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
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
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.
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.
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.