FATHER PAVONE’S NO SHOW SEEMS TO MAKE NO SENSE

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Friday, October 14, 2011

On Fr. Pavone’s failure to meet with Bp. Zurek

http://canonlawblog.blogspot.com/

Many, many people were fervently praying for a good outcome to yesterday’s meeting between Fr. Pavone, who had expressed his desire to meet with his superior in Amarillo, and Bp. Zurek, who last week offered a personal meeting to Pavone with ample notice. Those petitions were dashed, however, when (to what I think must have been the universal surprise of observers) Pavone simply failed to appear.

Now, a “private meeting” between a bishop and one of his priests “to discuss his spiritual progress” poses (for reasons I can elaborate, if useful) zero canonical risk to a priest in disciplinary contention with his bishop. Conversely, the benefits of such a meeting, for men committed to improving their relationship, can be enormous. Basic risk-reward analysis would say, “Take the meeting.” So what happened?

Maybe Pavone saw in Zurek’s letter only an “invitation” to meet and did not know, or want to know, that, in diocesanese, an “invitation” from a lawful superior to a recalcitrant subject to meet privately is tantamount to saying “here is our chance to talk behind closed doors before this gets any nastier”. Perhaps Pavone narrowly read the “invitation” from Zurek as something he was free to accept or decline. But if so, good manners should have led Pavone to let the bishop know that he was declining the invitation. And a lot of folks could have then saved their prayers for a meeting that Pavone apparently had no intention of attending.

But even if word-splitting accounts for Pavone’s refusal to meet with Zurek, a strict ‘parsing-of-words’ defense is not one I would suggest for Pavone: whatever the character of Zurek’s overture to Pavone, the topic of their meeting was to be Pavone’s “spiritual progress during this time of prayer and reflection”. What, therefore, Pavone rejected was a meeting with his own bishop to discuss matters squarely and unquestionably within the authority and responsibility of his bishop. It’s just not where a priest who, as I have said several times, has suffered some injustice in the course of this dispute, wants to draw a line against his bishop. He’s bound to lose that one.

Okay, I have no crystal ball to divine the future here, but I would be surprised if Zurek offered Pavone another “invitation”. My guess is the next communication will be a precept. + + +

Update, same day. Fr. David Diebel, Pavone’s canonist, now says that he advised Pavone against meeting with Zurek. I’ll not second-guess a lawyer’s advice to his client; folks can (and doubtless will) assess that advice for themselves. I will simply observe that, the opinions of lawyers notwithstanding, these cases always come down to the conduct of the principals.

Summary of my posts on the Zurek-Pavone conflict

posted by Dr. Edward Peters at This Permanent Link

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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1 Response to FATHER PAVONE’S NO SHOW SEEMS TO MAKE NO SENSE

  1. gm2118 says:

    As a writer who has closely examined the case of another priest who has the same canon lawyer as Fr. Pavone, I have learned some things about rights and obligations under Canon Law. One of the lessons I have learned is that priests have a duty of obedience to their bishops, but they also have a duty to protect their own rights under Church Law because it’s clear that their bishops will not. It is quite likely that Fr. Pavone’s bishop is refusing to put any action or decision in writing in order to prevent Fr. Pavone from appealing to Rome. It is also quite likely that his bishop is refusing to allow Fr. Pavone’s canonist to be present when they meet. If these are the circumstances under which Fr. Pavone has declined to meet, then he is simply trying to preserve his rights under Church Law while forced between a rock and a hard place by his bishop. Here’s a link to an article of mine about another priest whose rights under Church Law have been trampled by a bishop.
    http://araminthethicket.blogspot.com/2011/08/to-azazel-father-gordon-macrae-and.html

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