What Really Got Father Pavone Defrocked?

In a letter obtained by the Catholic News Agency, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, Christophe Pierre gave several reasons, but no specific examples, for Father Frank Pavone’s defrocking.

The first was “blasphemous communications on social media” and the second, “persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.”

According to a comment made by canon lawyer Gerald Murray to CNA, neither of the alleged offenses seems serious enough to be cause for defrocking. The impossibility of appeal also seems to point the finger to Jorge Bergoglio, who as supreme pontiff would be the only one capable of issuing a final decision not subject to appeal.

So what is going on?

Blasphemous Communications?

The most probable social media post being referred to by the Vatican is the following Tweet from Fr. Pavone from August 15, 2020.

Although the Vatican has not specified what social media posts it considers blasphemous, this LGBTQ+XYZ Catholic” blogger‘s interpretation is probably in line with Bergoglio’s Vatican. That interpretation allows pro-abortion Democrats to be in full communion with Rome, while pro-life Republicans, never mind MAGA Republicans, better watch their back.

Pavone’s tweet is profoundly spiritually abusive and sacrilegious. It is sacrilege to use the sacraments for other purposes, such as political gain, and that’s exactly what he’s doing … They are going to view the sacrament of penance as a tool to bash, humiliate and manipulate political rivals now and they will commit that sacrilege as well. He is misleading the Faithful for political gain, and using his standing as a priest to do so. American Catholics will suffer gravely because of him.

Pavone’s Tweet is Sacrilege and Bishops Must Act, Patheos Blog

It appears that the blasphemy is of the political, not truly the religious type. After all, as many have pointed out on social media, Father James Martin is still a priest in good standing despite appearing at the abortion-loving, family destroying, and faithful-persecuting, Democrat party convention.

The most basic understanding of Catholic teaching shows Father Pavone’s understanding of absolution is correct; without repentance, absolution has to be withheld for the good of the sinner.

The Democrat party has not only made the legalizing of the murder of the preborn, one of the most central parts of its platform, but has actually made it clear that those who oppose abortion are not welcome.

While the argument has been made that it is only wrong to vote for a Democrat if the intent of the vote is specifically to advocate for abortion; in the current case where abortion and the destruction of the family are the main organizing principles behind the Democrat party, it is difficult to imagine any scenario where a vote for the Democrat party could be justified any more than a Catholic could justify voting for a modern version of the Nazi party.

This, of course does NOT mean that one should always vote for the Republican. Not only are many Republicans pro-abortion, but they may also be anti-family, and be personally and politically corrupt.


The Catholic Church is a hierarchical institution, which, like the military does not tolerate insubordination. This does not mean that men will always get along, and sometimes disagreements can be resolved by appeals to higher authorities.

In a document posted on Father Pavone’s personal website, he describes his difficult journey through a series of episcopal patronages and opposing bishops.

It is clear that for a very long time, Father Pavone’s pro-life ministry allowed him to use pro-life connections high up in the Vatican to circumvent the usual oversight and strict hierarchical oversight demands of the Catholic priesthood.

But now, an abortion and LGBT friendly Vatican, which fetés pagans and globalists and welcomes Democrats but shuns Republicans, along with Father Pavone’s open political partisanship in favor of President Trump, appear to have finally cornered Father Pavone.

The following is an account of the conflicts between Father Pavone and the Catholic hierarchy as recounted by Father Pavone himself in a document titled: Summary of How Fr. Frank and Priests for Life Have Been Treated by Some in the Hierarchy.

The Start of Priests for Life: Cardinal O’Connor Years

Father Pavone began his pro-life ministry under Cardinal John O’Connor, who was the greatest American Catholic champion of the pro-life cause. He was instrumental in supporting many pro-life ministries among others the Sisters for Life and Priests for Life.

Over the years of my seminary formation and my initial years of parish work in Staten Island, NY, my pro-life activities grew, and began to extend beyond the local level to the national level.
Then, after four and a half years of very happy and multi-faceted ministry in a large parish, I felt a “call within a call;” I was certain that I wanted to devote all my time and energy to defending the unborn from abortion.
I set up an appointment with Cardinal O’Connor to ask his permission to do this. And between the time we set the appointment and the day we had it, I got a call from the priest who had started “Priests for Life,” which I had already joined. He told me he was entering military chaplaincy and that we would need a new director of this relatively new ministry. He asked if I was interested. I said yes, and when I asked the Cardinal for permission to do pro-life work full time, I suggested that being the first full-time director of Priests for Life could be the means of carrying out such ministry.
Cardinal O’Connor said yes, and my fulltime ministry as National Director of Priests for Life began on September 1, 1993.
Father Pavone's account of his conflict with the Catholic Hierarchy

First Exodus: Cardinal Edward Egan & Transfer to Amarillo, TX

When Cardinal O’Connor died in the year 2000, the new bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan decided that Father Pavone should step away from Priests for Life, which would have essentially ended the nascent Pro-life ministry seven years after it started.

Father Pavone appealed to Cardinal Egan to be allowed to continue the work of Priests for Life but was rebuffed until Pope John Paul II’s Vatican intervened.

It was at that point that I asked him if I could transfer out of the New York Archdiocese, where it was clear I no longer had the support to fulfill my vocation to full time priestly pro-life work. 
In order to do that in the Church, a priest needs a “receiving bishop,” and I had one. The bishop of Amarillo, Bishop John Yanta, who had been a member of Priests for Life before becoming a bishop, was convinced, as was I, that abortion is the pre-eminent issue of our day and deserved the pastoral attention of the Church, to the point not only of letting priests devote themselves fulltime to defending the unborn, but also of forming a community of such priests. 
Cardinal Egan refused to let me transfer. No explanation. Simply another one-way communication was sent to me, saying the Archdiocese of New York wasn’t allowing its priests to switch to other dioceses.
So I appealed to the Vatican. I visited with Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, who was in charge of the Congregation for Clergy, which handles these matters. He had been a friend of Cardinal O’Connor and understood my work. We had a good conversation. As I left his office and was about to walk out the door, he called out to me and said, “Do the Lord’s work – for those who do the Lord’s work, the Lord protects” and he smiled.
Subsequently he told Cardinal Egan to let me leave the Archdiocese and join the Diocese of Amarillo.
That occurred in 2005.
Father Pavone's account of his conflict with the Catholic Hierarchy

Growth Under Bishop John Yanta in Amarillo, Texas

Priests for Life grew from 2005 – 2008, initially contemplating the creation of a religious order, but abandoning that effort to remain a civic non-profit focused on ministering to priests and religious across the United States and the world.

The religious order, which was called the Missioners of the Gospel of Life, planned to start a seminary in the diocese of Amarillo, for which they raised significant funds and even celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony with important bishops and Cardinal Martino from the Vatican.

Much needs to be investigated to find out exactly what happened to this grand project of a Pro-Life religious order, as it appears that the administration of the funds raised for the seminary, as well as the desire on the part of Father Pavone for independence from direct diocesan supervision, foreshadow the turmoil that was to come in the following decade and a half.

Bishop Zurek, Financial Inquests, and Appeals to Rome

Bishop Zurek of Amarillo Texas

In 2008 Bishop Yanta retired and was replaced by Bishop Patrick Zurek, who immediately clashed with Father Pavone. Father Pavone relates that Bishop Zurek did not approve of many of the projects being undertaken by Father Pavone. Projects such as suing the Obama administration over their unsuccessful attempts to force religious organizations to pay for insurance that would include abortions, the operation of Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing within the diocese, or Father Pavone’s public criticism of Notre Dame for honoring pro-abortion President Obama.

Accusations of financial improprieties from Bishop Zurek against Father Pavone resulted in the bishop suspending Father Pavone’s travels and pro-life ministry, including his successful show on EWTN. This, in turn, led to an appeal by Father Pavone to church authorities within the Vatican. The financial improprieties inquiry ended with a visitation (a type of Vatican audit) and the full restoration of Father Pavone to his pro-life ministry outside of the diocese of Amarillo in May of 2012.

"The financial administration of Priests for Life {Priests for Life} has been publicly called into question. Despite various accounts to the contrary, it is the opinion of the Apostolic Visitator that the Association has been relatively well administered financially… There has been an annual Audit of the Association every year…[T]he work and finances of PFL are in order… [T]he administrative costs of PFL are in keeping with other groups receiving similar funding in the United States."
Vatican’s report (Prot. N. 20133327)
Father Pavone's account of his conflict with the Catholic Hierarchy

Bishop Zurek and Father Pavone would continue to clash and the conflict would spill over into the diocese of New York and the new Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Dolan, who partially oversaw Priests for Life as an “Association of the Faithful” based in New York. After Father Pavone and the Board of Priests for Life refused to abide by stringent financial requirements demanded by Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal Dolan cut all ties with Priests for Life.

2012 – 2016 No Room at the Church Inn

During the years of 2012 to 2016, Father Pavone and Priests for Life sought formal recognition from the Catholic Church, first as an international association of the faithful, and then as simply as a Catholic civil association like EWTN or the Knights of Columbus, which are independent of the governance of the Catholic church but identify as Catholic and work closely with the Catholic Church. By now though, Bishop Zurek had convinced other powerful bishops to shut off Priests for Life and Father Pavone.

Seeing that he was not going to be able to work with Bishop Zurek, Father Pavone attempted to get transferred to a more friendly diocese. When conservative Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs offered to welcome Father Pavone to his diocese in 2016, Bishop Zurek refused to give his consent.

Then, the 2016 Presidential campaign happened.

Emmett Till and Donald Trump

Emmett Till was a young black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered by being beaten for allegedly offending a white woman while visiting family in the segregated American South. The boy was beaten so severely that he was disfigured beyond recognition. When his body was returned to Chicago, his mother insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket. Thousands attended his funeral to view his open casket, and images of his mutilated body were published in magazines and newspapers, rallying popular support and sympathy across the U.S.

Emmett Till before and after his murder.

On November 6th, 2016 Father Pavone posted a video on Facebook as part of his prayer novena prior to the US presidential election. On a table, which also served as an altar for the Mass celebrated at Priests for Life Headquarters, Father Pavone displayed the body of a child killed during a third trimester abortion. The message being sent by Father Pavone was the same as had been sent by Emmett Till’s mother’s desire for an open casket, to let the world see the brutality of abortion ahead of the 2016 elections.

There are no videos that show the dead baby, as they were removed by Father Pavone at the request of Church authorities and social media platforms. This video with a blurred-out baby remains, as does a transcript of the novena prayer service.

This still shot of the video show the reality of abortion in all its gruesomeness as Father Pavone intended.

After the video was posted, Bishop Zurek made the decision to investigate and then “suspend” Father Pavone from the ministry and cancel the transfer to the diocese in Colorado Springs while he attempted to have Father Pavone permanently defrocked for desecrating an altar by placing the dead body of an aborted baby there.

Whatever the specific canonical issues, it is clear that there was a personal battle raging between Father Pavone and Bishop Zurek and the video provided a convenient way for Bishop Zurek to attack Fr. Pavone.


From 2016 until 2019, Father Pavone appealed his suspension and the blocking of his transfer to the diocese of Colorado Springs, finally achieving a victory when the Vatican ruled the suspension was invalid and that Fr. Pavone was free to transfer away from the diocese of Amarillo.

2020 – Present

Unfortunately for Father Pavone, Bishop Sheridan who had welcomed him to the diocese of Colorado Springs, reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 and was replaced by a bishop who did not extend the invitation to Father Pavone.

In the meantime Father Pavone had accepted a position within the Trump campaign itself serving on the Board of Catholics for Trump as well as serving as the National Co-Chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump.

When Bishops complained to the Vatican, Father Pavone resigned from the Trump campaign groups but redoubled his support for President Trump, causing Vatican officials to initiate the process to remove Father Pavone from the priesthood.

At this point, Father Pavone stopped communicating with Bishop Zurek who continued the process of removal that culminated with the official announcement by the Papal Ambassador reproduced below that was first reported by the Catholic News Agency this week.

Thoughts From American Pro-Lifer

For many years, Father Pavone has been the most vocal and visible American priest fighting in favor of the right to life of the preborn. Of course, there are many other priests, much less visible, toiling in the shadows.

Too many Catholics (lay and religious) have gone on with their lives, while millions upon millions of preborn babies have been murdered and Father Pavone was a constant reminder that the genocide of the preborn is real and needs to be at the top of the list of concerns for Catholics.

But Father Pavone has also made mistakes along the way.

In the opinion of this author, Father Pavone allowed himself to become too closely aligned with one politician and one party. Neither Donald Trump nor the Republican party have been consistent in the defense of all innocent life. And neither has Father Pavone. Of course, upon honest self-reflection, who among us has?

That is why principles and not personal politics should be the guiding force behind any reasonable movement.

Father Pavone closely aligned himself with Republican leaders who often deserved to be chastised instead of encouraged and supported: George Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and even Donald Trump all were in need of correction on some or many points. Unfortunately, Father Pavone became all too identifiable as a reliably Republican political player.

This happens often in the pro-life movement, as principled activists seek to make real life gains in the world of political compromise and intrigue and find themselves falling into numerous errors.

While it is understandable for politicians to make these compromises, it does not make them right when they deal with the inalienable right to life. When pro-life advocates make these compromises, supporting and endorsing the lesser of two evils, nothing good can come of it. When religious leaders act like politicians, the probability of a moral disaster is even higher.

Father Pavone has often endorsed legislation that was deeply flawed, such as the different versions of the Fetal Pain laws that mandated anesthesia to be used before a baby could be murdered through abortion, or the Partial Birth Abortion Act, which the proponents themselves understood would not stop a single abortion.

His role as a priest and as a pro-life advocate should have been to advocate for a principle, and yes, to push for those principles to be put into practice in every sphere of human society, including politics, but not at the cost of the principle itself.

In his desire to move the ball down the field, Father Pavone too often compromised on principles and crossed the line into partisan politics too often.

This is and was a real problem with Father Pavone’s ministry.

All of that being said, it is indisputable that Father Pavone is being persecuted because the people in power in Rome, starting with Jorge Bergoglio, want to cut his wings off in order to continue to take the Catholic Church away from a staunch opposition to abortion as an intrinsic non-negotiable evil, and into the easily manipulated and even more easily ignored “seamless garment” of social justice mumbo jumbo.

The defrocking of Father Pavone is therefore a sign that the Vatican is not merely rotten, it now seems to be run by people bent on the promotion of evil and the suppression of the good.

Unfortunately, Father Pavone seems to have made it all too easy for the men now in power at the Vatican to strip him of his privileged position as a priest.

I for one, will always call him Father Pavone, honoring the strength of his conviction to the Gospel of Life even if, at times, I disagreed with his legislative and political advocacy.


  1. Fr. Pavone is a true priest who has acted courageously over the years. His “defrocking” is a purely political act by the hierarchy of the Church. Real blasphemy regularly comes from the occupant of the Vatican.

  2. I am not a Catholic, but have always supported Priests for Life (as absurd as it is that that should even be a category of clergy). I have always said that if all Catholics were pro-life, it would end legal abortion in the US. I too have felt that recent email communications to supporters have stayed with Mr Trump well past his prime. I reluctantly voted twice for Mr Trump as a result of his remarkable pro-life, anti-abortion stance in his showdown with Hillary Clinton on the debate stage. He allowed for the eventual reversal of Roe v Wade (orchestrated by Mitch McConnell with the Federalist Society). Any pro-life Republican would have done the same.
    All that said, to this observer the defrocking of Father Pavone is a shame to the Catholic hierarchy and thus, the Church. The Catholic Church and we as a nation will be worse off without Priests for Life and as passionate a champion as Fr. Pavone. I hope he will continue in his fierce advocacy for the unborn.

  3. Merry Christmas Pope Francis, I always knew, from day one, you were a liberal. What do you think God would say to you today ?Our world is in such a mess, I do mean the USA, and you add wood to the fire, shameful for sure. The American people are not as stupid as dignitaries like to believe. We are more informed then ever, because it is so important. We see everything we hold near and dear being destroyed in the name of politics. Father Pavone was a champion for the unborn and our world has changed since abortion came to be. Isn’t the church in enough trouble without you destroying more of it’s foundation ? We cling to our beliefs with out any assurance from the top ! That’s you.

    Margaret Doughty

  4. Like Cardinal Vigano when you disturb the Church hierarchy with the truth you will not be able to celebrate at their table. I believe both Fr. Pavone and the Good Cardinal will have a place at Christ’s table. As for the others I will pray for them to return to their Faith.
    I would not hesitate to receive the sacraments from Vigano or Pavone but the others I would not hesitate to look for another disciple of Christ to receive from.
    Mark A Conter

  5. I remain rather shocked. As posted by others, scandalous priests like Fr. James Martin have not been defrocked. Most defrocked priests I’ve read about had molested young people. But I’ve also read about saints that have been persecuted by officials of the Church. Saints that have been canonized! I’m going to support Fr. Pavone much more than before! And continue to pray for him, the Church, and those in power within it. The Apostle Paul warned there would be corrupt persons in the Church.

  6. We are facing persecution from within! God help us all to stay strong in Him. God bless Father Frank and God bless the pope so he will seek and do God’s will and that Father Frank will be able to continue the wonderful work he was doing in saving lives.

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