Anti-abortion priest back with eyes set on Obama, bishops
The longtime head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, Pavone had been confined to the Diocese of Amarillo by his bishop, Patrick J. Zurek, who sent a letter to every other U.S. bishop declaring that he had so many concerns about the group’s $10 million budget that Pavone shouldn’t be trusted with donors’ money.
Pavone’s backers were stunned, and many stopped giving, which only exacerbated the problems that helped get Priests for Life into trouble in the first place. Pavone also couldn’t go on the road to reassure funders and drum up desperately needed cash.
Instead, the New York-born priest was stuck in a convent in the Texas panhandle where he served as chaplain to an order of nuns in a place called Prayer Town, a virtual prisoner in a war of words with Zurek, who had blasted his “incorrigible defiance of my legitimate authority as his bishop.”
Pavone used Skype to run the Priests for Life headquarters in Staten Island and deployed social media to rally donors, counter Zurek’s charges, and lobby Rome to take action.
His only other weapon was a shovel to use against snakes that might slither into his room. None did, but he did find a scorpion in his bed one night.
Today, however, everything has changed. Pavone is a free man, thoroughly enjoying a measure of redemption, and then some.
“There’s been a turning of a corner both in terms of reputation and giving,” Pavone, 53, said with satisfaction as he tucked into a plate of shrimp parmesan during a recent lunch in suburban Staten Island, around the corner from the nondescript two-story building that is home to Priests for Life. “The donations are coming in quite steadily.”
Pavone is using some of that money to jump into the political fray, which is familiar terrain for this veteran culture warrior. The corridors of Priests for Life’s offices are lined with photos of Pavone and his staff with conservative luminaries past and present: Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, John McCain, Gary Bauer, Clarence Thomas and the late Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms. Portraits of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II fill any blank wall space. [More]