Fr. Frank Pavone, one of the most prominent U.S. Catholic priests organizing to defend life, has reportedly been defrocked by the Vatican with no possibility of appeal over social media posts deemed “blasphemous.”
A letter obtained over the weekend by Catholic News Agency said Fr. Pavone was dismissed for his social media activity and “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 statement attached to a letter from Archbishop Christophe Pierre to U.S. bishops, dated December 13. “It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.”
The statement notably refers to Fr. Pavone as a “lay person” and adds that his organization, Priests for Life, “is not a Catholic organization.”
Fr. Pavone learned about his apparent removal via Catholic News Agency reporting. “How did CNA learn about this before I did?” the priest responded to the organization via email.
In a note posted to Priests For Life’s website, Fr. Pavone blasted some American bishops he claims have had it out for him for some time.
“What took so long?” he wrote. “This has been the plan of some of the bishops for many years, and what has unfolded has not been dialog, but a one-sided narrative of abuse.”
“My request remains the same: let me serve the Church with a full-time ministry on behalf of the unborn,” Fr. Pavone pleaded. “Some call my refusal to turn away from that work ‘disobedience.’ I call it faithfulness.”
“Is it my advocacy of the Church’s teaching on political responsibility?” the father questioned. “Have there been too many pro-life candidates elected, or one too many Justices on the Supreme Court willing to reverse Roe v. Wade and also restore religious liberty?”
“Exactly what do the opponents of my work want me to stop doing?” he continued. “My work is carried out as part of a team of pro-life professionals who have decades of experience, professionalism and integrity. The 50 people we employ at Priests for Life are solidly united in this mission and will remain so.”
In an open letter to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Fr. Pavone said Pierre’s letter to U.S. bishops “contains serious errors and omissions” and promised, “those errors will be addressed separately and thoroughly.”
“When you say there is ‘no possibility of appeal’ to this decision, you speak only in a very narrow legal sense, and completely ignore the appeal that is being made to the People of God themselves,” the father wrote. “This is not just about me; it’s about the millions of supporters of the movement I help to lead and will continue to lead, and of the work that the People of God have already evaluated and judged worthy of their ongoing support.”
Fr. Pavone has received support from Catholics in the pro-life community. Former Planned Parenthood executive-turned-pro-life activist Abby Johnson called Pavone “one of the most dedicated pro-life warriors” and questioned why he’d been defrocked.
Johnson has credited Fr. Pavone with assisting her conversion to Catholicism.
“The enemy is in our churches, friends,” she wrote in a Facebook post addressing the defrocking. “Every faith tradition. All different congregations. All ages. All cultures. He is sly, charming, unassuming and incredibly convincing. Good will indeed look like evil and vise (sic) versa. Stay in the word. Pray constantly. Use discernment.”