Diocese investigates priest over foetus on altar
The diocese of Amarillo, Texas, said in a statement it is investigating the incident of a pro-life priest who placed “the body of an aborted foetus” on an altar and broadcast it on Facebook Live to get people to vote for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, now the President-elect, causing “the desecration of the altar”.
“We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason, especially the body of a foetus,” said Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo.
Pro-life supporters in the Catholic Church denounced activist Fr Frank Pavone.
“He used a dead aborted baby, laying naked and bloody on an altar, as a prop for his video,” wrote Ed Mechmann, a public policy director, in a blog for the archdiocese of New York.
But Fr Pavone said he was trying to drive home, in a visual and impactful way, what it meant to choose one presidential candidate over the other on election day. Fr Pavone, appealing for votes for Mr Trump, said he was showing “the Democrats’ support of baby-killing”.
Bishop Zurek said the diocese “deeply regrets the offence and outrage caused by the video for the faithful and the community at large. The action and presentation of Fr Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”
Many agreed with the bishop. “When a photo of a pro-life priest with a naked corpse of an unborn child on an altar is used to get out the vote, it’s time to say: Enough!” wrote Dominican Father Thomas Petri of Washington on Twitter.
But Fr Pavone said that everyone should be repulsed by the act of abortion and that’s what he was trying to show.
“You can’t do it with words,” he said, about why he chose to do a Facebook Live video.
Fr Pavone said he was alone, in a chapel with the body, which he said was given to him by a pathologist who had received it from an abortion clinic.
“This person had enough of a conscience to say, ‘I’m not going to throw it away’ and gave the body to a pastor, and the pastor, knowing my role, contacted me and we both arranged to honour the child with a viewing,” he said.
But the viewing was a very public affair. By election day, it had been viewed 707000 times. Fr Pavone said he has apologised to those who were offended and has posted an apology but has not taken down the video.
He said anger should be directed at Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, who supports abortion.
He said he doesn’t see what he did as improper in any way. “I don’t know what in the world these people are talking about,” he said. “What did I put on the altar? This is a human child.”
He said he has bishop advisers and canonical advisers, as well as legal advice, when he undertakes actions that help him advance his cause against abortion.
In 2014, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York cut ties with Fr Pavone and his group Priests for Life, saying the priest refused to allow an audit of the group’s finances. In the statement from the diocese, Bishop Zurek said Priests for Life “is not a Catholic institution, but a civil organisation, and it is not under the control or supervision of the diocese of Amarillo”.
The Catholic blog Patheos, whose bloggers denounced Fr Pavone in several posts, pointed out that the code of canon law spells out how the altar should be used and that canon 1239 says that it “must be reserved for divine worship alone”.
“It is a violation of canon law, which states that the altar is consecrated for one purpose and one purpose only,” wrote Patheos blogger Scott Eric Alt. “It is consecrated for the holy sacrifice of the Mass. It is not consecrated so that a dead child can be placed there as part of a political stunt to lobby for a favoured presidential candidate.”—By Rhina Guidos, CNS