A well-known Catholic priest who has, for decades, been a prominent figure in the pro-life movement has been defrocked by the Vatican.
Listen to the latest episode of CBN’s Quick Start podcast 👇
Frank Pavone, the 63-year-old founder of Priests For Life, a high-profile, pro-life organization, was purportedly removed from the priesthood Nov. 9 with no chance for an appeal.
The Vatican made the shocking move after charges Pavone is guilty of “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience” in communications with his bishop, USA Today reported.
The startling story of Pavone’s laicization broke after Catholic News Agency reviewed a letter reportedly sent to U.S. bishops from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Vatican ambassador to the United States, detailing the dismissal.
A statement attached to the letter purportedly contended Pavone was given a chance to defend himself but did not offer specific examples of his troubling behavior. Pierre didn’t state what precisely led to the dismissal nor did it name the bishop at the center of the claims.
“Father Pavone was given ample opportunity to defend himself in the canonical proceedings, and he was also given multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop,” the statement read. “It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.”
But Pavone had a different story, noting he purportedly wasn’t informed of the judgment and was unaware of what unfolded until being contacted by Catholic News Agency Dec. 17.
So far, Pavone doesn’t seem to be backing down.
“Hi friends… So in every profession, including the priesthood, if you defend the unborn, you will be treated like them!” he tweeted Saturday. “The only difference is that when we are ‘aborted,’ we continue to speak, loud and clear.”
Hi friends… So in every profession, including the priesthood, if you defend the #unborn, you will be treated like them!— Fr. Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) December 18, 2022
The only difference is that when we are “aborted,” we continue to speak, loud and clear.
A priest told Catholic News Agency the only way the Vatican would make such a judgment without any chance for appeal would be if it came from Pope Francis himself. Father Gerald E. Murray, a canon lawyer who pastors Holy Family Church in New York City, told the outlet:
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.
Pavone has openly spoken about clashes with some Catholic hierarchy, detailed in the Catholic News Agency report.
In 2011, his ministry was limited due to some of these issues, which were reportedly lifted upon an appeal to the Vatican. Pavone told Reuters Sunday he has been “persecuted in the Church for decades.”
Political activism and alignment with former President Donald Trump — and a video Pavone made featuring the remains of an aborted baby — have likely contributed to some tensions. That 2016 video, filmed at the Priests for Life headquarters, spoke in favor of Trump, but was shocking due to its contents.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, spoke out against the video at the time and called for an investigation, calling Pavone’s actions inconsistent with the “beliefs of the Catholic Church.”
Pavone later explained the child’s remains were in his possession so he could give a proper burial, which he later did. He ended up stepping down from some roles supporting Trump, though he continued to speak out on social media.
The priest again landed in hot water over some of his posts about Democrats, including tough comments aimed at then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, according to Catholic News Agency.
Pavone called the Democratic Party “America-hating” and “God-hating,” among other comments, including one in which he purportedly said “absolution has to be withheld” if repentance isn’t present for Catholic Democrats.
One of the posts in question surrounded using the Lord’s name in vain, with Pavone reportedly decrying “supporters of this [expletive] loser Biden and his morally corrupt, America-hating, God-hating Democrat party.” Read more here.
Pavone discussed this 2020 tweet in a video Sunday and said this is a reason for his dismissal.
“I used the word G-D in a response to somebody in a tweet and, for that, they want to throw me out of the priesthood,” he said.
The faith leader’s supporters have come to his defense, including Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, who called out Biden as “evil” in his reaction to Pavone’s dismissal.
The blasphemy is that this holy priest is canceled while an evil president promotes the denial of truth & the murder of the unborn at every turn, Vatican officials promote immorality & denial of the deposit of faith & priests promote gender confusion devastating lives…evil https://t.co/ASzjW7IuAv— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) December 18, 2022
“The blasphemy is that this holy priest is canceled while an evil president promotes the denial of truth [and] the murder of the unborn at every turn,” he wrote. “Vatican officials promote immorality [and] denial of the deposit of faith [and] priests promote gender confusion devastating lives…evil.”
Pro-life activist Abby Johnson also spoke out, calling Pavone — her mentor who also serves as godfather to one of her children — “one of the most dedicated pro-life warriors.” Johnson also called out purported hypocrisy in Pavone’s dismissal.
“So, let’s tally the score. Fr. James Martin…gay priest who supports gay ‘marriage’ and loads of other immoral acts — priest in good standing who continues to move up the Vatican chain of command,” she wrote in a Facebook Post. “Fr. Frank Pavone…faithful priest who has been the director of Priests for Life for decades and has fought tirelessly for the unborn, their mothers, and former abortion clinic workers — removed from the priesthood.”
Johnson went on to warn she believes evil is invading churches and denominations.
“The enemy is in our churches, friends,” she wrote. “Every faith tradition. All different congregations. All ages. All cultures. He is sly, charming, unassuming, and incredibly convincing. Good will indeed look like evil and visa versa. Stay in the word. Pray constantly. Use discernment.”
***As the number of voices facing big-tech censorship continues to grow, please sign up for Faithwire’s daily newsletter and download the CBN News app, developed by our parent company, to stay up-to-date with the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***