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On Father Pavone and Priests for Life

I just read this over a Catholic Culture, “Father Pavone’s last stand“.  I think this is the most detailed explanation of the full situation with Father Pavone. What I don’t understand is the publicity this has received, why can’t we just fix our matters in-house? What do you think? A man who has done so much for the prolife efforts in America…I personally think that things need to be fixed not shut down! 🙁  Like one of our readers posted, it just might be time for Father Pavone to let go (I know how hard this will be) of his baby to straighten things out.  I don’t think it’s the end of his work with Priests for Life but a re-structuring and organizing wouldn’t hurt…maybe it is time to work on the new order?  Only God knows and we must all trust the Lord is in control of this.  In any case, he and all priests need our prayers.  Here’s the article from Catholic Culture:

 Father Pavone’s last stand By Phil Lawler | September 21, 2011 8:40 AM

More than three years ago, readers on this site received fair warning that Father Frank Pavone was cruising toward a showdown with officials in the Diocese of Amarillo. Read the comment by Diogenes from August 2008, and you will find the simmering conflict neatly summarized, many months before it boiled over into full public view. Diogenes concluded his analysis this way:

The question isn’t whether or not the Church will support pro-life work. The question is whether priests and religious, when they engage in pro-life work, remain subject to ecclesiastical discipline. The answer, by the way, is Yes. You can learn that the easy way or learn it the hard way.

Now Father Pavone is learning the hard way, along with many of his loyal supporters. The controversy that finally hit the headlines last week is a sad one, a damaging one for the pro-life movement, but not a new one. It was all too easy to see it coming.

For years Father Pavone has sought autonomy for his organization, Priests for Life. His quest for independence caused some tension with the Archdiocese of New York, where he originally served. At first it seemed that tension was resolved when he moved to the Amarillo diocese. But it cropped up again with Bishop John Yanta, who had welcomed him to Texas. Finally it came to a head under Bishop Yanta’s successor, Bishop Patrick Zurek.

Bishop Zurek’s decision to recall Father Pavone to Amarillo, and restrict him to ministry there, was not a bolt from the blue, then. Father Pavone has disclosed that he had been discussing the possibility with his bishop for several months. No doubt both, the bishop and the priest, had been seeking advice from canon lawyers and support from friends, trying to influence each other, hoping to resolve the mounting tension without a public ruckus.

Especially in light of those behind-the-scenes negotiations, and the consultations that must have taken place, it is unfortunate that Bishop Zurek sloppily used the word “suspend” in the public announcement of his decision. Father Pavone was not suspended; he remains a priest in good standing. He was summoned to serve the Church in the diocese where he is incardinated. There is no question that the bishop has the authority to restrict a priest’s ministry in this way. Although Father Pavone has announced a canonical appeal, it is difficult to imagine how he could prevail.

In September 9 announcement, Bishop Zurek said that he took action because of “deep concerns regarding [Pavone’s] stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization.” But his concerns went deeper, he revealed. He was also worried about Father Pavone’s “incorrigible defiance to my legitimate authority as his Bishop.” Those two concerns, it becomes clear, were very closely intertwined.

Father Pavone says that he has answered every question the bishop asked about the finances of PFL. Bishop Zurek disputes that point, charging that PFL has managed to “rebuff my every attempt at calling for financial transparency.” How can we judge those two contradictory claims? The audited financial reports of PFL, which Father Pavone has now made public, provide a few clues. Last year PFL showed a $1.4 million budget deficit, and the group’s available cash balances dropped by over a half-million dollars. The latest PFL budget figures show an enormous $879,000 loan to Gospel of Life Ministries: another effort with which Father Pavone is personally involved. If those funds are not repaid, PFL faces an immediate financial crisis. Bishop Zurek has good reason to be worried about Father Pavone’s financial stewardship.

But financial reports only record the sums that were raised and spent; they do not necessarily tell how and why they were raised and spent. Therein lies the larger problem.
When he brought PFL to Amarillo, Father Pavone had ambitious plans to build a seminary there, and found a new religious order dedicated to pro-life activism. He raised enormous sums of money from donors who were encouraged to support that religious order and help build that seminary. But the seminary was never built, and within a couple of years the religious order had been disbanded.

In a revealing Amarillo television interview, Father Pavone admitted that much of the money raised for the seminary had been spent on “the things we did”—the operating expenses of PFL. Since the $10 million annual budget of PFL dwarfs the budget of the Amarillo diocese, it is eminently understandable that diocesan officials—who were hoping that a new seminary would provide benefits for their own pastoral work—would ask pointed questions about those “things we did.”
Since being recalled, Father Pavone has assured his supporters that he plans to continue his pro-life activism. He has reminded reporters that he took a vow “in the presence of a Vatican cardinal” to devote himself full-time to the pro-life cause. The presence of a cardinal would not affect the binding force of a vow, of course; Father Pavone is reminding us that he has friends in high places. By insisting on his dedication to the pro-life cause, he is (intentionally?) feeding suspicions that his bishop wants to rein him in because he has been too outspoken in his opposition to abortion—an assertion for which there is no supporting evidence. But there is something even more troubling about Father Pavone’s claim here.

When he made that special vow, in August 2006, Father Pavone was founding a religious order: the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. Two years later that order was defunct. Looking back on the order’s history today, Father Pavone is surprisingly unconcerned about its demise. “We knew it was an experiment,” he told the Amarillo television interviewer. It is odd—and not at all healthy—that the founder of a religious order would look upon it as an experiment. In the course of that interview, Father Pavone makes it clear that in his mind, the religious order was always a means to an end; it was intended to act as an arm of PFL. (As Diogenes pointed out when the order was suppressed, that was a major concern for Church officials: that a religious order might be controlled by a secular corporation.) Yet once the order was dissolved, Father Pavone’s special vow lost its force, and he became an ordinary priest of the Amarillo diocese.
Now Father Pavone wants to leave Amarillo, to become a priest in another diocese that will allow him to continue his pro-life work without unwanted supervision. His desire for complete independence is easy to understand: Which one of us doesn’t want to be free from supervision? But in light of his track record—in particular, his insouciant approach to the details of raising, spending, and accounting for money—it is equally easy to understand why his bishop would not think it prudent to grant him that degree of independence. Canon lawyer Edward Peters has written perceptively about this case in general and about Father Pavone’s quest to be free of Amarillo in particular. To state the matter in simple terms, a diocesan priest has a responsibility first and foremost to his bishop and his diocese, and only secondarily to any apostolate with which he is associated. Bishop Zurek spoke of the need for Father Pavone to “readjust his priestly bearing” and recognize that he is a priest first, an activist second. To date there is no sign that the embattled priest is getting that message.

In his quest to be rid of the irksome restrictions that he now faces in Amarillo, Father Pavone says that he will seek incardination to another diocese. That won’t be easy. He has already switched his diocesan affiliation once, and any thoughtful bishop would look askance at a priest who wanted to switch for a second time. To aggravate matters still further, another pro-life group with which Father Pavone is affiliated (as a board member) is now planning to picket Catholic churches in the Amarillo diocese. What bishop would want to take on a priest who has become embroiled in such an openly adversary relationship with his diocesan superiors? What bishop would want a priest who has made it so abundantly clear that he considers his own personal apostolate more important than the work of the diocese—to the point that he is willing to attack the diocese in order to further the apostolate?

For years Father Pavone has run PFL as his own personal fiefdom. He has been answerable only to the PFL board of directors—on which he and his paid subordinates have formed a solid voting majority. That long run of complete autonomy is now coming to an end. This is not a case in which a bishop has set out to squelch pro-life activism. It is a case in which a bishop has realized that a priest and a Catholic apostolate are both in urgent need of supervision.

Recognizing this reality may be a difficult process for Father Pavone. Until now, PFL has been his project: his baby. But he cannot continue running PFL the way he has been running it. If the mission of PFL is to continue and thrive, it will be under some new form of leadership.

Painful though it will be, Father Pavone should realize that the time has come to offer his baby up for adoption. He of all people should realize the most likely alternative: the baby will die.

What are your thoughts about this situation?  I really would hate to see Priests for Life shut down or without Father Pavone.  🙁


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Will There Be Faith?: A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples {Book Review}

Will There Be Faith?: A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples
Author: Dr. Thomas H. Groome

I was asked to read and review this book about educating our children in the Catholic Faith as part of the TLC Book Tour.  As a former Youth Minister, Catholic School teacher and now Catholic Home Educator, I was very excited and looking forward to reading this book.  I was hoping this book would be the answer to my prayers for Catholic Schools and Catechetical Education in our parishes, so I eagerly read this book day and night – every spare moment I had.  {don’t laugh, I do get some quiet time here and there, lol}

The first two chapters were the hardest to get by, I must admit.  There was a lot of teacher jargon and theological talk as well, it felt like I was reading a college textbook.  I didn’t mind this overall, but now that I am a busy mom of five homeschooled kids, it was hard to go through the pages and with the children around.  The kind of reading that is best done in silent, you know?  So I did have to re-read things plenty of times mainly because I didn’t want to just skim through the chapters….I wanted to capture everything he was saying because this topic is very near and dear to my heart.

About Will There Be Faith?• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: HarperOne (August 23, 2011)
A Modern Manual for Sharing a Relevant, Vibrant, Enduring Faith
In the face of mounting obstacles, parents and educators find themselves increasingly challenged by the task of leading people toward lives of faith. Now Thomas Groome, a world-renowned authority on religious education, has created a contemporary, holistic approach to teaching Christian beliefs and values that offers real, effective solutions for today’s parents and teachers. His guide to religious education—which aims to “bring life to Faith and Faith to life”—is a hopeful road map for reenergizing the faith community and family from the bottom up.About Thomas H. Groome
Thomas H. Groome is chair of the Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry and professor of theology and religious education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry and author of What Makes Us Catholic?Find out more about Thomas Groome here.

What did I love about this book:
His plan of action emphasizes the importance of including and having active parent involvement in the formation of the faith of children, his mantra: “life to faith and faith to life”.  This really hit home for me as I recall a larger than I’d like percentage of parents who sent their children to either Youth Group, Faith Formation or even Catholic Schools expecting the teacher to take on this role solo.  Which is impossible!  Parents need to take on an active role in raising their children in the faith, this may not sound like rocket science to most who read this blog but listen I’ve seen it and saw it for many years…parents not living the faith and expecting the CCD/Faith Formation teachers or youth minister or Catholic School teacher to do this job for them.  NOT AT ALL POSSIBLE…you must life your faith and bring that faith to your everyday life.  A simple, yet very complex, way of life…but it is possible!  I love the call to action that he makes of parents and also how he reveals that it really does take a village to raise a child and raise them to be God fearing, faithful individuals!

Things that were troublesome for me personally in this book:
As a teenager and young adult I was involved in the Charismatic Movement within the Catholic Church.  My husband is a convert, he was raised Southern Baptist.  The last nine years of our lives together we have matured our faith into a more traditional Catholic family.  We believe in the old and basic teachings of the Church…we attend the Tridentine Latin Mass/Mass in the Extraordinary form as much as possible and prefer a more traditional Novus Ordo as our parish.  With this said, I do have issues with the underlying message the author is conveying leaning towards a more Liberation Theology approach.  For example, he mentions that the book of Genesis is mythical in nature, this is not a teaching of the Catholic Church.  Another example is that he tries to be politically correct about God and doesn’t want to refer to God as a He…uh, God the Father, God the Son…Father and Son are male.   If you can get past all of these underlying things the message of the book is pretty simple: teach as Jesus taught us.

My favorite chapters were definitely the last two “The Foundations” and “The Movements”.  The Foundations chapter, he explains and reiterates in plain and simple language his mantra.  The Movement chapter deals with putting his approach to work.  The way he set the book up was also interesting.  He presents new information and stops and reflects with questions, this gets the reader thinking more about the information presented and also makes you reflect on your own life and how it applies to it.  Honestly, I think that he should have started the book and expanded the last two chapters more…and this book would have been an easier and more practical read for busy parents {and avoided all the unnecessary liberation theology}.

If you are interested in purchasing this book:
Will There Be Faith?: A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples 

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40 Days for Priests : Prayers & Devotions for a Holy Catholic Priesthood: Prayers to Obtain from God the Sanctification of t…

40 Days for Priests : Prayers & Devotions for a Holy Catholic Priesthood: Prayers to Obtain from God the Sanctification of t…: “Jesus, Savior of the world, sanctify Thy priests and sacred ministers. Iesu, Salvator mundi, sanctifica sacerdotes et levitas tuos. ~~~~~…”


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Are you a writer who’d be interested in doing a guest post or interview for our blog? If so, please contact us by e-mail at raisingLittleSaints {at} gmail {dot} com for details. We’d love to feature you on our blog! Can’t wait to hear from you!

Mama Erika

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Kathleen’s Catholic: “Your Kids are Stuck in the House All Day.” Reall…

Gotta Share:

One of our lovely Raising Little Saints readers, Kathleen shared this great post, it is just lovely and I bet many of you homeschoolers can relate, so go get a cup of coffee and click on:

Kathleen’s Catholic: “Your Kids are Stuck in the House All Day.” Reall…: ” by Kathleen Blease We had just finished dinner and the dishes were in the dishwasher when there was a knock at the front…”
Thanks, Kathleen, for sharing this with us!
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