As pro-life supporters across the world get ready to be a voice for the voiceless tomorrow during the pro-life "Day of Silent Solidarity," one of the organizations which provide financial support for the event are having their financial activities questioned by the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.
Father Frank Pavone, a priest of the Amarillo diocese and prominent pro-life advocate who provides funding for the Day of Silent Solidarity through his two pro-life advocacy groups, Priests for Life (PFL) and Gospel of Life (GOL), is being accused of questionable financial activity by Bishop Patrick J. Zurek, head of the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.
Stand True Ministries (STM) has held the "Day of Silent Solidarity" for several years, inspiring thousands of young people across North America and Europe, as well as Asia and Africa, to gather and spread the word about what they feel are the evils and atrocities of abortion. Participants in the event wear red armbands as a show of silent protest and pass out literature, which can be downloaded from the STM website, to further inform people about the Christian viewpoint of abortion.
The "Day of Silent Solidarity" has been a success in past years, and this year "hundreds of thousands of people," consisting of mostly high school children and college students are expected to participate in the event, according to STM founder, Bryan Kemper.
GOL has also been recently stripped of its non-profit, tax-exempt status by the IRS.
Pavone, the national director of PFL and GOL, explained his involvement with STM in an email response, saying that his organizations "fund Stand True and employ [Kemper] full-time, making it possible for him to do the work" for the "Day of Silent Solidarity."
Kemper, however, told CP that although he is employed full-time by GOL as a Youth Director, his Stand True Ministries is a separate 501(c)(3) organization and that the only funding STM receives from GOL is for travel.
STM is also listed as part of GOL's "family of ministries," which lost its non-profit, tax-exempt status for failing to file tax forms with the IRS for three consecutive years, according to Guidestar, a Web Site that tracks non-profits.
However, GOL continued to accept donations and also accepted over $800,000 from its affiliate organization Priests for Life (PFL), the organization at the center of a dispute between Pavone and the Bishop of Amarillo, who has accused him of using the pro-life, non-profit organization for his own personal gain, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.
"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," Bishop Patrick J. Zurek wrote in a September 9 letter to fellow clergy across the country.
"Since [Pavone] 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," Zurek wrote, adding that Pavone's newfound fame "inflated his ego."
The Amarillo-Globe News reported in a separate article that PFL has grown along with Pavone's national reputation. Between 2004 and 2008, the groups received contributions increased from $7.1 million to $10.8 million. The group started 2008 with about $2 million in net assets and funds. It ended the year with $1 million more.
Despite the concerns Zurek has, Pavone claims he has provided all the information necessary and he has nothing to hide.
"PFL has consistently provided every financial document requested by Bishop Zurek, including annual financial audits, quarterly reports, management documents - even entire check registers!" Pavone wrote in a response to Zurek's letter.
Pavone did admit, however, that PFL provides him with money to pay for his living expenses.
"PFL, as a Private Association of the Christian Faithful, does provide for my residence and the expenses associated with the ministry, but these expenses are very small," he wrote.
Pavone added, "Though, as a diocesan priest, I have never taken a vow of poverty, I have basically chosen to live in that fashion in solidarity with the pre-born children we are trying to protect-who are the poorest of the poor."
According to Charity Navigator, a website that rates charities based on financial health and transparency, Pavone's Priests for Life scored two stars on a four-star scale. Over a third of its spending goes towards administrative and fundraising, with less than two thirds of its over $10 million revenue going towards programs and services, which mainly includes outreach and education for clergy about pro-life issues.
Aside from providing over $800,000 to Gospel of Life Ministries, an audit report shows that PFL has provided $437,000 to Rachel's Vineyard, an organization that helps counsel women who have had an abortion, which is also part of GOL’s "family of ministries," along with Stand True Ministries.
Despite being funded by two organizations with questionable financial activity, Kemper stood by Pavone's statement regarding Zurek's accusations and denied they will have any impact on the effectiveness of the "Day of Silent Solidarity.
"I have no worries – none whatsoever," Kemper said, adding, "I'm very proud to work with them."