The Roman Catholic Church may prove to be ground zero in the culture wars.
Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest and national director of the pro-life ministry Priests for Life, has been laicized by the Catholic Church. Pavone told Fox News that he is involved in a battle “for the soul of the Catholic Church” against what he calls “Democrat loyalists.”
To be laicized means to be dismissed from the clerical state. A more familiar term is “defrocked.” Pavone, however, remains a priest, as it is impossible to undo his priestly ordination, according to Canon Law. But he is forbidden from exercising his priestly functions.
It’s a Catch-22 — Pavone is a priest and not a priest at the same time. There is no harsher punishment for a priest to endure. What did Pavone do to deserve it?
According to Fox, U.S. bishops were alerted on Dec. 13 that Pavone was laicized on Nov. 9 for his “blasphemous communications on social media, and for persistent disobedience of lawful instructions from his diocesan bishop.”
“Since 2016, Pavone has posted tweets, Facebook statuses, videos, and other social media postings urging support for the Republican party, calling into question the validity of the 2020 presidential election, and disparaging Democratic lawmakers,” The Pillar reported.
In 2020, Pavone’s diocese disavowed Pavone’s tweets calling then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a “[expletive] loser” and saying the Democratic Party was “God-hating” and “America-hating,” according to The Pillar. Pavone also tweeted that Biden’s supporters “can’t say a [expletive] thing in support of their loser candidate without using the word Trump.”
For his part, Pavone knows he crossed the line and admitted as much to Fox.
“[Some in the church hierarchy] got upset by a comment I made to someone who was arguing with me on Twitter, a Biden supporter,” Pavone said. “I used the word ‘g**damn’ in a tweet, which I shouldn’t have done, and normally never do. … I went to confession. I shouldn’t have done that, but that’s the world we live in. We get angry.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would disagree that this is behavior unbecoming of a priest. But does the “crime” justify the punishment?
Adding Clarity for everyone to see. 21 years of persecution from some Catholic Bishops and fantastic support from many other Bishops and Cardinals. pic.twitter.com/bRTm4KfKYO
— Fr. Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) December 21, 2022
Take the case of Fr. James Martin, the Jesuit author of the 2017 book “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.” The book has been supported by LGBT activists in the Catholic Church.
Where Pavone is straightforward, even in-your-face, with his pro-life views, Martin is subtle. Some might say he is as subtle as a snake in a garden.
A review of the book by The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP) asserts that Martin fails to make a distinction between homosexual tendencies and homosexual acts while at the same time inviting the transgender movement to enter the church. This flies in the face of established church doctrine and tradition.
Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent are the authors of the 1992 book “Building Bridges: Gay & Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church.” This is where Martin got the idea and support for his book of a similar title.
Gramick and Nugent are also the founders of New Ways Ministry, which was condemned by the Vatican in 1999. It was condemned again in 2010 in a statement from Francis Cardinal George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was condemned yet again in a 2011 statement from Donald Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone.
That Martin has been heavily influenced by the founders of a thrice-condemned ministry is obvious from the title of his book. This colors his ongoing effort to change the church’s perennial moral teaching. Where is his punishment?
In support of Pavone’s claims about Democratic loyalists in the church, Martin has gained acceptance in some sectors of the Catholic hierarchy.
Two American bishops who were recently made cardinals by Pope Francis — Kevin Cardinal Farrell and Joseph Cardinal Tobin — wrote glowing reviews of Martin’s book, according to TFP. Pope Francis even appointed Martin as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.
It appears that Pope Paul VI was correct when he said “the smoke of Satan has entered the church” in the aftermath of Vatican II — but that’s another story. In this case, the smoke of Satan can be seen as the culture war.
For Catholics, the church is a single, unifying entity. But even Catholics must keep in mind that it’s an organization bound to this plane of existence and staffed by human beings. Error, folly and pride have a way of working themselves into all human organizations.
To many, it appears that the Catholic Church has a lax approach toward abortion and the long-held doctrine on human sexuality. Priests who go against the grain on these issues can face serious consequences. The outspoken Pavone is living proof.
In a Wednesday tweet, Pavone emphasized that it’s all about priorities.
Priests For Life is a reform movement within the #Catholic Church. And any reform movement is going to get pushback from the institution that it is trying to reform.
The teaching of the Church is stable and clear. The issue is how much priority do we give it.
— Fr. Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) December 21, 2022
Pavone isn’t suggesting that all Democrats are in league with Satan.
“I don’t mean the grassroots people, because there are tens of millions of pro-life Democrats,” Pavone told Fox. “I’m talking about their friends in high places, whether it’s members of Congress or leaders of the Democrat Party. They’re Democrat loyalists, a lot of them. … The bishops are in tight with a lot of those people.”
When Pavone calls out Democratic loyalists operating inside the church, it is safe to say that he means the progressives, the contemporary Marxists. Everyone knows that Marxists have no room for God in their plan.
The church cannot escape the culture war because it is in a world at war. We need more priests like Pavone, even when they step over the political line now and then into the frontlines. All else is folly.
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