“I told the bishop not to. And the Vatican knew it,” he told CNA.
“This was not a normal relationship. It was abuse. If they say they sent something, they are admitting to violating a very serious, long-standing set of instructions to stop abusing and harassing me,” he said.
“That abuse obviously continues, and therefore our canonical and civil remedies will continue as well,” he added.
Pavone’s conflicts with Bishop Zurek have centered on Priest for Life’s fiscal operations, Pavone’s provocative social media posts and past roles with Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns, and Pavone’s livestreamed endorsement of Trump just before the 2016 election when the pro-life activist placed the remains of an aborted baby on an office table many believed to be an altar.
Pavone, for his part, contends that Zurek and others have tried to undermine him and his pro-life ministry over the years because of his outspokenness on the abortion issue and his harsh denunciations of the Democratic Party, which he contends many in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy are reluctant to alienate.
Even the Vatican, however, “realized the relationship and the communication with Amarillo were broken beyond repair,” Pavone wrote in an email Thursday, pointing to permission he received from the Vatican in 2019 to transfer to the Diocese of Colorado Springs, which Zurek refused to allow.
“So no documents were expected to come to ‘me,’” he said, referring to any notification the Amarillo Diocese may have sent him about his laicization.
“The diocese and the Vatican know well how to reach my team,” he added, citing instructions he said he received from Archbishop Pierre, the U.S. nuncio, telling Pavone that he could not officiate at the recent funeral Mass for his father.
Originally a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, Pavone, now 63, transferred to the Amarillo Diocese in 2005. He remained incardinated there — meaning he served as a priest under the authority of the local bishop — until his laicization late last year.
While he continued to say Mass online for weeks after the Vatican’s decree, Pavone is now going by “Frank Pavone” on all his social media channels. His profile picture on the different social media channels has changed from a photo of him in his priestly collar and a red Donald Trump-styled “Make America Great Again” hat to different photos of him without the collar. Pavone has said he plans to appeal his case to Pope Francis, and to his successor, if necessary, to be reinstated.
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Neither Zurek nor the diocese has issued any public statements on Pavone’s case, though it has posted Pierre’s letter to the bishops on its website, without comment.
The Vatican’s decree has no bearing on the continued operations of Priests for Life, a nonprofit pro-life advocacy organization that relocated from New York to Titusville, Florida, in 2016. Pavone has served as its national director since 1993.
Pavone has circulated a pair of letters he says support his claims that Bishop Zurek was determined to get rid of him.
One of the letters was written in March 2016 by the late Monsignor Harold Waldow, then Amarillo’s vicar of clergy, attesting to the “personal animus” Zurek exhibited toward Pavone.
“I have witnessed occasions at which Bishop Zurek was present for any variety of meetings, such as the presbyteral council, priests’ retreats, Holy Week liturgies, and funeral celebrations, during which Father Pavone’s name would come up, often in the context of positive comment about his ministry within the diocese and elsewhere,” Waldow wrote.
“Bishop Zurek often takes these occasions to reveal the toxic nature of his relationship to Father Pavone. He makes remarks publicly about sensitive matters concerning Father Pavone. On more than one occasion he has seriously misrepresented the actual situation by his remarks,” he continued.