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Monday, September 19, 2011

SHOCK - Fr. Pavone Asks...


And it's only Sept 19!
8:58 PM!
(Time stamps seem only appropriate, given how quickly the interval between appeals is shrinking):
September 19, 2011
(Thank you for your support of Priests for Life. If you already responded to the following appeal online, I appreciate your support. This email is intended for those who did not respond when we sent it previously.) 
Dear Steve
I sent you this urgent email because I have some important issues that concern you, me, our work together at Priests for Life, and the entire pro-life movement here in the United States.
In light of all that’s happened in the past couple weeks – and again, I’ll discuss this with you in just a moment – it is vital that you maintain your unconditional support for Priests for Life and the fight to end legalized abortion-on-demand in America. Right now that means doing whatever is necessary to click here and send Priests for Life the largest gift you can possibly make today. Not an hour from now.  Not later this evening.  Not tomorrow.  But right now!
Forgive me for being so blunt, but there’s a reason for it. 

Let's see.... how many direct appeals for cash has Father Pavone and his minions made since Sept 9, when he got reeled back into Amarillo by the bishop for financial improprieties?

We're going to run out of fingers soon...


Some people have asked how Fr. Pavone's situation differs from that of Fr. Corapi's.

Here's how.

Fr. Corapi was part of a religious community. Religious communities typically encourage all members of the community to pool resources. Indeed, it's not unusual for members to have to ask the head of the order permission even to have pocket money.

In Fr. Corapi's case, he has said (and no one has denied) that, although the rules indicated that all members were to contribute financially to the upkeep of the community, the original interpretation of the rules for his community was that each individual member was to financially support himself and contribute some of what he earned to the general funds. As far as we know, Corapi held to the letter of that law, even if evidence exists that holding to the full spirit of that law was not undertaken.

Now, we don't know exactly how the rule read, nor exactly what the original intrepretation of those rules were. But, when his superiors changed the interpretation, called Fr. Corapi back to live in community and demanded funds from him, they were conceivably acting within their rights, and certainly acting within the historic outlines of what religious communities typically do.

Fr. Pavone, on the other hand, is a diocesan priest. While the pastor of a parish has some freedom on how he spends funds, there are limits on that freedom. He can spend money any way he sees fit, up to a point. Typically, any purchase over a certain size has to be cleared through the chancery office (generally fifty or a hundred thousand - something like that). All books have to be well-kept, and dioceses typically order a full accounting of books every few years. In addition, it's almost always done at the end of a pastor's term in order to keep track of any possible fiscal malfeasance. The only lay advisory council any parish is required to have by canon law is a fiscal council to help oversee the books.

Now, Pavone is not running a parish, he's running a private corporation. Since the corporation was not started by the bishop, the corporation itself is not subject to the bishop's direct fiscal oversight. But, the bishop has not just a right, but a duty to make sure his priests are fiscally responsible. This is not just nosiness, it is a question of scandal on himself as bishop and on the diocese and the priesthood as a whole. Every priest is subject to a bishop somewhere.

Because the bishop has this duty, the bishop has every right to inquire about Fr. Pavone's handling of finances. In point of fact, because Pavone is running a private corporation, Pavone can spend the money any way he wants in any amount he wants and bishop has no legal oversight ability. However, he DOES have moral oversight ability.

If he doesn't like how the money is being spent or accounted for, he is well within his rights to assign to his priest such duties as will make it unlikely or impossible for the priest to continue to run his private little side business. This is especially true given that the diocesan priest's first duty is to do whatever his bishop directs him to do in reference to sacraments, the celebration of Mass and the care of souls within the diocese.

Furthermore, there is a sacramental bond between every bishop and his every priest. The sacrament of Holy Orders binds bishop and priest together in a father-son relationship.

If a 17-year old young man lived at home and owned his own car, but Dad was concerned about his driving, Dad might say to say, "Son, I'm concerned about your driving. Give me your car keys for a week." If the son complied and handed over the set of keys he normally used, but then used his spare set of keys to drive the car on whatever personal errands the son was interested in, Dad would be understandably upset.

Most people would recognize that the son's "obedience" was in word only - he hadn't obeyed the spirit of his father's directives, and so had sinned against the Decalogue. Since Dad didn't own the car, we might argue about what level of legal authority Dad had to ask for the keys, but no one would argue that he has moral authority to oversee his son's actions and a strong duty to act on his concerns. Obviously, the young man's teenage friends (fans) would be enraged by Dad's demands and argue that the son was really a responsible man who had done nothing wrong, but any mature adult would recognize the authority Dad had to make those demands.

Father Pavone has obeyed the letter of the bishop's directives, but that's about it.

Contrast this to Fr. Corapi, who at least had the integrity to say, "Rather than give you the car keys, I'm  moving out on my own."

While the bishop has no legal authority over Pavone, he has moral authority that finds its source in the sacramental bond between bishop and priest. Pavone has a duty of respect to the bishop and a duty of respect to the sacrament whose marks he bears. By re-doubling his appeals for cash, he is flouting that sacrament, both in himself and in his bishop.

Corapi felt he needed to quit in order to continue his form of preaching.
Pavone feels he needs to keep asking for cash in order to continue his form of preaching.
Corapi had the integrity not to pretend to keep his vow - he openly broke with it.
Pavone pretends to keep his vow while actually breaking it.

So, Pavone is a money-grubbing worm in a way that Corapi never was precisely because he is a priest who has a duty to show respect and he's actually flouting that respect.
1) By refusing to provide timely information to the donors from whom he begged of the bishop's concerns,
2) By continuing to beg for cash at least three times in less than a week despite the bishop's well-known and public concern,
Pavone demonstrates his refusal to obey his bishop in more than minor ways.

Yes, he returned to Amarillo diocese, but he's clearly more interested in running his company than in listening to his bishop's concerns. That's a direct violation of the sacramental bond between himself and his bishop.

Now, Catholic apologists who make their living by begging for cash have given kind and gentle interpretations of Fr. Pavone's actions, lest they offend Pavone's large cult-like following and lose their own rice bowl.

But Corapi, perversely, showed more respect for the sacrament than Pavone has.

Corapi formally recognized that he was not being obedient in a way that Pavone has so far refused to acknowledge and in a way that Pavone's supporters have so far refused to admit.


Alan Aversa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Hey Steve

Your #1 fan doesn't seem to disagree with you on this, but business ethics comes first.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


"The essence of detraction is the unwarranted disclosure of a hidden failing... "

Explain to me how discussing a letter that was in the Huffington Post (among other places) is me disclosing a "hidden failure."

Explain to me how Fr. Pavone's public dissemination of several newsletters begging for cash is actually me disclosing a "hidden failing."

I can see how Fr. Pavone is engaging in detraction against himself, maybe, but I don't see how I'm doing it.

Susan hasn't explained that part. I'm waiting for someone to explain it to me.

Steve and Cheryl Thomson said...

Fr. Pavone story is so obvious that we are all missing it. Politics. No, not Church Politics, National Politics. In 2008, Fr. Pavone was outspokenly anti-Obama. In 2010, Fr. Pavone paticipated in the protest against Obama speaking at Notre Dame University. The Presidential election is next year. Right now, Obama's poll numbers keep sinking. Obama needs every vote he can get to get re-elected. So how does this look to Obama and his people? Fr. Pavone needs to be taken out. This is National Politics, Chicago-Style. Where does Bidhop Zurek come in? According to Huffington Post columnist Father Alberto Cutie (Episcopalian), Sept. 19: "His bishop in Amarillo is certainly much more progressive than he is, so there could be some ideological clashes there..." Okay, do these "ideological clashes" translate into the Bishop's Democratic associations? Those associations include a relationship with former Mayor of San Antonio, Ed Garza. Garza appointed Bishop Zurek to serve on his Committee on Integrity and Trust in Local Government for the city of San Antonio. Ed Garza, sharing the Democratic leanings of other Hispanics in Texas, endorsed Obama in 2008, saying: "Senator Obama's unique ability to bring people together and bridge partisan divides make him the best candidate to bring change we can believe in." I don't want to suggest that Bishop Zurek himself is being a party to a 'dirty tricks campaign' against Fr. Frank Pavone, but the possibility exists that circumstances around the Bishop have been manipulated, with an agenda in mind.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

It doesn't matter if Bishop is engaging in politics or not. Bishop's motives have absolutely nothing to do with Father Pavone's duties.

The fact is, the Bishop called Father home precisely because of concerns about financial irregularities.

Whether or not any of us think Bishop's concerns are justified is not relevant. It is incumbent on Father to make whatever case is necessary to satisfy his bishop.

That's not just his job, it's his vocation.

Pavone has ZERO moral right to keep asking donors for money when the bishop is obviously and seriously concerned precisely about the money Pavone gets from donors.

One appeal for money you could chalk up to simply miscommunication, etc., although I still can't explain why that first appeal had ZERO mention about the bishop's well-known concerns.

But THREE appeals for money?

When you KNOW the bishop is ticked off at you about your finances?

That's obscene.

Pavone is being actively disobedient. He doesn't have the right.

Alan Aversa said...

Couldn't the bishop just as easily be accused of greed as Fr. Frank? Cf. "Bishop Zurek spokesman: Priests for Life Money Belongs to the Church" from the 14th.

Also, Most Rev. Roger W. Gries, O.S.B.,
Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland, wrote a letter yesterday urging people to continue supporting PFL.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Not at all.
Bishop is completely and entirely correct.

He did NOT say, "PFL's money belongs to me."
Nor did he say, "PFL's money belongs to the diocese."

He said, "PFL's money belongs to the Church." Which it does.

Every person who donated money knew they were donating to a Catholic priest doing Catholic work. They were giving money to the Church. It belongs to the Church Universal.

Although it LEGALLY belongs to the private corporation whose name is PFL, it MORALLY belongs to the Catholic Church because Pavone got the money acting as an agent for the Church.

In the same way, every Catholic parish MORALLY belongs to the Church Universal, although LEGALLY each parish's property tends to belong to the local diocese.

The bishop merely stated the facts.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Oh, and as for Most Rev. Roger W. Gries, while it's very nice of him to write the letter, it is not clear that he has any standing in this situation.

Alan Aversa said...

If the donors wanted to donate to the diocese directly, they could have. If they wanted to donate to the Vatican, they could have. But the fact is that those who donate to PFL want to be sure their money is used specifically for advancing the pro-life cause. They don't want to worry about it, e.g., being wasted on repairing a Protestant church, etc.

Also, Bp. Gries certainly supports PFL in that letter.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

As I said, it's lovely Bishop Gries supports PFL. It just isn't relevant.

And has it occurred to you that Bishop wants the same thing the donors want?

He wants to make sure the money is spent advancing the pro-life cause, not frittered away on something else.

Indeed, he's DEMANDING that Pavone demonstrate this to him.

So far, Pavone has failed to do so.

You may think Pavone has done it.
Pavone may think so too.
Bishop doesn't think he has.

And Bishop is the one who decides what is satisfactory here, since he has to answer to Rome for the conduct of his priests.

You don't.
It isn't your judgement call to make.
It isn't even Bishop Gries' judgement call to make.

That call belongs to the Bishop of Amarillo.

Alan Aversa said...

Dr. Peters believes PFL is a "Private Association of the Faithful." Are "Private Associations of the Faithful" entitled to share their donations with their diocese?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The diocese only has direct financial control over organizations it creates.

A diocese does not typically create such an organization, nor does it have direct legal control over those finances.


Bishop has a right to make sure his own priests are not involved in shady transactions.

If Fr. Pavone were to resign his position with PFL, Bishop would have no basis upon which to ask anything from PFL.

But since Pavone heads the organization, Pavone has a PERSONAL responsibility to the bishop to demonstrate that he, Pavone, is not involved in financially shady transactions.

Pavone's personal responsibility has NOTHING to do with PFL's responsibilities.

Alan Aversa said...

Certainly, but this is muddled by Msgr. Waldow's comments. As Dr. Peters writes:

Some of the recent media comments by Msgr. Harold Waldow, Amarillo’s vicar of clergy, add, I think, to the confusion, especially about canon law, clouding the Zurek-Pavone conflict. I'm sure that was not his intention, but this comments require emendation anyway.

Waldow begins correctly enough: “I think Rome has been quite clear the bishops of the United States need to exercise more prudential guidance and governance over the patrimony of the church.” That’s fine.

But then the vicar says: “This [namely, the assets of Priests for Life and its affiliates] is patrimony of the church. It belongs to the church.” Emphasizing the point, Waldow adds: “People give their money over the understanding that it goes to the church or church auspices and programs and ministries.” I believe that these assertions are, in light of the facts available on this matter, quite wrong.

Let’s back up.

Only that property, regardless of what it is or how it is civilly registered, which is owned by a “public juridic person” in the Church (cc. 113-123) is considered to be ecclesiastical or Church property (cc. 1255-1258). There is no such thing as ecclesiastical or Church property being canonically owned by private persons or groups.

Now, I see no evidence that PFL or any of its affiliates are “public juridic persons” in the Church (indeed, they seem not even to be private juridic persons); instead, PFL is, it seems, but a “private association of the faithful” (scroll up), and as such, while PFL is indeed subject to some level of “vigilance” by the competent ecclesiastical authority, it is generally immune to the wider controls established in Book V of the 1983 Code for ecclesiastical or Church property (cc. 305, 310, and 1257 § 1).

Assuming I am right on the facts (that PFL is not a juridic person), then referring to the assets of PFL, etc., as if they were Church property to be administered in accord with Church law, is a misrepresentation of canon law, confuses donors as to the actual recipients of their gifts and the lines of accountability flowing therefrom, feeds suspicions that local bishops spend their days looking for apostolates with assets they can raid, distracts from the central questions of incardination and clerical obedience raised by this matter, and provides fodder to those who want to characterize the Catholic Church as some megalith run by a cadre of prelates.

I agree that Bp. Zurek has every right to make sure Fr. Pavone is be responsible even if the bishop has no jurisdictcion over PFL. In this, Fr. Pavone is certainly being obedient.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"In this, Fr. Pavone is certainly being obedient."


Whether or not Fr. Pavone is being obedient in terms of personal fiscal transparency to the bishop is THE BISHOP'S CALL.

*HE* is the one who determines if the conditions *HE* laid out have been fulfilled.

You don't make that judgment.
Pavone doesn't make that judgment.
The *BISHOP* makes that judgment.

Now, clearly the BISHOP DOES *NOT* think Pavone is being obedient.

So, Pavone needs to jump through whatever hoops the Bishop establishes.

So far, Pavone has not only NOT jumped through those hoops (apart from taking a plane back home), he has ACTIVELY DISOBEYED the Bishop by continuing to beg for funds long AFTER the Bishop had asked all dioceses NOT to support PFL until he, the Bishop, has a chance to straighten this out to his own satisfaction.

Pavone is actively disobeying his own bishop every time he asks donors for money, and he's done it at least three times since the bishop's displeasure became publicly known.

Who knows how many times he did it after the Bishop PRIVATELY made his displeasure known?

Given these e-mail blasts, there is NO WAY to paint Pavone as anything other than disobedient.

Alan Aversa said...

The bishop's exact wording is: "If you judged it to be prudent, I would like to ask that you would inform the Christian faithful under your care to consider withholding donations to the PFL until the issues and concerns are settled."

That is addressed to bishops; it is not a command to Fr. Pavone. Not all bishops even "judged it to be prudent".

Perhaps he was told privately not to request donations anymore, in which case this would be an act of disobedience.

Steve Kellmeyer said...



So, you're asking me to believe that Bishop asked EVERY bishop in America to stop donations to PFL...


...he didn't tell Fr. Pavone to stop soliciting donations?

That is, you think he told everyone EXCEPT the guy who actually does all the solicitations?

He didn't communicate this to the only guy who is under his direct authority and control?

He didn't tell the man he's been discussing this with for the past ... well, apparently, forever?

Now do you see why I have every reason to believe that Fr. Pavone is a real problem?

More to the point, do you think you can understand why the bishop might be just a little concerned about the man?

Jordanes551 said...

Do you have any evidence that Father Pavone was instructed or asked by Bishop Zurek to stop soliciting funds for Priest For Life? If you cannot provide any such evidence, then it is wrong for you to accuse Father Pavone of the sin of disobeying his bishop. (And sorry, but it's insulting and scandalous even to suggest that Father Corapi's setting his hand to the plough and then looking back shows greater moral integrity than Father Pavone's actions no matter that they are open to criticism.)

Here's an idea: how about we wait until we learn the facts before we choose sides or make solemn and dread pronouncements about this? If Father Pavone has done anything wrong, it will become evident soon enough. If Bishop Zurek's concerns turn out to be unfounded, that too will become evident soon enough. In the mean time, the rest of us would best keep silent and pray for a just resolution of the conflict.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Alright, so I am to give the Bishop of Amarillo the Christian charity of the doubt by assuming he's stupid and incompetent?

Yes, I can see now how that is clearly the path of virtue.

And as far as being quiet goes, if Fr. Pavone had kept his mouth shut and refrained from making e-mail blasts, he'd have gotten not a single negative word from me.

But that isn't what happened, is it?

I never signed up for PFL missives, but he still sends them to me.

If he's going to fill my inbox with his constant beggings for money, then I have a right to comment on the propriety of what he sends me.

Furthermore, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to choose sides in this, because both the Bishop and Fr. Pavone have made mutually exclusive demands upon us.

Bishop asks all of his brother bishops to stop supporting PFL. That means Pavone's own bishop is asking Catholics in America to stop.

Fr. Pavone is demanding we give him money.

If I sit back and wait, then I am refusing Fr. Pavone's demands - I have chosen a side. If a give Fr. Pavone money, then I have chosen against the bishop.

There is no neutral corner here.
Your counsel sounds good in theory, but it is impossible to execute in practice.

As for Corapi and Pavone... I prefer Corapi's misunderstanding of the sacrament to Pavone's misunderstanding. You prefer the reverse. Ah, well...

Jordanes551 said...

Alright, so I am to give the Bishop of Amarillo the Christian charity of the doubt by assuming he's stupid and incompetent?

Not at all. Instead you should refrain from voicing any assured conclusions about either Bishop Zurek and Father Pavone when you don't have anywhere near all the facts, but should instead let those act and speak who are privy to all the facts and/or have the competence and authority to act and speak.

(And yes, I did notice your conspicuous failure to show that Bishop Zurek has ordered or even asked Father Pavone to cease soliciting funds for Priests For Life.)

I never signed up for PFL missives, but he still sends them to me.

You must have done so at some point, even if you don't remember it, or didn't know that's what you were doing (there are so many ways these kinds of groups can add people to their mailing lists, including through Facebook or through partnering with likeminded groups). I used to be signed up for PFL emails, but I later unsubscribed -- I meant it to be temporary, but I've never gotten around to signing back up. Depending out how things shake out, I might not ever -- which would be a shame, but if that's how it has to be . . .

If he's going to fill my inbox with his constant beggings for money, then I have a right to comment on the propriety of what he sends me.

Well, in my opinion Father Pavone ought to go on a sabbatical and let a colleague send out any updates and fundraising emails until this matter is resolved, but I see no point in bashing him, or calling him names, or even in chiming in on this matter all that much, since I, like you, am not in a position to speak knowledgeably and competently about it. There is a dispute, a conflict, that needs to be resolved, and God willing it will be resolved justly and if either party is mistaken he will admit it and make amends.

In any event, surely there's a way to unsubscribe from Priests For Life's emailings.

Jordanes551 said...

Furthermore, it is IMPOSSIBLE not to choose sides in this, because both the Bishop and Fr. Pavone have made mutually exclusive demands upon us.

No, they haven't made any "demands" on us at all.

Bishop asks all of his brother bishops to stop supporting PFL. That means Pavone's own bishop is asking Catholics in America to stop.

Bishop Zurek asking his brother bishops to consider perhaps advising their flocks to think about maybe not sending money to Priests For Life for the time being doesn't sound like Bishop Zurek issuing us any demand at all. And as you know, Bishop Zurek has no authority to make any demands on any Catholic unattached to his diocese. That's why all he did was respectfully and humbly ask the other bishops (not even all Catholics, just bishops) to consider a course of action.

Fr. Pavone is demanding we give him money.

No, he is asking, even urging, that people support Priests For Life -- with their prayers and with their pocketbooks. He hasn't made any demands at all.

Contrary to your hyperbolic claims, there is simply no crisis confronting the general body of the lay faithful with the pressing need to choose up sides or with an obligation to foolishly make up our minds regarding Father Pavone's guilt or innocence in the absence of evidence.

If I sit back and wait, then I am refusing Fr. Pavone's demands - I have chosen a side. If a give Fr. Pavone money, then I have chosen against the bishop.

But there is no moral obligation to give money to Priests For Life at any time, and there is no moral obligation NOT to give money to Priests For Life. Giving them money doesn't necessarily mean you disagree with Bishop Zurek's concerns or actions, and not giving money to Priests For Life doesn't necessarily mean you think Father Pavone is guilty of any moral or canonical crime.

Your counsel sounds good in theory, but it is impossible to execute in practice.

No, I think it's quite possible to pray in silence, or to speak and act reservedly and respectfully. Your "no neutral ground" claim represents a false choice.

As for Corapi and Pavone... I prefer Corapi's misunderstanding of the sacrament to Pavone's misunderstanding. You prefer the reverse. Ah, well...

Wrong again. I don't prefer any misunderstanding of the sacrament, but, granting at least for the sake of argument that Father Pavone has misunderstood what his ordination entails, ex-Father Corapi's unfaithfulness and disobedience and abandonment of his Lord is much more grave a betrayal than anything Father Pavone could be accused of at this time. Anyway, any correction and discipline Father Pavone might need will come from his ordinary or other competent ecclesial authorities, not from lay Catholics in the blogging peanut gallery.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


1) As readers have already indicated, Priests for Life sends unsolicited emails.

As it happens, it is NOT possible that I signed up for PFL letters, since I *NEVER* sign up for anyone's letters. Ever.

2) There is no evidence Fr. Corapi is an ex-priest. No one has said he has been laicized.

3) I am not correcting Fr. Pavone, for I can impose no penalties on him. I am just accurately describing him.

4) You may not understand that sending or not sending Pavone money puts each one of us in one corner or the other, but it does so, nonetheless.

Kevin said...


You really are splitting hairs on one part. Yes, there is no explicit command under pain of church penalties to not raise money.

Yet it's clear the Bishop has asked the PFL not be supported. Even if not a command, it's still not something to be dismissed lightly.

So then we should ask ourselves: is the request of Fr. Pavone's Bishop reasonable? Would we be partaking in sin or scandal if we heeded it? Are there other pro-life charities we can donate to while the investigation is ongoing?

I think you know the answers to these questions.

Also want to add, I might not agree with the way Fr. Pavone is carrying this out, but I also don't think there's any comparison with Fr. Corapi. Fr. Corapi was actually accused of something concrete and had a canonical proceeding against him. Fr. Pavone, as of right now, doesn't.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


That's a fair point about the differences in canonical proceedings between the two priests.

We still don't know if Corapi is actually GUILTY of anything, though, so while one has canonical proceedings and the other doesn't, it's not clear yet that this is a substantive difference.