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19 Dec, 2022 17:19

Vatican defrocks priest after bizarre anti-abortion stunt

Father Frank Pavone laid a lifeless fetus on an altar in an act of protest
Vatican defrocks priest after bizarre anti-abortion stunt

The Catholic Church has defrocked a Texas priest after a “blasphemous” anti-abortion protest in which he placed an aborted fetus on an altar, the Associated Press reported on Sunday. Father Frank Pavone’s removal from the priesthood also came after decades of controversy and “persistent disobedience” of church authorities.

Pavone was booted from the church last month with no chance of appeal, the news agency reported, citing a letter to American bishops from the Vatican’s ambassador to the US, Christophe Pierre. The letter stated that Pavone had been given “ample opportunity to defend himself,” but was ultimately found guilty of "blasphemous communications on social media and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop."

Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life, an anti-abortion organization that is not overseen by the Vatican. While Pierre’s letter did not specify which “blasphemous communications” cost him his vocation, he gained infamy in 2016 for filming a video at the group’s headquarters in which he urged Catholics to vote for then-candidate Donald Trump, before placing an aborted fetus upon what appeared to be an altar.

Amarillo Bishop Patrick Zurek, who was Pavone’s superior at the time, immediately opened an investigation into the incident, describing it as “a desecration of the altar.” While the Vatican considers abortion a “moral evil,” Zurek said that Pavone’s “action and presentation” in the video was not consistent with Catholic beliefs.

Previously, Pavone was temporarily suspended from the diocese of Amarillo by Zurek in 2011 over allegations of financial mismanagement at Priests for Life. He was also condemned by the diocese in 2020 for posting an expletive-laden tirade against Joe Biden on social media.

Pavone supported Republican candidates in every US election since the early 2000s and advised Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020. He remains a committed supporter of the former president, appearing in a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat in his profile picture on Twitter.

“So, in every profession, including the priesthood, if you defend the unborn, you will be treated like them,” Pavone wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “The only difference is that when we are ‘aborted,’ we continue to speak, loud and clear.”

Pierre’s letter concluded that Pavone may continue to speak out against abortion through Priests for Life, as long as he does so as a “lay person.”