Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Friday, September 30, 2011

Brief remarks on Bp. Zurek's "Clarification" regarding Fr. Pavone

Today Bp. Zurek issued a brief “Clarification of Fr. Frank Pavone’s Priestly Status”: Father Frank Pavone remains suspended. At my discretion and solicitude, he has faculties for ministry in the Diocese of Amarillo. He does not have my permission for ministry outside of the Diocese. He is to remain in the Diocese for an indefinite period of time for prayer and reflection.

My observations on this statement are few.

1. Zurek’s continued use of the word “suspended” is apparently idiosyncratic, as “suspension” is a type of canonical penalty and, to my knowledge, no crime has been alleged against Pavone and no penal process conducted in his regard. While, strictly speaking, a canonical suspension could be imposed which would allow for some exercise of ministry, (c. 1333 § 1), my guess is that Zurek is using the word “suspended” according to its common understanding to mean something like “sharply curtailed for administrative reasons”. I regularly advise against ecclesiastical officials using terms with canonical implications as they are used in common speech, for obvious reasons, but such use still happens.

2. Substantively, Zurek undoubtedly has, and is clearly exercising, authority to define the limits of one of his priest’s faculties for ministry. Pavone’s faculties are (and, I believe, have been since the outset of this situation) quite restricted.

3. There is no suggestion in the text or tone of this statement that Pavone’s time in Amarillo is going to be brief.

4. I do not see in this statement an express restriction against Pavone’s working for Priests for Life from Amarillo but, to the degree any activity by Pavone interferes with the “prayer and reflection” to which he has been directed under obedience, I think he should avoid it.

Based on events over the last week or so, the temptation for Pavone and his supporters is going to be to redouble their public pressure tactics against Zurek. I say again, such actions were, in my opinion, inappropriate in themselves and have been negligible (if not detrimental) in terms of results. + + +

Summary of my posts on the Zurek-Pavone conflict