It pains me to write this post because it is about two people that I have great respect for. Nevertheless, I will try to be fair.
Has Father Pavone Gone Rogue?
Cardinal Dolan in a letter voiced his concern that Father Frank Pavone of Priests For Life is nto cooperating with him after the Vatican had him do a study or apostolic visit on the organization. He wrote in a letter:
“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,”
“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,”
This is not the first time Father Pavone has been in hot water with bishops. Ordained in New York, he was appointed to work at Priests For Life under the episcopacy of the late John Cardinal O’ Connor. During that tenure, he and the Cardinal had several disputes. It is not end there. When Edward Cardinal Egan took over as archbishop of New York in 2000, the dispute continued as Cardinal Egan appointed Fr. Pavone to work in a parish and he refused to do so insisting that his work was to be at Priest For life.
Because of this, Fr. Frank sought to be transferred to the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. His transfer was accepted and he continued his work in the Pro-Life movement there. However, when the bishop of Amarillo retired and Bishop Patrick Zurek took over, the problems began in Texas with Bishop Zurek suspending Fr. Frank. Bishop Zurek’s complained that Fr. Frank was not transparenta about Priests For LIfe finances and found other problems with the group. He also wanted Fr. Frank to work as a diocesan priest since that is what he was called to do and went to seminary for. Fr. Pavone appealed to the Vatican and the Vatican sided with him. What happened next was troublesome to me. Fr. Frank said that he will not be cowed by any bishop. A priest whether diocesan or religious must be obedient to the local ordinary which is the Bishop. His defiance is unbecoming of a loyal son of the Church in my opinion.
Now the Vatican had Cardinal Dolan conduct an apostolic visitation and things went downhill from there. Cardinal Dolan claims that Fr. Pavone would help him in this investigation and they refused to do so. Cardinal Dolan found that Priest For Life has a big deficit and also problems with mismanagement. Since Fr. Pavone refused to work with Cardinal Dolan in the recommendations and investigation, Cardinal Dolan cut ties with him and Priests For Life.
The whole situation is disturbing indeed. Not only is Fr. Pavone being disobedient, but his supporters are attacking Cardinal Dolan for doing what the Vatican asked of him. They have been trying to make this into a “control” issue. This is not it at all. All priests must be obedient to their bishops. They cannot do whatever they want in regards to ministry or dictate their appointments. Priests For Life is not above the Vatican or Canon Law. It must comply with any investigation or apostolic visits the Vatican orders be done. Most likely, the Vatican will probably punish Fr. Pavone for his disobedience since he is openly defying them as well. Both Popes Francis and Benedict XVI made it clear that Catholics cannot get caught up in movements such as the Pro-Life one as if that is what the Church exists for. I understand Fr. Pavone’s passion to fight against abortion, but his obligation is to Holy Mother Church and above all, Christ. He cannot be this rogue priest going around defying bishops and getting his way. Perhaps a lengthy suspension and a sabbatical to a life of prayer would be best if Fr. Pavone continues this behavior.
St. John Paul II gave an audience on this:
Priestly Obedience Is an Act of Charity
General Audience â€” August 25, 1993
The communion desired by Jesus among all who share in the sacrament of Orders should appear in an altogether special way in priests’ relations with their bishops. On this subject the Second Vatican Council speaks of a “hierarchical communion” deriving from the unity of consecration and mission. We read: “All priests, in union with bishops, so share in one and the same priesthood and ministry of Christ that the very unity of their consecration and mission requires their hierarchical communion with the order of bishops. At times in an excellent manner they manifest this communion in liturgical concelebration as joined with the bishop when they celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice” (PO 7). Clearly, the mystery of the Eucharist also appears here as a sign and source of unity. The sacrament of Orders is connected with the Eucharist. Orders establishes the hierarchical communion between all those who share Christ’s priesthood: “All priests,” the Council adds, “both diocesan and religious, by reason of Orders and ministry, fit into this body of bishops and priests, and serve the good of the whole Church according to their vocation and the grace given to them” (LG 28).
This bond between priests of any type or rank and the bishops is essential to exercising the priestly ministry. Priests receive from the bishop sacramental power and hierarchical authorization for this ministry. Religious too receive this power and authorization from the bishop who ordains them and from the one who governs the diocese where they exercise their ministry. Even when they belong to orders that are exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops in regard to their internal governance, they receive from the bishop, in accordance with the norm of canon law, the mandate and consent for their involvement and activity within the diocese. Exception must always be made of the authority by which the Roman Pontiff, as head of the Church, can confer on religious orders or other institutes the power to govern themselves according to their own constitutions and to work on a universal scale. In their turn bishops regard priests as their “necessary helpers and counselors in the ministry and in their role of teaching, sanctifying and nourishing the People of God” (PO 7).
Because of this bond of sacramental communion between priests and bishops, presbyters are a support and instrument of the episcopal order, as Lumen Gentium states (cf. n. 28). In each community they continue the bishop’s action and in a certain way represent him as pastor in various areas.
By virtue of its same pastoral identity and sacramental origin, the ministry of priests is clearly exercised under the authority of the bishop. According to Lumen Gentium, it is under this authority that they lend their efforts to the pastoral work of the whole diocese by sanctifying and governing that portion of the Lord’s flock entrusted to them (cf. LG 28).
It is true that presbyters represent Christ and act in his name, sharing in his office as the one Mediator, according to their degree of ministry. However, they can act only as the bishop’s co-workers, thus extending the ministry of the diocesan pastor in the local communities.
Spiritually rich relationships between bishops and presbyters are based on this theological principle of sharing within the framework of hierarchical communion. Lumen Gentium describes these relationships as follows: “On account of this sharing in their priesthood and mission, let priests sincerely look upon the bishop as their father and reverently obey him. And let the bishop regard his priests as his co-workers and as sons and friends, just as Christ called his disciples now not servants but friends (cf. Jn 15:15)” (LG 28).
Here Christ’s example is the rule of conduct for bishops and presbyters alike. If he who had divine authority did not want to treat his disciples as servants but as friends, the bishop cannot consider his priests as servants in his employ. They serve the People of God with him. For their part presbyters should respond to the bishop as demanded by the law of reciprocal love in ecclesial and priestly communion, that is, as friends and spiritual “sons.” The bishop’s authority and the obedience of his co-workers, the priests, should thus be exercised in an atmosphere of true, sincere friendship.
This duty is based not only on the brotherhood existing among all Christians by virtue of Baptism and on that arising from the sacrament of Orders, but also on the word and example of Jesus. Even in triumph as the resurrected one, he lowered himself from that incomparable height to his disciples and called them “my brothers,” declaring that his Father was “theirs” too (cf. Jn 20:17; Mt. 28:10). Thus, following Jesus’ example and teaching, the bishop should treat his co-workers, the priests, as brothers and friends, without diminishing his authority as their pastor and ecclesiastical superior.
An atmosphere of brotherhood and friendship fosters the presbyters’ trust and their willingness to cooperate and work harmoniously in friendship and in fraternal and filial charity toward their bishops.
The Council spells out some of the bishop’s duties toward presbyters. Here one need only mention them: bishops should take the greatest interest they are capable of in the temporal and spiritual welfare of their priests; they should foster their sanctification and be concerned for their ongoing formation, examining with them problems that concern the needs of their pastoral work and the good of the diocese (cf. PO 7).
Likewise, the presbyters’ duties toward their bishops are summarized in these words: “Priests, never losing sight of the fullness of the priesthood which the bishops enjoy, must respect in them the authority of Christ, the supreme shepherd. They must therefore stand by their bishops in sincere charity and obedience” (PO 7).
Charity and obedience are two spiritual essentials which should guide their conduct toward their own bishop. It is an obedience motivated by charity. The presbyter’s basic intention in his ministry can only be to cooperate with his bishop. If the priest has a spirit of faith, he recognizes the will of Christ in his bishop’s decisions.
Understandably, obedience can sometimes be more difficult, especially when different opinions clash. However, obedience was Jesus’ fundamental attitude in sacrificing himself, and it bore fruit in the salvation that the whole world has received. The presbyter who lives by faith knows that he too is called to an obedience which, by fulfilling Jesus’ saying about self-denial, gives him the power and the glory of sharing the redemptive fruitfulness of the sacrifice of the cross.
Lastly it should be added that, as everyone knows, today more than in the past, priests’ cooperation and thus their union with the bishops are required by the pastoral ministry because of its complexity and vastness. As the Council says: “This union of priests with their bishops is all the more necessary today since in our present age, for various reasons, apostolic undertakings must necessarily not only take on many forms but frequently extend even beyond the boundaries of one parish or diocese. No priest, therefore, can on his own accomplish his mission in a satisfactory way. He can do so only by joining forces with other priests under the direction of the Church authorities” (PO 7).
For this reason “presbyteral councils” too have tried to structure and organize the consultation of priests by their bishops  . On their part, presbyters participate in these councils in a spirit of enlightened and loyal cooperation, with the intention of helping to build up the “one body.” Individually too, in their personal relations with their own bishop they should remember and keep in mind one thing above all: the growth in charity of each and every one, which is the fruit of self-sacrifice in the light of the cross.
 Â cf. 1971 Synod of Bishops, Ench. Vat., IV, 1224
I hope both parties can work things out and that Fr. Pavone once again realizes that he is a Catholic priest and not the Pro-Life movement’s Al Sharpton. As a priest, he can do much more for life than as head of Priests For Life.