Frank Pavone

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The Reverend
Frank Pavone
Father Frank Pavone.jpg
Pavone speaking at an event
Born Frank Anthony Pavone
(1959-02-04) February 4, 1959 (age 59)
Port Chester, New York, United States
Known for Eternal Word Television Network

Frank Anthony Pavone (born February 4, 1959) is an American Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist. He is the National Director of Priests for Life (PFL), a private association of the faithful, and serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard, a ministry of Priests for Life.[1] He also is the President of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations working to end abortion, and serves as Pastoral Director of the Silent No More awareness campaign.

Early life[edit]

Pavone was born in 1959 in Port Chester, New York to Marion and Joseph Pavone. His father was a hardware salesman. Pavone aspired to be an astronaut as a child but decided to become a priest after volunteering at his parish, and after attending the 1976 March for Life, decided to devote his life to the pro-life cause.[2] After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class, he enrolled in the Don Bosco College, a Salesian Major Seminary in Newton, New Jersey, later leaving the Salesian Order and joining the Archdiocese of New York.[3]


Pavone was ordained a diocesan priest on November 12, 1988 by Cardinal John O'Connor at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. He served as a parish priest at St. Charles Church on Staten Island from 1988 to 1993.[2]

In 1993, Cardinal O'Connor appointed him the full-time national director of Priests for Life.[2] He gained prominence through his work with the group, traveling to all fifty states and personally working with Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica. He received Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in America who became a pro-life activist, into the Catholic Church in 1998.

In 2001 Pavone announced a $12 million advertising campaign designed to welcome women who'd had abortions back into the church. However, the National Council of Catholic Bishops stated that this would be coordinated with post-abortion counseling services already provided by many dioceses. Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said "There is an existing ministry designed to reconcile women with the church.".[2] Also in 2001, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, forced him to step down as head of Priests for Life and accept a parish position.[4]

Diocese of Amarillo[edit]

After disputes in New York with Cardinals John O'Connor and Edward Egan, Pavone sought and received a transfer to the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.[5] In 2005 Pavone became a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, and serves in pro-life ministry with his bishop's permission. Pavone is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.[6]

In March 2005 the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo announced that Pavone, would establish a religious community, called Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, for priests and seminarians exclusively dedicated to pro-life work.[7] In 2007, Bishop John Yanta with the approval of the Vatican, suppressed the community.[8][9]

Pro-life activism[edit]

Pavone provided much commentary during the Terri Schiavo controversy, having been on the limited visitors' list and having been at her bedside many times, including during her final hours. He delivered the homily at Schiavo's funeral Mass at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Gulfport, Florida on April 5, 2005.[10]

He serves as a member of Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family Institute.[11] He is the author of two books, Ending Abortion, Not Just Fighting It, and Pro-life Reflections for Every Day.

Pavone was threatened with death by Theodore Shulman, an abortion rights advocate. Shulman indicated Pavone would be killed, if Scott Roeder, the murderer of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller was acquitted. Commenting on the threat, Pavone said, "I have already publicly forgiven Mr. Shulman and pray for him every day".[12][13]

"Baby Joseph"[edit]

In 2011, Pavone was involved in assisting the family of Moe Maraachli, a Canadian man who, with his wife, sought medical procedure for their dying son, who came to be known as "Baby Joseph", but were refused the treatment in Canada. They turned to Pavone for assistance, and he arranged, through his Priests for Life organization, to have the baby transferred to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis where the child received a tracheotomy,[14] and then to have him flown back home, breathing on his own without a machine.[15] After successfully receiving the procedure in March 2011, "Baby Joseph" Maraachli did return home, where he died in September 2011.

"The Gosnell babies"[edit]

In 2013, Pavone presided over a service to give names to the 45 babies whose bodies were found in Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic. During the service, Pavone asked, "Who are these children, and whose are these children? Are they medical waste or are they our brothers and sisters?" The service also called for prayers and healing for the parents of the aborted babies.[16] Pavone contacted the Philadelphia Medical Examiner to request permission to bury the "Gosnell babies".[16] The request was not granted.[17]

Political activity[edit]

In September 2004, Pavone addressed a group of delegates to the Republican National Convention in New York, saying, "Isn't it great to be among Catholics who aren't afraid to be political? And isn't it great to find a few priests who aren't afraid to be political?"[18] Pavone said that abortion was the "single issue" for him in the election of 2004, and indicated the politics of abortion was the reason he endorsed George W. Bush.[19]

Pavone has made statements comparing supporting the legality of abortion to supporting terrorism. Pavone said "abortion is no less violent than terrorism".[20] Additionally, in his blog, on September 18, 2008, Pavone wrote that he believed it was acceptable to distribute literature which says it is immoral to vote for Barack Obama, on Catholic Church property, as long as the Church itself is not distributing or sponsoring the literature.[21] When 2008 presidential candidate John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, Pavone said he believed that Palin was a better Catholic than Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, due to her opposition to abortion, even though Palin was raised a Protestant in the Assemblies of God church.[22]

In January 2010, Pavone commented on the special election victory of Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat. Although Brown has a moderate stance on abortion, supporting certain restrictions, while still supporting its legality,[23] Pavone considered his victory as an example that "elections are the answer". Pavone said that the Democratic party ignored the will of the people and that the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Democratic Ted Kennedy's seat showed that "the people respond at the voting booth to reclaim their own voice".[24]

On August 1, 2012, Priests for Life, Pavone, and its many ministries, were saluted in the United States House of Representatives. Six members of the United States Congress, including Michele Bachmann and Chris Smith, spent 35 minutes speaking from the floor of Congress about the work of Priests for Life.[25] C-SPAN broadcast the Special Order live.[26]

In August 2012, after Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan invited President Barack Obama to the annual Al Smith Dinner, Pavone criticized the decision, saying it "amounts to scandal", due to Obama's support of legal abortion.[27]


PFL Finances[edit]

In 2011 PFL came under scrutiny for failing to disclose financial details reporting a $1.4 million deficit in 2010 despite collecting tens of millions of dollars in donations during recent years.[8] On September 6, 2011, Pavone was ordered back to his diocese by his bishop, Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. Zurek limited Pavone to duties within the Diocese of Amarillo because of a protracted disagreement over financial transparency for Pavone's nonprofit Priests for Life and its affiliates — Rachel's Vineyard, which counsels people affected by abortion, and Gospel of Life Ministries, a lay association for Priests for Life. Pavone remained a priest in good standing, and the bishop did not allege fiscal impropriety,[28] In addition to suspending Pavone from ministry outside Amarillo, Bishop Zurek prohibited the priest from appearing on the Eternal Word Television Network. Zurek also questioned the management of Priests for Life affiliates Rachel's Vineyard and Gospel of Life Ministries, the latter of which lost its tax-exempt status last year, according to IRS records.[29]

A Catholic World News analysis of tax returns indicated that between 2006 and 2008 Priests for Life spent less than 63% of its revenues on its programs. It also found that Pavone did not draw any salary from the organization.[30]

In September 2011 Pavone appealed to the Vatican Bishop Zurek's decision to suspend his ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo.[31] Bishop Zurek's initial use of the term "suspended", which under Canon Law indicates a loss of the authority to perform religious ministry, was not supported by the Congregation of the Clergy which at the same time affirmed a bishop's right to assign clerics incardinated in his diocese.[32] The Vatican decree allowed Pavone to minister outside the Diocese of Amarillo, however he still must obtain specific permission to do so from Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek.[33] Pavone was to continue as chaplain to the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ religious order, as assigned by the bishop.[34]

In November 2012, the Congregation decided that since the principal office of Priests for Life is in the archdiocese of New York, the archbishop of New York is currently the competent authority to exercise vigilance over the association.[35] Pavone subsequently complied with demands to straighten out the group's finances and returned to New York to become accountable to his home diocese.[36]

In November 2014 Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to the bishops of the United States to advise them that the Congregation of the Clergy had conducted an apostolic visitation of PFL the previous year, and had subsequently requested that he "assist Father Pavone with several necessary reforms." Cardinal Dolan wrote to advise the bishops that Pavone had not cooperated with the reforms. As a result, the cardinal told the Vatican that "I am unable to fulfill their mandate, and want nothing further to do with the organization."[37]

Pre-election videos[edit]

On November 7, 2016, Pavone, a member of Donald Trump's 33-member Catholic advisory council,[38] presented a live video in which he appeared with what he claimed was the body of an unclothed aborted fetus and placed it on an altar. Pavone preached for about 45 minutes on the subject of abortion. Negative reactions were widespread.[39] Ed Mechmann, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York, said that "A human being has been sacrificed and the altar of God has been desecrated, all for politics. Everyone who respects the dignity of every human person should reject and disavow this atrocity."[40] Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Amarillio, Texas diocese, said the video, was "...against the dignity of human life and is a desecration of the altar, and "is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason, especially the body of a fetus." The bishop clarified that Priests for Life, which is based in Staten Island, N.Y., is not a Catholic, but a civil institution and therefore not under the diocese's supervision. He added that the diocese was opening an investigation of Pavone "about all these matters."[38][41]


  1. ^ "Rachel's Vineyard website". 
  2. ^ a b c d Jennifer Gonnerman. "Father Frank's Crusade". Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  3. ^ "Father Frank Pavone's biography". 
  4. ^ Burke, Daniel. "Priest scraps plans for anti-abortion society of priests", Religious News Service, Sep. 24, 2008
  5. ^ "New disciplinary action looming for Father Pavone?", Catholic world News, December 11, 2014
  6. ^ "Pontifical Academy for Life". Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  7. ^ Dean, Brandi. "Pro-life priests to set up base in Amarillo", Amarillo Globe-News, March 24, 2005
  8. ^ a b Gibson, David. "Priests for Life in financial trouble", National Catholic Reporter, Sep. 26, 2011
  9. ^ "Father Pavone suspended from Priests for Life leadership", Catholic World News, September 13, 2011
  10. ^ "Schiavo's parents planning a funeral Mass for today", Tampa Bay Times, April 5, 2005
  11. ^ "Catholic Citizens". Catholic Citizens. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  12. ^ "Extremist who threatened a Staten Island anti-abortion activist is imprisoned" (5 October 2012). Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  13. ^ ""First Pro-Choice Terrorist" Ted Shulman Indicted for Alleged Death Threats". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2015-02-23. 
  14. ^ Sabriya Rice (2011-03-14). "'Baby Joseph' transferred to U.S. hospital". CNN. 
  15. ^ "Baby Joseph Goes Home". Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  16. ^ a b Grunlund, Maura. "Trial of Pa. abortionist Kermit Gosnell prompts service by Staten Island's Priests for Life" (9 May 2014). Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Slobodzian, Joseph. "A battle to bury remains of the 'Gosnell babies'" (26 August 2013). The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  18. ^ Feurherd, Joe. "Battling the 'heretics' at the Republican National Convention: former Corpus Christi bishop prays for Bush victory." National Catholic Reporter. September 17, 2004.
  19. ^ Pavone, Frank (October 29, 2004). "Is the Church Too Political?". Catholic Exchange. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Fr. Frank Pavone: Stop Electing Pro-Abortion Candidates". 2004-03-30. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  21. ^ "Arrested " Blog Articles on Pro Life & Anti Abortion". 2008-09-16. Archived from the original on July 11, 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  22. ^ "TAPPED Archive | The American Prospect". Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  23. ^ "Scott Brown on the Issues". Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  24. ^ "Fr. Pavone on State Senator Scott Brown's Victory" Blog Articles on Pro Life & Anti Abortion". 2010-01-20. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  25. ^ [1] Special Order of Congress: Start on Page H5623
  26. ^ "Congress Congratulates Priests for Life 20th Anniversary - C-SPAN Video Library". 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  27. ^ Gibson, David. "Dolan criticized for inviting Obama to Al Smith Dinner", Religion News Service, Aug. 7, 2012
  28. ^ Welch, Karen Smith. "Bishop: Pavone's mission not in question", Amarillo Globe-News, October 5, 2011
  29. ^ Welch, Karen Smith. "Supporters speak out against Pavone's suspension at convent", Amarillo Globe-News, October 9, 2011
  30. ^ "Priests for Life tax returns show heavy management, fundraising costs", Catholic World News, October 19, 2011
  31. ^ "Father Pavone appeals to Vatican", Catholic World News, September 14, 2011
  32. ^ Welch, Karen Smith. "'I must approve Pavone's pro-life work,' bishop says", Amarillo Globe-News, June 27, 2012
  33. ^ "Father Pavone allowed to minister outside diocese, must consult bishop", Catholic News Service, June 29, 2012
  34. ^ Maura Grunlund. "Staten Island-based Priests for Life faces financial trouble". Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  35. ^ "Texas bishop says concerns about Priests for Life ‘favorably addressed’", January 21, 2014
  36. ^ Gibson, David. "Anti-abortion activist Frank Pavone is back in church’s good graces", January 22, 2014
  37. ^ "New disciplinary action looming for Father Pavone?", Catholic World News, December 11, 2014
  38. ^ a b Roewe, Brian. "Fr. Frank Pavone uses aborted fetus in message for Election Day", National Catholic Reporter, November 9, 2016
  39. ^ "Priest slammed for using dead baby as 'political prop'", Catholic News Agency
  40. ^ Mechmann, Ed. "A Political Desecration", Archdiocese of New York, November 7, 2016
  41. ^ "Statement from Bishop Patrick J. Zurek", Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo, November 8, 2016

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