Abortion foe vows to fight suspension order

September 13, 2011

NEW YORK (RNS) One of the highest profile anti-abortion activists in the
Catholic Church in the United States says he will abide by but appeal a
suspension order from his bishop following allegations of financial
mismanagement.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, who developed a huge following through his
nationwide campaigns against abortion as head of the New York-based
Priests for Life, is under investigation for mishandling his
organization's budget.

Pavone said Tuesday (Sept. 13) that he had appealed the suspension
order issued by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, but said he
would return to Amarillo as Zurek ordered.

Pavone is the third high-profile conservative Catholic leader this
year to face charges of misconduct, following allegations leveled
against two other priests in different organizations.

Zurek sent a letter to all U.S. bishops on Sept. 9, announcing that
he was suspending Pavone from ministry outside his diocese after
"persistent questions and concerns" from clergy and laity about how
Priests for Life is spending "millions of dollars in donations."

"My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his
stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization,"
Zurek wrote in the letter, which was first reported on Tuesday by
Catholic News Service. "The PFL has become a business that is quite
lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from
all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight."

According to CNS, Internal Revenue Service records show the
organization took in $10.8 million in 2008, the latest year tax forms
were available.

The records also show that Pavone has taken no salary from Priests
for Life, as he promised when he became national director of Priests for
Life in 1993.

In a statement released Tuesday, Pavone said he was "very perplexed"
by Zurek's demand, and argued that under canon law Zurek's order is
automatically suspended while Pavone appeals his case to the Vatican.

Pavone said Priests for Life is "above reproach" in its financial
management and noted that the group has "21 bishops and cardinals who
sit on our Advisory Board, and they are kept fully informed about our
finances."

In fact, Pavone has developed an impressive base of hierarchical as
well as grassroots support around the U.S. and in Rome, making any
showdown between him and Zurek a close match.

Since taking charge of Priests for Life, Pavone has led something of
a nomadic existence. He initially moved the organization's headquarters
from California to New York, where he was ordained a priest in 1988 by
the late Cardinal John O'Connor.

Pavone reportedly had a falling out with O'Connor's successor,
Cardinal Edward Egan, and in 2005 he put himself under the jurisdiction
of the Amarillo diocese, and moved some PFL operations there. In 2007,
Pavone tried to establish his own religious order dedicated to the
pro-life cause, but abandoned it for lack of recruits.

PFL's offices are now based in Staten Island, N.Y., but Pavone
remains a priest of the Amarillo diocese.

Last January, the Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, the charismatic head of
Human Life International was suspended from ministry over misconduct
with a woman during exorcisms. And in June, John Corapi, a popular
conservative speaker and television personality, resigned from the
priesthood after religious superiors detailed allegations of extensive
sexual and financial misconduct.