The Vatican has defrocked Frank Pavone, a high-profile anti-abortion American priest, over “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience” of his bishop, according to news reports Sunday.
The Vatican removed Pavone from the priesthood Nov. 9 and there is no chance for him to appeal his dismissal, according to a letter to U.S. bishops from Christophe Pierre, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S. The letter was first reported by Catholic News Agency.
Pavone, founder of anti-abortion group Priests for Life, frequently posts on social media about politics and abortion, largely in support of former President Donald J. Trump and the Republican party’s anti-abortion platform.
The Vatican said it provided Pavone “ample opportunity” to defend himself, but he provided “no reasonable justification for his actions,” according to the letter.
Here’s what to know.
What to know about Frank Pavone
- The letter cited details obtained from the Congregation for Clergy that Pavone had been laicized Nov. 9 after being found guilty “of blasphemous communications on social media and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop.”
- The letter does not specify the details of the social media conduct or disobedience.
- In 2016, Pavone had faced an investigation while in the diocese of Amarillo, Texas, for allegedly having placed an aborted fetus on an altar and posting a video of it on social media, The Associated Press reported.
- In 2011, he successfully appealed to the Vatican over restrictions placed on his ministry by his then-bishop and left Texas while working with Priests for Life.
- Pavone previously served as a religious adviser to former President Trump, the New York Times reported.
How has Pavone responded?
Pavone told the New York Times on Sunday that he had not been properly notified of the decision, and that the Vatican had not explained what he did wrong.
In a Twitter post on Sunday, Pavone stood behind his anti-abortion work:
Hi friends… So in every profession, including the priesthood, if you defend the #unborn, you will be treated like them!
The only difference is that when we are “aborted,” we continue to speak, loud and clear.
— Fr. Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) December 18, 2022
What does laicization mean?
Forced laicization, also known as “defrocking,” is the removal of a priest or other Catholic religious leader from their role as member of the clergy due to misconduct, disallowing the member from presenting themselves as a priest. The process is one of the harshest sanctions in the church’s law.
What to know about Priests for Life
Priests for Life is an anti-abortion organization based in Florida. It is not a Catholic organization. Pavone co-founded the group and has served as national director since 1993, according to the organization’s website.
Priests for Life has not yet decided whether Pavone will continue his role with the group “as a lay person,” according to the letter.
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Contributing: The Associated Press