Friday, October 14, 2011

Bishop Zurek finally breaks media silence ... to cast aspersions

Take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
 – Matthew 18:16
We finally got a direct quote from Bishop Zurek in the Amarillo press. It comes after Father Frank Pavone did not appear for a scheduled "private" meeting with his Ordinary on October 13. Here are some quotes from an article titled "Despite bishop's meeting request, Pavone a no-show":
“I would welcome a meeting with Father Pavone, face to face, a meeting as his bishop,” Zurek said. “I am still waiting for a favorable response to that.”

“This is a delicate internal Church matter that needs to be resolved between a bishop and his priest,” he added. “This is parallel to a human resources matter in the secular workplace. And it is even more sensitive when you factor in the relationship between a bishop and his priest as one similar to a father to a son or a brother to a brother.”

“In this case, right now, a real concern for me is Father Pavone.”
The bishop is obviously no stranger to the spin room. Following this deprecatory statement, there was a flurry of denigrating articles from the usual suspects. I'm thinking in particular of the Catholic Culture article (no author -- I guess the article wrote itself) where Phil Lawler has been leading the charge on libeling Father Pavone's good name.  And of course the ever pesky gadfly Mark Shea felt it necessary to chime in without all the facts. How's this for showing "respect" for a Catholic priest in good standing:
"This kind of petulance makes the bishop look smarter every day. This is your bishop we are talking about, Fr. Pavone. Show some respect." – Mark Shea
And true to form, Edward Peters -- self-proclaimed canon lawyer extraordinaire -- could not wait for the facts to become clear before excoriating Father Pavone for missing the meeting. (Please see my previous article titled "Ed Peters' dogged defense of Bishop Zurek".) Without anymore information about the situation than you or I have access to, Ed Peters has declared himself to be the ultimate authority on all things related to Frank Pavone and Bishop Zurek. Once again, Peters can find absolutely no fault with Bishop Zurek -- even after he learns some more about the nuances of the situation from Fr. Deibel's account. Will Ed Peters have the manly courage to apologize for his libelous treatment of Father Frank after the fact? So far there are no signs of this ever happening. If Peters is as naïve as he sounds about human nature and Church politics from his posts on Father Pavone, then he has no business being a canon lawyer. I sure wouldn't want to be his client if I were a priest that had been accused of wrongdoing by my bishop.

If they had all waited a short while for a response from Father Frank or had made some attempt to contact Priests for Life, they would have heard the other side of the story. From LifeSiteNews in an article titled "Canon lawyer advised Fr. Pavone not to attend private meeting with bishop" we learn that things are not as simple as Bishop Zurek has attempted to portray them in the Amarillo press.
Fr. Pavone’s canon lawyer has said that he advised Fr. Pavone not to attend the meeting without a mediator present.

“The details and history of the present situation are such that moving forward to a resolution is no longer simply a matter of getting together and talking,” said Canonist Fr. David Deibel.

Fr. Deibel, in his official statement released today,  says that requests to have a mediator present at any meeting between Pavone and the bishop have not been acknowledged. “Several Church officials have made it clear that they believe mediation is necessary, and that they are willing to undertake a role as mediators,” he said. “Unfortunately, Bishop Zurek has not responded to or even acknowledged any of these requests.”

“Instead,” added Deibel, “he wrote to Fr. Frank, asked him to come to a one-on-one meeting with him, and asked him in writing not to speak to anyone about the meeting. Then, the next day, before Father Frank even had an opportunity to respond, the Bishop announced the meeting on the front page of the website of the Amarillo diocese.

Fr. Deibel said that Priests for Life would prefer that the process of discussing the disagreement take place in private rather than in the media.  He said that Priests for Life remains hopeful that Bishop Zurek will respond privately to the requests for mediation and that the matter will be resolved shortly.

Fr. Deibel said however, “As his canonical consultant, I advised Father Frank not to have this private meeting until the process of mediation is underway.”
I suppose that Father Frank's detractors will just use this as more evidence of his lack of "obedience" to his bishop.

I wrote a comment at another website just shortly before learning of the response from Priests for Life. I have to give myself a pat on the back for understanding how this situation has been playing out. Here it is:
I'm not as disturbed by Father Frank's no-show as you are. I never expected anything good to come out of this meeting anyway.

As for possible explanations, I can think of a few. Of course it would be better to wait until there is a statement from Father Frank himself. But first remember that the main issue here is not about a skipped meeting or even "obedience". I'm reminded of the famous quote from Cool Hand Luke, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

Keep in mind also that the Bishop said this would be a "private" meeting - but he publicly announced it. And also keep in mind that the Bishop himself was a "no-show" for a month. Anything said in a private meeting can be spun any which way by the Bishop, and if Father Frank would have tried to give an alternate explanation of what happened he would again be labeled "disobedient" for contradicting his Ordinary -- or even for just speaking out according to some people.

So one scenario is that he was advised by canon or civil lawyers not to meet with the Bishop unless he could have someone else in the room with him that could represent him. Or at the very least to be a witness to what is discussed.

Or it could be that Father wants to delay the meeting because he is waiting for a reply from some other Church authorities.

I don't know. But this is the way that "witch hunts" are conducted. First a bogus accusation is made and then the allegations widen and the "lack of cooperation" by an innocent person attempting to defend himself is thrown in as "suspicious behavior". Until anything a person says or does not say is touted as proof of their guilt.

You know, like throwing someone in the ocean with an anchor tied to them and if they sink then they are innocent (but dead) because we all know that a witch would use his powers to be able to float.
As I have from the beginning, I remain "In full support of Father Frank Pavone".

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Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

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Related articles:

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UPDATE 1 [Oct 14]: has published a follow up article titled "Priests for Life defends no-show" giving Father Deibel's explanation of why Father Frank did not meet with Bishop Zurek. Here is the full statement released by Father Deibel as it appears on the Priests for Life website:
Official Statement from the Rev. David Deibel, Canonist

As Canonical Advisor to Fr. Frank Pavone and Priests for Life, I have, on numerous occasions, communicated on their behalf with Bishop Patrick Zurek, asking for a mediator as a first step in restoring trust and facilitating healing in the relationship between the bishop and his priest. I can attest that Fr. Pavone is eager to restore with Bishop Zurek the trust and communication that should exist between any priest and his bishop. Fr. Pavone remains in Amarillo as directed by his bishop, and remains faithful and obedient.

The details and history of the present situation are such that moving forward to a resolution is no longer simply a matter of getting together and talking. Several Church officials have made it clear that they believe mediation is necessary, and that they are willing to undertake a role as mediators. Unfortunately, Bishop Zurek has not responded to or even acknowledged any of these requests.

Instead, he wrote to Fr. Frank, asked him to come to a one-on-one meeting with him, and asked him in writing not to speak to anyone about the meeting. Then, the next day, before Father Frank even had an opportunity to respond, the Bishop announced the meeting on the front page of the website of the Amarillo diocese.

As his canonical consultant, I advised Father Frank not to have this private meeting until the process of mediation is underway. All of us want this entire process to be carried out in private rather than through the media. He remains hopeful and prayerful that the bishop will respond privately to requests made of him, and that this situation will be resolved shortly in a truly Christian and ecclesial manner. I ask all to respect Father’s prayerful wishes in this regard.

Reverend David L. Deibel, JD, JCL
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UPDATE 2 [OCT 14]:

True to form, Mark Shea brushed off Fr. Deibel's statement in an impudent comment:
"How thoughtful to deign to explain this the day after he blows off his bishop. Sorry, but he’s being childish. It’s like watching a divorcing prima donna spouse only talking to her husband through a lawyer. How about a little humility?"
Seriously, when is National Catholic Register going to give this gossipy columnist the boot? It is obvious that NCR is withholding judgement on the whole AmarilloGate mess that the bishop has fabricated. There have only been a few carefully worded articles on the site on this topic. I'm sure this has a lot to do with the fact that NCR is now affiliated with (owned by??) EWTN where the Priests for Life TV show "Defending Life" is seen.

And yet columnist Mark Shea has been constantly fanning the flames of controversy with his statements on his own blog. On top of that, Shea's general liberal Catholic pronouncements are far out of line with EWTN's goal of creating an orthodox Catholic presence on TV, radio and the internet. I think Shea would fit in much better at the heterodox National Catholic REPORTER -- also known as the National Catholic fish-wrap.

It was also interesting to see Ed Peters commenting over at Mark Shea's site. You would think that Mr. Peters would chastise Mr. Shea over some of his derogatory comments. But no. Does this mean that Peters shares Shea's open disdain for Father Frank Pavone? Well, until I see Peters publicly single out Shea for criticism, I have to come to that conclusion. Which casts a whole different light on some of Peters' supposedly lawerly statements.

Is there an organized campaign among certain prominent Catholic persons online to damage the reputations of Father Frank and Priests for Life? I'm waiting to hear next from the opinionated Gerald Nadal, who has made it very clear that he doesn't need any facts to come to the conclusion that Father Frank is guilty of .... well, something!

Is this the same gang that attacked Lila Rose and Live Action for their use of undercover tactics to expose Planned Parenthood? Who's side are they on?


  1. UPDATE 1: I added the full statement from Fr. Deibel explaining why Father Frank did not meet with Bishop Zurek as it appeared in the follow up article.

  2. UPDATE: I added a link to an article by Ed Peters on the latest ZurekGate non-meeting. And also added my critical comments of his stated opinions. (I added these directly into the article rather than appending an update.)

  3. UPDATE: I noticed that Catholic Culture has updated their article to include the new information from Fr. Deibel. I guess they didn't think it was worth writing a new article. They also have not changed the title of the article, "Father Pavone a no-show for meeting with his bishop".

    In typical fashion, CC's subscribers have left comments that are abusive towards Father Frank. As expected this is seen as another sign of Father Frank's lack of "obedience" rather than a priest acting in his own defense under the advice of his canon lawyer -- which he has full rights to do.

  4. UPDATE 2: Mark Shea has raised the bar in his harsh rhetoric towards Father Frank in his latest comments. (See UPDATE appended to the bottom of this article.)

  5. UPDATE: I added a link to Fr. Deibel's statement at the Priests for Life website.

    Also, CNA (Catholic News Agency) has an article about the non-meeting:
    Fr. Pavone refuses meeting with Bishop Zurek, requests mediator

  6. Keep in mind that good priests and good bishops can have misunderstandings. Good priests and good bishops can make mistakes, or take imprudent actions. Sometimes these must be sorted out at the Holy See, which is why there are processes in place to address them. It doesn't mean that one party or the other is evil or that Satan is manipulating a bishop against a pro-life priest.

    Jumping to such conclusions with what little we have available is taking the easy way out and fits the following definition of prudence:

    Sins against prudence that are either by defect or by excess. Sins by defect against prudence are: rashness, which acts before due consideration has been given; thoughtlessness, which neglects to take the necessary circumstances into account; and negligence, which does not give the mind sufficient time for mature deliberation. Sins by excess against the virtue of prudence are: imprudence of the flesh, which eagerly seeks means that gratify self without regard for the means that are required by God; astuteness, which looks for devious means for attaining one's goal; and undue solicitude about the temporal future with resulting neglect to provide for eternity and the needs of the soul. (Etym. Latin improvidentia, want of foresight; imprudentia, lack of foreseeing in the practical order.)

    Fr. Pavone has appealed to Rome and this is within his rights.

  7. Dear Anon. Should I presume your comment about prudence is in regards to the statements by Ed Peters and Mark Shea, since you fail to be specific?

    What I have done is point out the facts of the case. Please re-read my article and let me know if I have accused Bishop Zurek of anything other than damaging Father Frank Pavone's reputation -- which is an indisputable fact.

    In my first article on this subject I wrote: "I hope that Bishop Zurek will make a strong and public statement in a short period of time regarding the results of his investigation into the finances of Priest for Life."

    Well, it's been over a month and we haven't heard anything regarding a financial investigation. All we have seen is a public humiliation of Father Frank Pavone and of Priests for Life.

    Is it your belief that "Satan is manipulating a bishop" in this case? Otherwise, why do you bring it up since no one else is making such accusations.

    I don't know what is motivating Bishop Zurek. Some have suggested politics, others have suggested money and still others have suggested jealousy. We'll never know. What we do know from the statements of Father Deibel is that Bishop Zurek has been dishonest in his public statements. On various occasions the bishop has been sent communications which he has refused to acknowledge. And then he says in public statements that he never received such communications. Even the bishop's Vicar General has contradicted him on some of his statements.

    So yes, the facts are very disturbing in this case. I pray that the Church hierarchy will step in and straighten out this situation. We see from Father Deibel's statement that some Church officials have offered to mediate, but apparently Bishop Zurek has refused. This doesn't bode well.

    Pray for the Church.

  8. I hope the "On the Fence" group reades the following . . . . (Michael included)

    The Vatican’s Vision of a Bishop: Father, Brother and Friend for the Common Good
    In exercising his ministry, the Bishop relates to his priests not merely as a ruler towards his subjects, but rather as a father and a friend... The Bishop should encourage a spirit of initiative among his priests, avoiding anything that might lead them to understand obedience in a passive and irresponsible manner. He should ensure that each gives his best and does so generously, placing his own capacities in the service of God and of the Church, with the mature freedom of the sons of God.

    Apostolorum Successores, 76: The Bishop: Father, Brother and Friend of Diocesan Priests

    One of the most misunderstood realities of the Church, both historically and presently, is the Bishop’s relation to the priests and faithful he serves. The Congregation for Bishops in the Vatican has provided a document to clarify precisely this relationship: The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores. To properly view the current situation between Bishop Patrick Zurek and Father Frank Pavone, this document is crucial to understand the role of the Bishop as the Vatican and the Church herself understand it and NOT as any particular individual - no matter how well known, scholarly, or powerful – desires that it be understood.

    General Principles: Truth, Justice, Use Talents of Your Priests Wisely for the Common Good
    The Vatican says that the Bishop must be guided by certain fundamental principles:

    The Principle of Truth
    The Bishop must have truth at the heart of his pastoral action. «Pastoral activity is
    authentic when it is anchored in truth» and thus inauthentic when it is not. (57) A Bishop
    is not allowed to lie to his priests, lie about his priests, or ruin the good reputation of
    his priests. Restitution is required if this is done. Further, if a priest provides his bishop
    with information he requested, and then the bishop cannot claim that he does not have it.

    The Principle of Communion
    The Bishop must promote unity with legitimate diversity: The Bishop should «work constantly for the common good of the diocese, mindful that this is subordinated to the good of the universal Church» (58) Priests for Life is a worldwide catalyst for the healing of women and families affected by abortion throughout the world. Countless numbers of children are saved by their efforts every day. A ministry which greatly benefits the most sensitive pastoral missions of the universal church today - hurting women and mothers, wounded fathers, and unborn children - exemplifies this greater good par excellence.

    The Principle of Cooperation
    The Bishop must involve all Christians in the one mission of the Church. «In fact all
    Christians, individually and collectively, have the right and the duty to cooperate in the mission which Christ entrusted to his Church, each according to his own particular vocation and gifts received from the Holy Spirit.» (59) Father Frank Pavone has been individually gifted with the ability to effectuate great good for salvation of souls and common good in a particular arena: the sanctity of life and the healing of women and men from abortion. Denying the Church and society this gift, by constraining him arbitrarily, does injustice to the Universal Church and especially the women and children who will suffer from this. One only has to ask Jane Roe/Norma McCorvey – whose conversion from the most vivid symbol of abortion in America to now outspoken
    Pro Life leader was due in a large part to Fr. Frank - to verify this.

    continued at

  9. Anon. Yes, I saw this post over at

    The document which is quoted, "Apostolorum Successores", is an interesting one about the role and duties of a bishop. It has given me something to think about, especially in comparison to how canon lawyer Ed Peters sees the role of the bishop.

    Peters' vision is almost Machiavellian. He seems to envision the bishop as a "prince" of the Church who can do anything he sees fit with impunity and without need to justify his actions. Somehow, this just does not seem very Christ-like.

    Is this how Jesus envisioned his Church to be governed? I think there is an answer in today's Gospel reading from Luke 12:39-48. It contains the parable of the faithful and wise steward. I think this is offering an answer here to how a bishop should comport himself.

    Luke 12:42: "And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?' "

    Clearly it is not the authoritarian figure who "begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants" when his master is not watching. Jesus tells us that "Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required."

    I hope that Bishop Zurek will himself spend some time in prayer and reflection, just as he has requested of Father Frank Pavone. He should consider the wider effect that his actions have on the Catholic Church, the pro-Life community and even on national politics.

    In this crucial time when Christianity is under attack from government and private forces, we need to be unified in order to defend ourselves and to fight to restore the Christian moral principles upon which this country was built.

    Whatever financial problems exist at Priests for Life can surely be resolved with the assistance of the US bishops. And as for the issue of "obedience", we are all called to be obedient to God first and foremost.

    One of the most recent persons to be canonized, St. Mary MacKillop was excommunicated at one point apparently over some internal feuding within the Catholic Church in Australia. We should try to learn from the lives of the saints and not repeat the same mistakes of the past.

  10. Michael,

    You seem to be selectively choosing web facts. There is obvious misunderstanding going on but Fr. Pavone is not making it any easier by the provocative statements he's making. Here are couple from his Tweeter account:

    frfrankpavone Frank Pavone
    Let's get serious about defending the unborn; or else #abortion clinics should post signs saying, Open by permission of the local Churches.

    frfrankpavone Frank Pavone
    Thousands of unborn children scheduled for murder today. Response of the Church is exactly what? Tend to other things?

    frfrankpavone Frank Pavone
    My prayer & reflection these days has only strengthened my resolve to defend the unborn w all my time & energy. Do they not deserve it????

    frfrankpavone Frank Pavone
    Happy Feast of St Theresa of Jesus. Read about how, as a reformer, she had to put up with hell from Church authority. Surprise, surprise.

    Now I don't know about you, but these are totally uncalled for considering the fact that he's being asked by his Bishop to prayerfully reflect at this moment yet he continues to openly show public defiance by the attitude he's depicting in these comments. The above statements don't demonstrate humility since he's riling folks up by stating these things.

    This needs to be resolved but it's not helping that they're not meeting and talking this out privately amongst themselves and instead are choosing to use the public airwaves to state their postures. Lastly, as much as you and others are unwilling to recognize, Fr. Pavone is NOT on equal standing with his Bishop, and although there have been missteps on behalf of Bishop Zurek, he doesn't deserve the attitude that Fr. Pavone is clearly showing in his tweets.

    Here's Fr. Pavone's twitter link if you choose to verify them:!/frfrankpavone

    Let's pray for both of them. God bless.

  11. Anon. (Name please?) Actually, I think you are the one that is selectively choosing facts. With twitter, there is no context. And Father Frank has sent many twitter messages in addition to the ones that you selected.

    So, is this a witch hunt? What do twitter messages have to do with the implied accusations by Bishop Zurek of financial mismanagement at Priests for Life? We don't need to examine every minute word and action of Father Frank to conclude that so far there is no basis for secluding him in Amarillo.

    Remember, priests are people too. You may not like Father's New York style high-energy personality. But it is well suited for the type of dynamic pro-Life work that he does so well.

    I listened to a weeks worth of homilies by Father Frank on EWTN just before he was pulled out of pro-Lie work by Bishop Zurek and I was very impressed by what he had to say and the manner in which he said it. He also has a real gift from the Holy Spirit in the way he celebrates the Holy Mass. It is solemn and reverential and uplifting and powerful. One day maybe I will be privileged to attend one of his Masses in person.

    Father is not a contemplative. OK, I get that. The Holy Spirit gives each of us our own special charisms. If you place a tiger in a cage, its natural energy causes it to pace back and forth. But in its natural environment, it can run freely and naturally. God has a unique plan for each of us. A bishop should work with his priest to make the best use of the gifts that God has granted to that priest.

    Finally, I have read every one of Bishop Zurek's statements that he has given publicly on this issue -- there are only a handful -- and he has not once given a specific reason for the actions he has taken.

    Any legitimate system of justice must first begin with some credible charges based on facts. That's what's missing in this situation. There are no charges, just innuendos. So from a purely logical standpoint, I have to come to the conclusion that Father Frank is being treated unfairly by his bishop.

    This must be a frustrating situation for Father Frank to be in, and maybe some of that is what you are detecting. I'm sure I could parse through some of Theresa of Avila's writings and find some similar comments expressing her frustration with the Church. And they didn't even have Twitter back then. :)

  12. I hate to be the one to say it....but as a noncatholic- all I can think of, is what do people expect from a church hierarchy that hid the widespread sexual abuse of children from the public and sheltered their abusers for decades? How can anyone still believe that the RCC administration is not completely corrupt? This is just more evidence.

  13. Sara. There is no doubt that the sex abuse scandal demonstrates a huge failure of leadership on the part of many bishops. A big part of this was the acceptance of men with homosexual tendencies into the priesthood. Even as some bishops tried to end this practice, others readily accepted the candidates turned away from more orthodox seminaries. And in some cases, men who refused to accept the tolerant attitude towards homosexuality in the priesthood were forced out.

    There is another scandal that goes hand in hand with this which is not so well publicized, which is the support of many bishops of Alinsky-style community organizations. The liberals love this, so you won't see articles attacking this in the New York Times. These groups often promote "homosexual marriage" and are "pro-choice".

    Altogether there is a very corrupting influence on the Church hierarchy. It seems like it would be hard for a bishop not to get tainted by all of that "filth". If nothing else a bishop could easily get involved in the coverup because of not wanting to damage the Church's reputation.

    But remember that these scandals do not reflect Church teaching. There are many orthodox Catholics that are trying to "reform the reform". We are guided by the Pope who has been very active in trying to put out these liberal fires within the Church worldwide.

    Remember also that the pro-Life movement gets its modern day philosophical start from Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. His firm moral stance against artificial contraception laid the foundation for the anti-abortion struggles that followed.

    I think the tide is turning in the Church and the pro-Life movement is certainly a large part of that. I hope and I pray that Father Frank will be vindicated and that he will be able to resume his powerful pro-Life ministry.

    I don't agree with those -- like Gerard Nadal -- who accuse Father Frank of being a "rock star priest". As long as he is doing the work of the Holy Spirit then I see no problem with him being recognized publicly. Was Mother Theresa a "rock star nun"? How ridiculous!