Vatican defrocks Priests for Life director Frank Pavone for ‘blasphemous communications’
The Vatican has defrocked Fr. Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life and a leading Catholic voice against abortion in the United States, for "blasphemous communications on social media" and disobeying his diocesan bishop.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, wrote a letter to U.S. bishops last week, saying Fr. Pavone had been dismissed from priesthood and there was "no possibility of appeal," Catholic News Agency reported.
The archbishop said the prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy issued the decision on Nov. 9 over Pavone's alleged "blasphemous communications on social media and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop."
"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," said a separate statement attached to the archbishop's letter. "It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions."
The statement called Fr. Pavone "a lay person" and referred to him as "Mr. Pavone."
Pavone was quoted as saying he had not been notified about the Vatican's judgment.
On Sunday, he responded to the news by tweeting:
"Hi friends … So in every profession, including the priesthood, if you defend the #unborn, you will be treated like them! The only difference is that when we are 'aborted,' we continue to speak, loud and clear."
The Associated Press reports that Pavone had been investigated by the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, for placing an aborted fetus on the altar and posting a video of it on social media in 2016. The photo accompanied a post saying that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party Platform support abortion while Republicans seek to protect unborn children.
Showing support for Fr. Pavone, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, wrote on Twitter: "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."
Terry Schilling, president of the conservative think tank American Principles Project, wrote on Twitter: "Just keep in mind that @Pontifex lets @jamesmartinsj remain a priest after decades of insane heresy. @frfrankpavone is a hero for the right to life and this move is VERY telling."
Schilling's tweet referred to James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor of the Jesuit magazine America, who is known for his outreach to the LGBT community.
Conservative political commentator and author Dinesh D'Souza called the Vatican's move "deeply shocking."
"Evidently the reason is he would not submit to his bishop's attempt to restrict and control his organization 'Priests for Life,'" he wrote on Twitter.
Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, a priest with the Legionaries of Christ, claimed Fr. Pavone was not defrocked for being pro-life.
"No priest would ever be dismissed from the clerical state for being TOO pro-life," he tweeted. "If you think that's the issue with Mr. Frank Pavone, I'd invite you look at his long history of disobedience to his bishop, vulgarity, misuse of human remains, etc."