The national director of Priests for Life, Frank Pavone, canceled a scheduled livestreamed Mass today, one day after CNA published a report that he was continuing to celebrate Mass after the Vatican had removed him from the priesthood.
In a defiant statement addressed to Church leaders and posted on his organization’s website Saturday, Pavone vowed to continue his ministry despite his dismissal from the clerical state.
“It’s about the millions of supporters of the movement I help to lead and will continue to lead,” he wrote, adding that he would respond by taking “all appropriate canonical and civil action as well as public communications to the Faithful.”
… Pavone has continued to celebrate Mass since the Vatican’s communication, including a Mass streamed online Saturday. The Priests for Life website states that Pavone “is a Catholic priest in good standing, and exercises his ministry in full communion with the Catholic Church.”
From his statement:
Various bishops have used and pressured Bishop Patrick Zurek (in whose diocese of Amarillo I have been incardinated) to try to block my ministry. (This is his final year in Amarillo, unless he gets removed sooner because of what I have reported to the authorities.)
Since Cardinal O’Connor granted my request in 1993 for permission to work fulltime to save the unborn from abortion, that has been my consistent – and only – request of Church authority: allow me to devote my life and ministry to saving the unborn. That has not changed in any way.
The Vatican has in various ways backed me up on that despite the obstruction of various American bishops. In 2005, the Congregation for Clergy granted my request for excardination from New York to Amarillo to continue to pursue and deepen my pro-life work. in 2012, the same Congregation ruled in my favor against the invalid attempts of Bishop Zurek to restrict my ministry, telling him instead to “be generous” in letting me do this work.
Then in 2019, the Vatican again declared invalid various punishments and restrictions Bishop Zurek placed on me, and authorized me to transfer to the Diocese of Colorado Springs, where Bishop Michael Sheridan was willing to receive me and let me continue this pro-life ministry. But for reasons that have never been explained to me, they indicated to the bishop that he could not let me do the work fulltime.
But my request remains the same: let me serve the Church with a fulltime ministry on behalf of the unborn.
Some call my refusal to turn away from that work “disobedience.” I call it faithfulness.
During all this process, people like Bishop Zurek, Cardinal Dolan, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi have lied about me and abused their authority against me and my ministry. Many bishops and Cardinals, here and at the Vatican, have on the other hand, have supported me and my work and proposed to the Holy Father the solution of allowing me to transfer to a favorable diocese.
To those who oppose my work, my question is, “What specific parts of it do you not want me to do?”
And there’s this analysis:
Pavone’s sudden laicization has shocked many Catholics and pro-life advocates. It also raises a host of still-unanswered questions about his case. Among them: What are the specific canonical crimes with which Pavone was charged? And when, and how, was he notified he is no longer a priest? Pavone, for his part, claims that he had no prior notification about the Vatican’s action until contacted by CNA on Dec. 17. Is this plausible?
To better understand the Church laws and judicial processes involved in cases such as this, CNA sought the expertise of Father Gerald E. Murray, a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City who is a regular contributor to EWTN’s “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo.”
What is the typical process for these types of accusations?
Ordinarily, it is the responsibility of the bishop of the diocese in which the accused priest is incardinated to investigate accusations of “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience of lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop,” which are the two reasons given for Father Pavone’s dismissal from the clerical state in a communication sent to the bishops of the United States by Archbishop Pierre.
The diocesan bishop, if he finds that a priest is guilty of such offenses, would then refer the matter to the Holy See if he judged that the penalty of removal from the clerical state was the appropriate punishment. The diocesan bishop cannot on his own authority dismiss a priest of his diocese from the clerical state.
Furthermore, the Code of Canon Law does not state that the possible penalties for these two offenses include dismissal from the clerical state. Canon 1368 states that a person who utters blasphemy is to be “punished with a just penalty.” Canon 1371 states that “a person who does not obey the lawful command” of his Ordinary “and after being warned, persists in disobedience, is to be punished, according to the gravity of the case, with a censure or deprivation of office or with other penalties mentioned in can 1336, 2-4.” Canon 1336, 5, which is not included in the scope of punishments for a violation of canon 1371, mentions dismissal from the clerical state.
Thus, imposing dismissal from the clerical state for these offenses would require what happened in this case, that is, the issuance of what Archbishop Christophe Pierre [the apostolic nuncio to the United States] identified as a “Supreme Decision admitting of no possibility of appeal.” Only the Pope, who enjoys “full and supreme power in the Church” (canon 332, 1) can issue such a decision against which there is no possible appeal.