Standing Up for Priests for Life and Fr. PavoneI am never surprised when a leader in the pro-life movement suddenly finds himself or herself challenged by events that threaten to distract from the every day efforts to save lives. After all the enemy of life will use anything - even good actions or good people - to delay or divert the work of rescuing those being led to death.
So part of me did not agitate as I learned that the Bishop of Amarillo had recalled Fr. Frank Pavone back to the diocese and suspended him from working with Priests for Life. I recall a problem that Fr. Pavone had with the Archbishop of New York many years ago that prompted his move to Amarillo. We all made it through that bit of confusion.
But another part of me wants to scream - especially after I read Bishop Zurek's letter which was sent to all the bishops and leaked by someone in the diocese to the press. As my children would say - not cool.
Fr. Frank has little "control" over the finances of Priests for Life. There is, after all, a board of directors, a bishops advisory board, an accounting department, an independent CPA firm that does an annual audit of the books.
As for these records, they were made available to the bishop and the audit is now available online. Hopefully this will answer any questions on the operations and the financial responsibilities of the organization.
The statement from Fr. Frank himself and that of his canonist also are very direct while exhibiting the rules of charity.
I will pray for this bishop that his motives are consistent with his duties as a shepherd concerned for his flock. But to be honest I have some problems with his approach. Still I will leave that for another day. Instead allow me to focus on the man I know and the organization that has helped do many to promote the Gospel of Life.
Having been in this movement for 36 years, I have seen them come and go. The naive, the glory hounds, the political, the innocent, the compassionate, the worker bees, the instigators, the saints, the leaders. And then there are the prophets: those who preach the truth in season and out, whether anyone wants to hear it. Most of the time people do not like prophets. Prophets make people feel uncomfortable in their efforts to move them off dead center.
Then there is Fr. Pavone. He is my friend, a colleague in this war to end the killing. He has a vision. He sees the big picture. He can get people enthused so they will decide to get involved. He can motivate the lethargic and excite the interested. To quote an old saw, "He can comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." God has called him to this work and he has made the most of it. His efforts have saved lives and inspired men and women throughout the world to stand in defense of the weak, the marginalized, the unborn, the elderly, the dependent.
One of his gifts is the ability to move throughout the movement and help all sorts of different groups. Indeed this is a gift of Priests for Life as an organization. Whatever the group, whatever the immediate situation, PFL will help in whatever way it can. In all my years of working with PFL, not once did it charge a fee for any of the priests or associates to travel and speak. When needed, he and the other members of the Priests for Life ministry team, make themselves available. PFL and Fr. Pavone have always been there to help us get the message out to the community.
In fact there was one time when a crisis prevented him from being in Phoenix for an presentation in June. At the last minute, he arranged to have a taped DVD message so we could still have the event and inspire the membership. Then after the events that prevented his attendance, we arranged for "make-up" visit in March. He gave us not only an evening but the entire weekend. During those three days, Fr. Pavone met with pro-life leaders at the diocese, blessed 1st Way pregnancy resource center, spoke to over 200 people at a Friday Arizona Right to Life event, traveled from Phoenix to Tucson, blessed the Reachout Pregnancy Center, then spoke to 350 people at their luncheon, returned to Phoenix to speak to 400 people at the Radio Family Rosary dinner, preached at two masses at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and then before going to the airport met with the director of the Aid to Women Center at the offices where again there was prayer and a blessing.
That is the kind of guy he is. And the other members of the Priests for Life team are just as dedicated to the cause of life. It is important that someone like Fr. Frank be able to meet with the different groups and organizations. The movement is so very diverse and having someone who can move about these different organizations to support their efforts produces great fruit.
Like I said, I do not understand the Bishop's actions. I trust in the providence of God and know that He is sovereign in all things. So in His perfect will, we trust that all will work to the good for those who love the Lord. It is easy to tear down - not so easy to build up. However those of us in this movement are about building up our brothers and sisters so that we all can find the path God intends for our lives. I am sure in all of this God is working to do a great good. In the meantime we offer all our sufferings for an end to the killing of the innocents.