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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Second-Guessing Bishops

As you all know, I'm never averse to second-guessing a bishop.
That having been said, we have an obvious question:
Is the Bishop of Amarillo right to pull a successful pro-lifer off the front lines?

Well, keep in mind the Vatican had already shut down Missionaries for Life back in 2008 over precisely these kinds of issues.

But doesn't this harm the pro-life movement?

Speaking as an ex-atheist, I was arrested twice for blocking abortion clinic entrances while I was an atheist.
I was surrounded by Jesus freaks (active Catholics), and their freaky attachment to the Church is part of what woke me up to the larger problem: education.

As I realized that the abortion problem is a problem of education, I also started to recognize that the education isn't just one of biology, but of spirituality - that's what brought me back into the Church, that recognition. It was the Church's pro-life stance that converted me, so this is what I see as Fr. Pavone's problem.

A priest's ability to do ANYTHING flows from the sacraments.
If he doesn't honor his sacraments, he can't do any really effective work.

Part of a priest's sacrament is obedience - that's why Archbishop Fulton Sheen was placed in a small parish by his bishop for a year even after he graduated with highest honors from Louvain. Especially and precisely BECAUSE he passed with highest honors and was offered a professorship, Bishop shoved him in a nowhere parish in the worst part of the diocese. He gave Sheen absolutely zero reason to think his immense gifts would ever be effectively used.

Bishop was testing Sheen. He wanted to make sure Sheen was going to honor his sacrament before he allowed his spiritual son to be tempted with the ego-gratifying career that would certainly follow once Sheen was released to the world. Would Sheen break, despair, and give up some aspect of his priesthood in order to pursue fame and glory? After a year of testing, he hadn't done any of that. Sheen submitted with quiet good humor to whatever his bishop wanted, exactly as any excellent priest would.

One year later, Bishop released Sheen to Louvain and to the great honors that followed.

To the end of his life, Sheen appreciated that test of his soul and thought it a good thing the bishop had done it.

Pavone is failing the test Sheen passed.
Bishop is reigning Fr. Pavone in precisely to keep him from becoming Fr. Corapi.
I think Corapi kind of shook a lot of people, including bishops.
It's not a coincidence that this is happening AFTER Corapi, and didn't happen before Corapi.

As an aside, I've never seen a public episcopal letter with that level of opprobrium.
Only a very angry, deeply concerned bishop would write such a thing and disseminate it to all of his brother bishops and to the world.

The fact that Priest for Life responded to the bishop's concerns by sending out yet another plea for money less than a week after the letter went public looks all the world like Fr. Pavone decided to stick his thumb in the bishop's eye.

Now, if a priest were to do that over doctrine, I could see why that might happen and wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it. I'm still not entirely sure about Corapi's situation precisely because I'm concerned that part of that situation is driven by a desire to grab Corapi's money. Corapi has framed it as a doctrinal dispute, and I'm not sure which side is telling the truth, so I pretty much withhold judgement against either side because there aren't enough facts.

But, Pavone's situation is entirely different.
Here, he's publicly disrespecting his bishop over money.
And nothing else.
You can see that from the timing of the "cash plea" letter.
Over money?

Yah, that's not right.

When Fr. Pfleger was rebuked by Cardinal George, Pfleger instantly realized he stepped over the line, and he shut up, at least for a few weeks.
When Fr. Corapi was reprimanded, Corapi recognized his vow to the bishop (in a kind of backwards way, but...) by stepping back from his priestly ministry, and he showed some abject public contrition afterwards in the way he handled talks and material sales.

But Fr. Pavone?

Fr. Pavone sends out a dishonest letter cadging for cache, a letter which fails to mention a very public rebuke he received from his own bishop, a rebuke which has very serious bearing on the content of the letter Pavone allowed to be distributed.

Corapi and Pfleger didn't deny their rebukes or attempt to hide them.
They discussed their problems openly.
Some would say far too openly.
But Pavone?

I don't generally side with bishops who go after orthodox priests, but this time... this time, I think the bishop is on to something.


Matheus F. Ticiani said...

And as always, Mark Shea didn't miss the cue.

And he seems to be quite a faithful reader of your blog... :)

Steve Kellmeyer said...

God bless Mark.

He doesn't have too many original thoughts, but he talks a lot, so he makes up on volume what he loses on each individual transaction.

It's interesting that nobody seems interested in going after Pavone while EVERYBODY went after Corapi.

And nobody is mentioning that very peculiar post-rebuke fund-raising letter. Hmmm...

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

And oddly enough, they all went after Corapi without addressing the teeny tiny issue that just perhaps, you know, a priest shouldn't moonlight as a Catholic Media Mogul.

Understantably, the Catholic Celebrities probably felt they had to hate the sinner but love the sin in that particular case.

Fushek, Maciel, West, Corapi, Pavone...and counting. The scandal goes on but so does the influence and money, so who cares?...

Kevin said...

I think it's more a of a "wait and see" thing with Pavone. Remember, Corapi had been under investigation for 6 months before anyone really started saying anything.

FWIW, Ed Peters is telling Fr. Pavone to knock off the public airing of his case and let his lawyers do the talking:

Fr. Pavone does seem to be misrepresenting what is going on though. He calls it a "temporary visit." This is a lot more than a mere visit, and it could very well be more than merely temporary.

Matheus, yeah, for obvious reasons, there were some who didn't want to talk about how making Corapi a media mogul could very well have placed him into those compromising positions.

I asked time and time again in my writings, vow of poverty or not, what on earth is a priest of the order of Melchizedek doing with 5 harleys, a sports car, a yacht, an obsession with tanning and a mansion?

Kevin said...

Also, it appears that the financial irregularities aren't just related to PFL, but towards two charities (Rachel's Vineyard and something else) which are in some way connected to Priest's for life.

Kevin said...

One more.

I was driving into work this morning with the Catholic radio on. On it, there was a "lifenews" segment put out by someone affiliated with priests for life.

During it, they talked about how Fr. Pavone is having all kinds of malicious rumors spread about him. Okay, fair enough, maybe there are, I haven't looked.

But what he then says I found a bit flippant. He talks about how the Bishop "seemingly ignores" the audits, implicating the Bishop in the nasty "rumor mill."

This is over a national catholic audience. There is something about presenting the appearance of scandal. What if the Bishop looked over those audit reports, and wanted to question further? What if there is a, a shocker, noble sentiment behind why the Bishop is doing this? If you were a Catholic not in the know and you listened to catholic radio this morning, you wouldn't get that. You'd get a conspiracy of some evil bishop conspiring with people on the internet to spread rumors and slander against a great champion.

Why not just say there's some due dilligence the Bishop wants to perform to make sure everything is okay, and we are complying?

Part of me is still inclined to think this is a misunderstanding. Yet Fr. Pavone needs to drop the Mark Antony act, talking about how they are all "honorable men" and when they turn their head twisting the rhetorical knife. Otherwise, one has to ask the question: if there is nothing there, why the behavior?

Nilk said...

And now someone's set up a facebook page to support Fr. Pavone.

I can't begin to understand the whole story, so that's about all I can contribute at the moment. A young facebook friend of mine who believes in (I guess you could call it) Traditional Catholicism posted a link to this page.