VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has impeached a US anti-abortion priest, Frank Pavone, for saying “blasphemous communication on social media” as well as “continued disobedience” by his bishop, who has repeatedly told him to continue his partisan activism for Donald Hire Trump.
A letter received on Sunday from Vatican Ambassador to the US Archbishop Christophe Pierre to US bishops said the decision against Pavone, who heads the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, was made on November 9 and that it none gave a chance of appeal.
Pavone has been at odds with the Bishop of Amarillo, Texas, for over a decade over his anti-life and partisan activities, which culminated in 2016 when he placed an aborted fetus on an altar and posted video of it on two social media accounts sites. The video was accompanied by a post stating that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform would allow abortion to continue and that Trump and the Republican platform wanted to protect unborn children.
Earlier, Pavone successfully appealed the restrictions on his ministry imposed by Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo in 2011.
Pavone remained a staunch supporter of Trump and contested the outcome of the 2020 election won by Joe Biden. Before the election, the diocese condemned Amarillo Pavone’s use of social media for political purposes, distanced the diocese from him and said his positions were inconsistent with Catholic teaching.
Pavone relocated from Amarillo and was allowed to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado. On his Twitter account, he still wears a “MAGA” hat with a background photo of former President Trump, who has been praised by many conservatives for his Supreme Court nominees who helped establish constitutional abortion rights in the United States overturn states.
In a tweet on Sunday, Pavone sounded defiant and compared his fate to that of the unborn.
“So if you defend the #unborn in any profession, including the priesthood, you will be treated like them! The only difference is that after an ‘abortion’ we keep speaking loud and clear.”
He later appeared in a social media video wearing a black leather biker jacket over his priestly collar in front of a faux backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica, vowing that the “war” on abortion would continue and the “culture of abolition” denounced the church, which he said had haunted him for decades.
In a statement on his Priest For Life website, he said his laicization was “the result of an abusive process” and that he was considering unspecified legal action against unnamed US bishops.
His supporters immediately denounced the sacking, including Bishop of Tyler, Texas Joseph Strickland, who called US President Joe Biden’s support for abortion rights “evil.”
“The blasphemy is that this holy priest is being deposed while an evil president encourages denial of the truth and murder of the unborn at every turn, Vatican officials encourage immorality and encourage denial of the credit of the faith, and priests encourage gender confusion that destroys lives… evil ,” Strickland tweeted.
In his letter, Pierre cited information from the Congregation for the Clergy that Pavone had been laicized – he could no longer pose as a priest – after being found guilty of blasphemous communication on social media and continued disobedience to the law at a canonical trial the letter was first reported by the Catholic News Agency.
The statement said Pavone was “given ample opportunity to defend himself” and submit to his bishop. “It was found that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.”
The statement concluded that since Priests for Life is not a Catholic organization, it was up to the group to decide whether he could continue in his role “as a layman”.
Laicization, or demotion to the laity, is one of the harshest sanctions in canon law of the Church for priests.