After friction with a few bishops over the past several years, Fr Frank Pavone is back in good standing. David Gibson at RNS has a feature up today.
Good for Fr Pavone. His situation strikes me as similar to John Dear’s struggle with and dismissal from the Society of Jesus. A man becomes a priest. Then he discerns a movement. Fine. Or at worst, he is attracted to a movement and decides in favor of the bandwagon without the benefit of a dialogue with the given charism of a diocese or religious order.
It’s understandable that a bishop, a Jesuit superior, and brother priests would say, “Hey! Wait a minute. You signed on for something else. Why are you usurping the role of the laity to foment for justice in the world? Have some accountability to the charism, bro.”
Pro-Life. Peacemaking. I have a deep sympathy with both causes, and a history of some activity in each. I’m sympathetic, to a degree, with both men.
On the other hand, both men are ordained priests. And priests have duties within the ecclesiastical realm. Frank Pavone and John Dear may be leaders, impassioned by their causes, inspirational to others, good fundraisers or writers or anything and everything else. But their primary ministries are not pro-life and peace. Unless there’s a discernment in the air about either of these guys being laicized. Because the causes of justice in the world are the causes of the laity. Not priests. Not even good, popular, charismatic, well-liked, and donation-attracting priests.
I could foresee the Archbishop of New York or the Jesuit superiors of the province appointing either of these guys to chaplaincy work with lay people involved in the pro-life and peace movements. The most I would expect is that these guys would be actively discerning and making disciples to spread and carry on their work. In other words: more writers, more protesters, more speakers. Not more Pavone and Dear.
For these priests, and for any priest, their job is simply not on the front lines. And if there is some discernment about being in the justice shock troops vaulting from the trenches, then the other aspect needs to be looked at.