Sources said that the Pavone case had less to do with his media profile and public statements, and more to do with his “persistent disobedience” to his bishop.
The folks at The Pillar have done the digging, so the rest of us don’t have to.
This link takes you to a long and fairly detailed description of who Pavone is, and what went so horribly wrong.
Among the highlights is this summary of the final act of this melodrama:
Sources close to the case have confirmed to The Pillar that [Diocese of Amarillo] Bishop Zurek petitioned the dicastery for Pavone’s laicization, making use of the dicastery’s “special faculties.”
While media reaction has largely focused on Pavone’s pro-life and partisan political activities, the dicastery judged that he had engaged in “blasphemous communications on social media, and of persistent disobedience of lawful instructions from his diocesan bishop.”
It is not clear which of Pavone’s communications were judged as blasphemous.
Some have pointed to the incident in which the priest placed the body of an aborted child on a table resembling an altar, and which he celebrated Mass — something theologians at the time condemned as a violation of the child’s dignity and an abuse of what appeared to be an altar.
Others, including Pavone himself, have pointed to tweets in which the priest decried “God damned baby killing politicians.”
In the end, neither of those incidents, separately or together, would likely have seen Pavone laicized.
Special faculties cases are almost always judged on the response of clerics to the correction of their bishop after an incident — even a serious one — and not the incident itself.
Sources close to his case have told The Pillar that the Pavone case had less to do with his media profile and public statements, and more to do with his “persistent disobedience” to his bishop.
In short, it seems likely that Zurek cited Pavone’s refusal to accept an assignment, his conflicts with Zurek with over financial questions involving Priests for Life, and whatever Pavone had been directed to do regarding social media, as evidence of a pattern of disobedience that had become intractable.
The dicastery seemingly agreed with that view.
In the statement sent to U.S. bishops, the dicastery noted that Pavone had “multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop,” but he did not choose to do so.
In short, the Holy See’s process indicated that it was Pavone’s persistent disobedience, including his refusal to return to his home diocese and conform to his bishop’s instructions, which led to his laicization.