A Canon Lawyer analyzes the Bishop Zurek – Father Pavone dispute

The Zurek-Pavone dispute is public. Based only on Zurek’s letter to Pavone and on Pavone’s response to Zurek as reported at Lifesite News, I offer the following initial observations and/or personal opinions.

Bp. Zurek:

  • should not have used the term “suspend” in regard to Pavone, for “suspension” is a canonical penalty for crime (c. 1333), and Pavone has not been accused of any crime.
  • is within his authority to recall Pavone to Amarillo in virtue of Pavone’s promise of obedience (c. 273) and may revoke the permission required for any secular cleric to be outside his diocese of incardination for a notable period (c. 283).
  • may assign Pavone to a “time of prayer and reflection” and need not give him a specific office (c. 157).
  • is responsible for Pavone’s reasonable maintenance (c. 281).

Fr. Pavone:

  • is a priest in good standing, specifically with faculties for ministry within the Diocese of Amarillo; absent clarification, however, I would regard as withdrawn Pavone’s faculties for preaching outside of Amarillo (c. 764), for confession outside of Amarillo (c. 967), and for the exercise of other sacred functions such as celebrating Mass outside of Amarillo (cc. 903, 561), none of which restrictions, however, is an express or implied penalty.
  • has a right to protest, even vigorously (c. 220), the use of the word “suspend” in his regard, but has alleged no basis to oppose his basic recall to Amarillo or any lawful directives otherwise imposed on him now or in the future.
  • has alleged no basis upon which the “public promise” of pro-life work he made in a ceremony “presided over by a Vatican cardinal” conferred on Pavone any special canonical rights able to be invoked against the normal exercise of ecclesiastical authority.
  • as the (apparent) CEO of Priests for Life, a “private association of the faithful” (cc. 321-326), Pavone/PFL are susceptible to the “vigilance” of ecclesiastical authority in the administration of its assets (c. 325); who exactly that authority is, however, is not clear from the information in front of me.
  • needs to be attentive to the restrictions against clerical involvement in the administration of goods belonging to lay persons (c. 285) and against clerical involvement in negotio (c. 286).

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