finds its scriptural roots in 1 Thessalonians 5: 11-13

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

In this chapter, PFL needs to strike a new tone. They need to put the “Priest” back in Priests for Life. How Catholic or priestly is it to set one’s supporters against a string of bishops? That new tone begins with respect and obedience towards one’s bishop. If the accounting is all in order, then we should get to that point. It would then become abundantly clear if “control” is at issue. That said, Bishop Zurek’s assertion three years ago bears mention again.

As Father Pavone’s Bishop, Patrick Zurek bears moral responsibility for the stewardship of PFL’s finances if there is mismanagement by one of his priests of the $10 Million annual budget, and Bishop Zurek will answer to God for whether or not he exercised his sacred office with prudence and diligence.


What is certain from the published record is that there has been a fractious relationship between Father Pavone and several of his bishops through the years. Equally objective are the horrendous characterizations of these bishops by many of Father Pavone’s supporters. Also equally certain is the fact that no amount of anti-abortion crusading and success can justify these grotesque allegations against the bishops. Even if Bishop Zurek were a bishop who ranked pro-life ministry at the bottom of his list of priorities, this much is also certain:

Every priest serves at the pleasure of his bishop, and his bishop owes him no explanation for changing that priest’s assignment.

Who knows what other news might be in the wings? Regardless, this time around, PFL needs to change tack and get off the smear campaign. It’s a losing strategy with faithful Catholics who ask the simple question:

What would Padre Pio do?


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Day 9

“To love the good God with our whole heart is to prefer Him to everything…to love nothing that is incompatible with the love or God. To love the good God with our whole mind is to think of Him often, and to make it our principle study to know Him well…To love the good God with all our strength. is to employ our possessions, our health, and our talents, in serving Him and glorifying Him. It is to refer all our actions to Him, as our last end..”– St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, your precious remains are contained in a magnificent reliquary, the donation from the priests of France. But this earthly glory is only a very pale image of the unspeakable glory which you are enjoying with God. During the time you were on earth, you used to repeat in your dejected hours, ‘one will rest in the other life.” It is done, you are in eternal peace, and eternal happiness.

I desire to follow you one day. Until then, I hear you saying to me:
“You should work and fight as long as you are in the world.”

Teach me then to work for the salvation of my soul, to spread the good news and good example and to do good towards those around me in order that I will receive the happiness of the Elect with you.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for me during this novena especially for grace to accept the Apostolic governance that our Lord established for his Church, that I might empty myself of all my fears and apprehensions of what this estrangement of priest and bishop might entail for the cause of life, and to be filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all understanding. Through your intercession, may we all draw closer to our bishops and our priests, those who make this cause a priority, and those whose focus is on other, equally essential, causes for the People of God.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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{Click to enlarge}

I’ve said pretty much all that needs to be said in four posts and a Novena to Saint John Vianney. There isn’t very much more to say except this:

The Church is not a democracy.

Some years ago I read a commentary by the brilliant Dr. Janet Smith about how the media reports on the Catholic Church. Essentially, Dr Smith observes, the media try to apply the template of the majority party in power (conservative Popes) and the minority opposition (liberal theologians). It doesn’t work with the media, because they fail to grasp the ecclesiastical realities of the Church. Again, it’s not a democracy.

There really is no such thing as liberal and conservative. There is orthodoxy and fidelity vs. heterodox rebellion. They aren’t competing goods.

Many of Father Pavone’s more vocal supporters are non-Catholics who see him in terms of a fellow warrior in the cause for life, and there is a great deal to be said for having been foxhole buddies who have come through major battles together. It is truly a band of brothers in the pro-life movement, and I understand and applaud their fidelity to Father Pavone. However…

If they (and the very vocal Catholics protesting against Bishop Zurek) truly understood what a bishop is and what a priest is, they wouldn’t have taken the course of action that they have. This terse clarification from Bishop Zurek translates: I’m the one who wears the Mitre, and I’ll decide what is best for one of my priests (That’s what was meant by, “At my discretion and solicitude, he has faculties for ministry in the Diocese of Amarillo.”).

It’s time to back off. Flying banners of butchered babies, trucks with similar grisly images circling the Cathedral school, are pretty thuggish tactics from Father’s supporters, as are some of the letters people sent me in hopes of my signature. I have signed no letters. I have made no phone calls to the bishop. I have instead been hosting a novena. I have also written to Father Pavone to convey my support of him, and my prayers that God’s perfect will be done.

The thought that the pro-life movement simply cannot survive without Father Pavone is reflective of a serious spiritual cramp. I love all that Father Pavone has done, but one day he and I and this entire generation will be dead and interceding from Heaven. It will fall to today’s young to assume the mantle of leadership.

The one whom we cannot survive without is the Holy Spirit.

To remove all doubt:

A priest has no priesthood of his own to exercise at will. He is merely an extension of his bishop, who being an Apostolic Successor, has the fullness of priesthood. Having a share in the Apostles’ company, bishops are free to act as they see fit regarding governance of their priests, so long as that governance is in accord with the moral and juridical norms of the Church. This bishop has underscored that he has restricted Father Pavone’s activities in order to provide a space for reflection.

I’ve been urging that all simply give these two men the time and space to work this out. Our getting into a power struggle with Bishop Zurek will only reinforce his belief that Father needs some time away in order to reorient his priestly bearing. The thuggishness and wild accusations against Bishop Zurek have backfired, badly I’m afraid.

Consider the wisdom of Rabon Gamaliel in Acts 5:

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

It’s time that those making war on the bishops ask themselves if they are not fighting against God Himself by fighting His will being expressed through His Apostle’s Successors. They are redefining ugly.

I’m praying for God’s perfect will in all of this, and I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to make that will known with crystal clarity. Again, if we can’t hear the Holy Spirit, perhaps we need to be still. Street activism has failed in this case. Perhaps now we should try faith.

H/T Deacon Greg Kandra<

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Day 8

“Three things are wanted to preserve purity – the presence of God, prayer and the Sacraments.”– St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, a witness of your life made this magnificent praise of you:
‘We would have taken him for an angel in a mortal body.”

You so edified others: the modesty and the exquisite purity radiated from your body. With such charm and with such enthusiasm you preached to others about these beautiful virtues which you said resembled the perfume of a vineyard in bloom.

Please I beg you to join your entreaties to those of Mary Immaculate and Saint Philomena in order that I guard always, as God asks me, the purity of my heart. You, who have directed so many souls towards the heights of virtue, defend me in temptations and obtain for me the strength to conquer them.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena that Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek may join their hearts to our Lord’s Sacred Heart, that bound up in His Holy Priesthood they might come to know and do His will; that the laity in the pro-life movement be ever mindful of the authority and sacred trust Jesus placed in His bishops, that they be trusting of His promise to send His Holy Spirit who will lead them to all truth.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 6

“In Heaven, faith and hope will exist no more for the mist which obscures our reason will be dispelled…But love; oh we shall be inebriated with it! we shall be drowned, lost in that ocen of divine love, annihilated in that immense charity of the Heart of Jesus! so that charity is a foretaste of Heaven.”– St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney because of your love of God you showed great charity towards your neighbor. You could not preach on the Love of God without burning tears of love. During your last years, it seemed as though you could not talk about any thing else or live for anything else. Thus you sacrificed yourself to your neighbor by consoling, absolving and sanctifying them to the limits of your strength.

Your charity inspires me to greater love of God, a love which is shown more by acts then by words. Help me to love my neighbor generously as Christ loves them.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray that both bishop and priest may come together imbued with the spirit of your charity in their regard for one another, that within this honest space you may send your Holy Spirit to light their hearts afire with a spirit of mutual submission to whatever your holy will is for them.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 5

When we have just received communion, if we were asked what are we taking away to our homes, we might answer, “I am taking away Heaven!” – St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, whose only comfort in this world was the real presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, was it not your great joy to distribute the Eucharist to the pilgrims who visited you? You refused Communion to the souls who refused to reform but to souls of goodwill you opened wide the doors of the Eucharistic Feast.

You, who each day at Holy Mass received Holy Communion with great love, give me some of your fervor. With freedom from mortal sin, obtain for me a sincere desire to profit from receiving Holy Communion.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena that Eucharistic zeal may possess both bishop and priest in Amarillo and lift them up to a shared vision for Your Holy Will in this dispute.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

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Day 4

It is a beautiful thought, my children, that we have a sacrament that heals the wounds of our souls! – St. Jean Vianney

O Holy Priest of Ars, you knew how important was a good confession for the Christian life. It was to procure the happy fruits of millions of souls that you agreed to be in an uncomfortable confessional, which was like a prison, up to 15 to 16 hours on certain days.

I will try to develop the habit of frequent confession, to prepare properly each time and to have always regret for my sins, so that the grace of final perseverance but also the sanctification of my soul will be assured. Ask this grace for me.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray during this novena for the refreshment of Father Pavone’s soul during this time of trial.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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Day 3

How good is the Good God! The angels sin, and are cast into hell. Man sins, and God promises him a Deliverer. What have we done to deserve this favor? – St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Mary Baptist Vianney, you were so adamant against sin, yet so sympathetic and so ready to welcome the sinner. I come to you today as if you were still alive, as if I were kneeling at your feet and you could hear me. Bend towards me, listen to the repentant confidence for the weaknesses and miserable deeds of mine.

Priest of the Lord, inexhaustible Confessor, obtain for me the horror for sin. You wanted us First to avoid the occasion of sin. I want totake your advice and make the resolution to break bad habits and to avoid the dangerous occasions of sin. Help me today to examine my conscience.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for the pro-life movement’s leaders who need your constant guidance.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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I said I wouldn’t comment again until a resolution had been reached, but this weekend’s developments cannot go unanswered. Some of Father Pavone’s supporters in the pro-life movement have descended on Amarillo, Texas, with tactics normally reserved for the enemies of life. Banners being towed by planes showing aborted babies, and trucks sporting images of aborted babies circling St. Mary’s Cathedral and school, a campaign to vilify Bishop Zurek…

It’s twisted, and it’s wrong. It’s also starting to alienate allies.

Here is a comment from a mother of a child being besieged with such disturbing photos, as written at Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog:

Angry Mom
My children attend St. Mary’s Cathedral School. I wish someone in this group protesting would realize that my kids shouldn’t be able to view these pictures. They are outside of a school. My kids shouldn’t have to be around pictures of dead fetuses. If they have a problem with the bishop’s decision, they need to wait until he comes back, or get a petition going. Hello????

I agree with her. I don’t want my children seeing those images either. They are too young and not ready emotionally for such a sight. This is thuggishness, holding children and parents hostage until the activists get their way.

Is this what Father Pavone is all about? Is this his great life’s work? I think not, but people are asking why he hasn’t called off the dogs.

Bishop Zurek didn’t come to town and immediately change course, which is still his episcopal prerogative, anyway. He allowed Father Pavone to continue on in his ministry and launched an investigation of the finances and the prudential use of monies after receiving complaints from clergy and laity alike. That’s his responsibility.

Then he took further action (however clumsily and uncharitably) when he didn’t like the answers he was getting, which is also his responsibility. And now, here we are. Trucks sporting pictures of murdered babies circling a Catholic school until Father Pavone’s friends get their way.


This is not how the Holy Spirit works. He unites. He does not divide.

It also might just work, but it will come at a terrible, terrible price. It is already creating a split in the pro-life community and causing Father Pavone to lose more stature than Bishop Zurek could with ten more letters like the first. It’s called a Pyrrhic Victory. From Wikkipedia:

The phrase is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius:

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

In both of Pyrrhus’s victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers, so their casualties did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus’s casualties did to his.

The bishops are watching and taking careful note. We want more involvement from them, more outspokenness. We want more priests involved in the pro-life cause. How many bishops in their right mind would consent to further involvement if they suspect that this circus would arrive at their door should they dare to discharge the duties of their office, should the need arise?

The beauty of Priests for Life has been the visage of priests sent by their bishops to bring the heart of the Church to this fight. Priests acting in communion with their bishops, strengthening the hearts of the faithful who wage spiritual and political war on the storm troopers from Hell itself.

This siege on the Cathedral and children in Amarillo is a distortion of that visage. It suggests a loss of mission and perspective. We Catholics like our priests in union with their bishops. This has become ugly.

Father Pavone needs to call off the dogs. He needs to stress respect for his bishop in all matters. He needs to lead the movement in prayerful discernment and focus the faint of heart on God’s providence, which is boundless. He needs to protect the children at St. Mary’s School, especially as he is a priest of that diocese, and they are being assaulted in his name.

Not so far from Amarillo is the site of one of the great Pyrrhic victories in American history, The Alamo.

General Santa Anna had himself a victory there, even though he lost twice as many men as the Texians. However, he was perceived as so cruel that the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo” would lead to his defeat shortly thereafter.

Making war on children in order to muscle a bishop into submission to activists has the potential to make Amarillo not only Father Pavone’s Alamo, but ours as well.

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Today is Day 2 of our novena.

Day 1 here.

Day 2

When we pray with attention, with humility of mind and of heart, we quit the earth, we rise to Heaven, we penetrate the Bosom of God, we go and converse with the angels and the saints. – St. Jean Vianney

Saint John Marie Baptist Vianney, what confidence the people had in your prayers! You could not leave your old rectory or your humble church without being surrounded by imploring souls, who appealed to you as they would have appealed to Jesus Himself during His earthly life. And you, O good Saint, gave them hope by your words, which were full of love for God.

You, who had always counted entirely on the heart of God, obtain for me a deep filial trust in His Providence. As the hope of divine goods fills my heart, give me courage and help me to always obey the Commandments of God.

O most holy Saint John Vianney, you were a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. May priests today be filled with that zeal, faithful to their calling, refreshed in their labors by the Holy Spirit, supported by their fellow workers and appreciated by those whose lives they touch. Dear Curé of Ars, pray for us, but especially for all priests!

Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for all those whose faith is shaken by this rupture between a priest and his bishop, that these two men may come to understand that the faith of the faithful is an equal concern alongside zeal for the unborn.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

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In my first posting on the plight of Father Frank Pavone, I drew the analogy, which gained little traction with fellow pro-lifers, between the Apostle John’s deference to Peter on the first Easter Morning, and the relationship between the pro-life movement and the bishops.

Then, I wrote in response to some ugly, ugly letters and sentiments out there directed at Bishop Zurek, as well as the “Free Father Pavone” website that has been established. Not much luck in the persuasiveness department regarding my belief that we should allow Father Pavone and his bishop a quiet space to work out this situation.

Now I have fellow pro-lifers upset that I will not cosign letters to Bishop Zurek, or speak out against him. (I’m beginning to miss the Zen of working with bacteria that can kill me in one act of carelessness!)

It seems that there are a number of misunderstandings, coupled with rightly held love of Father Pavone that seem to be fueling this fire. My own love of Father Pavone directs that I attempt to assuage people of their misunderstandings, which having done so, should set the ship aright.

My last word on this before a resolution between Father and his bishop.

I don’t expect non-Catholics to understand the unique relationship between a Catholic bishop and his priests, and I apologize for the lacunae in my understanding of Protestant ecclesiology among the varied denominations. I don’t even expect most Catholics to have a good working knowledge of this Presbyteral dynamic, given the appalling state of Catholic catechesis over the past fifty years.

On ordination day, a deacon puts his folded hands inside the hands of the bishop and vows to respect and obey that bishop and all of his successors. That’s a tremendous act of faith on the part of the newly ordained priest. They are sacred vows in a Sacramental Vocation, witnessed by the Church assembled and registered in Heaven for all eternity. As first happened as a deacon, a priest undergoes a radical change in his very human nature that lasts forever.

Married people make their own sacred vows, which are temporal, until death. These too are part of a Sacramental Vocation and are registered in Heaven, given before the Church assembled.

We’re all expected to honor those vows, and in truth, few actually have a clean track record with them. Plenty of priests cross the line from normal grousing about their bishops into uncharitable words, and some into outright defiance. Married people promise, “I will love you, honor you, and cherish you all the days of my life.” Sometimes it gets ugly.

It did for Regina and me some years back, as we missed a thousand checkpoints along the way, resulting in a toxic marriage that came right to the brink of divorce. We slowly, imperceptibly lost our way with one another until we found ourselves in hell. The failings were great and small, and they were mutual. However, we could not escape the solemnity of our vows, which was all we had left after ‘love, honor and cherish’ had been put to flight. If we slid into hell, the journey out was quite a climb; and it required both of us in mutual submission to one another as well as in mutual submission to God’s will for us. Above all, it required frequent sacramental nourishment in Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

At the lowest point, two old priests heard me bellyache for over an hour before they spoke a word. The first asked one simple question:

“When was the last time that you complimented Regina?”

That was sheer brilliance. Go back to where the train derailed.

The second simply stated,

“Gerry, you’re like a son to me, and I witnessed your vows on behalf of the Church. I don’t care what’s gone on between the two of you. I expect you to honor your word to Regina and your God. I expect you to be the sort of man you’ve always aspired to being, and now is when you’ll prove yourself.”

Thus began the journey home. Coming Home has layers of meaning for me, which is why I gave this blog the name. The journey was more than worth it and took us to where we were supposed to be all along.

Father Pavone now finds himself in his own brand of hell in his relationship with his bishop. The dynamic is different from marriage. A priest is an extension of his bishop. He does not possess the fullness of priesthood, as does his bishop. He goes where he is told and does what he is asked to do.

Pope John Paul II taught us that authentic freedom consists in doing what one ought to do, and not what one wants to do.

For all of the immense good that Father Pavone has done, he was not ordained a pro-life activist. He was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest. I was at his ordination. I heard his vows. I saw the chalice and paten placed in his hands. I saw Cardinal O’Connor hand him the Book of the Gospels, signifying his priestly mandates to preach and teach the Gospel and to consecrate the Eucharist.

That blows away everything else on the planet, including the pro-life movement!

Now, to quell the misperception that Bishop Zurek has accused Father Pavone of wrongdoing (aka, malfeasance), I didn’t read those words. I read that Bishop Zurek was questioning the prudential use of large sums of money.

That takes things out of the realm of illegality and places it into the realm of subjective pastoral vision. That makes matters messier. As Father’s bishop, Bishop Zurek bears responsibility and moral culpability for any poor stewardship of large sums of money in a ministry that he has assigned Father Pavone to run.

It’s the vision thing, and Bishop Zurek’s vision and priorities matter. He’s the Apostolic Successor.

So, yes, Father may well have been transparent in his revelations of finances (and I wouldn’t expect anything less from him), but may not have satisfied the subjective vision thing. Who knows?

There are only two men on this planet who know the whole story, and they need a safe, quiet, private place with one another to resolve this situation.

Accent on quiet.

Two priests exhorted me to honorable Christian manhood in honoring my lifetime vows with Regina, despite our mutual failings. Divorce was not an option in their eyes. As Catholics, we understand that the failings are not so important as the humble admission of guilt and the stated desire to reconcile, to allow Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to make all things new.

I exhort two good and holy men to do the same in their father-son relationship, but they can’t unless we drop the torches and pitchforks and allow them the space where each can save face and fulfill their priestly obligations to one another in all charitable forbearance.

That’s a process and not an event.

This is no longer a pro-life issue. This is no longer about Priests for Life. Father Pavone is operating in a much higher realm. He is dealing within the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and his duties as an obedient son to his bishop. There, humility and obedience, not lobbying and blogging, are the coin of the realm.

If we love God more than we love ourselves, He will lead us to honorable restoration of our Sacramental, Vocational duties. I think that’s true for Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. I have every expectation that guided by the Holy Spirit, a restoration of their relationship will produce abundant fruit.

Beginning Friday night (9/23), and every night for nine nights at 8 PM EST, I’ll be hosting the Saint John Vianney Novena for the intentions of Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek. All are welcome. If any priest or deacon wishes to guide us with prepared meditations each night, please let me know.

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Freeing Father Pavone!

I’m getting inundated with emails and comments, including a new website to “Free Father Pavone!” Then there was the letter people wanted me to circulate that was so crass and vulgar in its invective against Bishop Zurek that I actually blushed reading it. I guess my last post hasn’t penetrated the din, so I’ll be a bit less diplomatic and a bit more direct.

Please stop sending me attacks on Bishop Zurek. No, I don’t approve of the public circulation of his letter. Not one bit. But that doesn’t give me the right to trash him in return.

“An eye for an eye, leaving the whole world blind,” as Ghandi put it.

This shrill “Free Father Pavone” rhetoric is entirely over the top. He’s not an Orca. He’s a priest in good standing, still celebrating the sacraments in his diocese. It is a dim view of the diocesan priesthood that views it as some sort of prison. Really!!!

I love the energy and focus that Father Pavone has brought to the pro-life movement. I love that he has embraced Silent No More, Rachel’s Vineyard, Gospel of Life Ministries, the training of fellow priests, Alveda King and the National Black Pro-life Coalition, Bryan Kemper, Abby Johnson, etc. The man has done great good, and nobody can ever take that away from him.

Bishop Zurek has also supported his being in this ministry, and nobody should take that from him either.

This lashing out at the bishop is being watched by all of his brother bishops. I sincerely hope the shrill don’t really think that Father Pavone is worth the alienation, the impression that we’re a shadow church and that Father Pavone is our Pope. That’s a mighty big alienation of the bishops for one man.

It doesn’t do Father Pavone’s reputation a damned bit of good with the bishops, either. He looks like he has a rabid rabble for a following. It reflects poorly on him and on all of us.

The truth of the matter is that a leader inspires others to act. A good leader inspires others to act passionately. A great leader inspires others to act sacrificially, death to self.

What sort of leader does this invective make Father Pavone look like? If I were a bishop, looking at this invective, I’d be inclined to put him on ice for a few years.

The greatest testimony to a general is the ability of the army he has built to win the battle if he goes down in the line of fire. A great general builds an army that can act on its own in the heat of battle, adapt and overcome in the face of great challenge.

I think that’s the sort of movement that Father Pavone has created, one that can weather his absence as he tends to the relationship with his bishop.

To those filled with anger, I ask, Where is your faith in God? We supplement with rage and hate-filled words that which we lack in faith. If we can’t hear the Holy Spirit, perhaps we need to be still. So let us come together in prayer for all involved. Let’s breathe easy and ask for the Holy Spirit to come upon us and show us His perfect will.

Take a few moments, close our eyes, and pray along with this beautiful prayer of the ancient Church.

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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.

To defer.

And to not lose heart.

That’s a tall order, but the Easter narrative is our only way out of the anger trap.

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Father Pavone Appealing to Rome

Father Pavone is appealing his case to Rome. I pray for the restoration of his good name. This, from Father Pavone’s statement at LifeSite News”

For the past several years, my Ordinary, the Most Reverend Patrick Zurek, Bishop of Amarillo, has given me permission to do the full-time pro-life work that I have done since 1993. In 2005, I made a public promise in a Church ceremony in Amarillo, presided over by a Vatican Cardinal, that this full-time pro-life work would be a lifetime commitment. That’s a commitment I promise to fulfill without wavering.

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…. [H]e 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….

Priests for Life has consistently provided every financial document requested by Bishop Zurek, including annual financial audits, quarterly reports, management documents – even entire check registers! Priests for Life has been completely transparent with Bishop Zurek and any other bishops who have requested information regarding our management and finances. Indeed, we have 21 bishops and cardinals who sit on our Advisory Board, and they are kept fully informed about our finances.

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.

I also want to point out that, according to the canon law of the Catholic Church, because I have begun this process of appeal to Rome, the Bishop’s order that I return to Amarillo has been effectively suspended. Nevertheless, because of my great respect for this Bishop and my commitment to be fully obedient at all times, I am reporting to Amarillo this Tuesday, in hopes that I can sort this problem out with the Bishop in a mutually agreeable and amicable way.

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Father Frank Pavone has been recalled by his bishop over financial questions concerning the administration of Priests for Life. CNS breaks the story here:

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Father Frank Pavone, one of the country’s most visible and vocal opponents of abortion, has been suspended from active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, over financial questions about his operation of Priests for Life.

The suspension was made public in a Sept. 9 letter from Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek to his fellow bishops across the country, but Father Pavone told Catholic News Service that he was returning to Amarillo and planned to continue functioning as a priest there.

“My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization,” Bishop Zurek wrote. “The PFL has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight.”

Get the rest of the story here.

I have no idea what’s going on here, but I do know of some of the great work done by PFL and Father Pavone. Whatever the truth, it will come to light. However, Father Pavone has done great good and merits our prayers. I pray for a quick and just resolution, and for Father Pavone’s spiritual health in the days and weeks to come.

Mostly, I pray for the quick restoration of Father Pavone’s good name. More Later.

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