Lord, Have Mercy On Us

On this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, when the Gospel reading proclaims the holy significance of unborn life, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that the Vatican is planning to deprive our most prominent pro-life Catholic priest of his faculties.

According to CNA, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, sent a letter on Dec. 13, 2022 to all the U.S. Bishops informing them that Father Frank Pavone has been laicized by the Vatican, with “no possibility of appeal.”

Father Pavone says he has not been notified about the Vatican’s judgment and, as I understand it, the laicization is not complete until he has both been notified and acknowledged it. He says that CNA’s inquiry was “the very first communication that came to me about this.”

I am in tears as I write this. Father Frank Pavone is a deeply devout Catholic priest and probably the staunchest support of unborn life in the world. So let me just say with maximum disgust and disbelief, “yeah, right” to the claim in the Nuncio’s letter that he is guilty of “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.” His alleged crimes are not specified.

Pavone wrote about his battles with certain bishops (see pdf linked below) that he has “suffered from an abuse of authority from a number of bishops, who have lied to me and about me, have tried to block my work and take over my board, have launched fake ‘investigations,’ and have constantly changed the goal posts in their expectations and requirements of me and my ministry. I have had to repeatedly defend my rights using the processes that Church law provides.”

But he says that, on five occasions, he has met with Pope Francis, who “encouraged me in my work. He notes that “multiple occasions the Vatican has removed obstacles that certain bishops have put in place, but it’s a constant battle.” If the Vatican has now sided with pro-abort bishops , then it’s a very new development.

Fr. Francis Hoffman explains at Simply Catholic, “Once a priest, always a priest: the Sacrament of Holy Orders imprints an indelible character on the soul of the priest that empowers him to confect the sacraments. However, if a priest has been laicized, which is to say, returned to the lay state, he may no longer dress as a priest or function as a priest. He is not allowed to celebrate the sacraments, but he would be allowed to receive the sacraments.

If he were to come across a person in danger of death, he would still have the power to forgive sins through sacramental absolution, and in such a case he would be allowed to do so.

Laicization can be either voluntary as a favor, or involuntary as a punishment. In either case, the man is no longer allowed to carry out the sacramental duties of an ordained cleric with that one exception: in danger of death he can hear a person’s confession (see Canons 976, 986.2, 1335).

Finally, it is possible for a laicized priest to be restored to holy orders, but only by express rescript from the pope (see Canon 293).”

Father Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life, President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, and Pastoral Director for both Rachel’s Vineyard and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. He travels throughout the country, to an average of four states every week, preaching and teaching against abortion. These are lay organizations, so even if this laicization occurs, he will be free to continue with all aspects of his ministry, apart from celebrating Mass and other Sacraments.

You can follow him on Twitter @frfrankpavone.

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