On September 9, 2011, Bishop Zurek announced, in an open letter to his fellow bishops, that he had suspended Fr. Frank Pavone from public ministry outside of the Diocese of Amarillo in Texas. Yesterday Bishop Zurek issued a public statement regarding this decision.
You will recall that in his letter, dated 9 September 2011, Bishop Zurek suspended Fr. Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life, from public ministry outside of his home diocese, with effect from September 13, 2011. Bishop Zurek stated in the open letter that:
“There have been persistent questions 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.”
At the time, I noted on this Blog, that it has always concerned me that Fr. Frank Pavone seems to have become larger than the pro-life ministry itself. He was, in my opinion, bordering on becoming like the Catholic version of Jimmy Swaggart. I have also on various occasions expressed concern that Fr. Frank Pavone may lead us to a repeat of the John Corapi saga that the Church faced recently. So, I was extremely pleased to hear that Bishop Zurek was reigning in Fr. Frank Pavone.
On 6 October 2011, Bishop Zurek made a public statement regarding the matter. In a nutshell, Bishop Zurek is concerned about the well being and ministry of Fr. Frank Pavone. As his bishop, he feels it is time for him to have a direct and clear dialogue with Fr. Frank Pavone as one of his priests and not as the Head of Priests for Life. He has asked Fr. Pavone to “pray and reflect about the sacramental ministerial priesthood”.
Personally, I think that Fr. Pavone should be grateful that he has a bishop who cares for his priests. (Even though Fr. Pavone may not see it that way right now.) We need to take good care of our priests because they are precious. We cannot afford to lose priests, like Fr. Pavone, to the world. I am not saying that Fr. Pavone is heading, or was heading, in a direction that would result in us losing him. But it is far better to be cautious upfront, than trying to shut the door after the horse has bolted.