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Diocese investigating priest over political video of fetus, altar use

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Diocese investigating priest over political video of fetus, altar use

WASHINGTON (CNS) — 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 fetus” on an altar and
broadcast it on Facebook Live to get people to vote for Republican Donald J.
Trump, 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 fetus,” said Amarillo Bishop Patrick J. Zurek in a Nov. 8 statement. Its use
for political purposes by one of the diocese’s priests was “against the dignity
of human life,” he added.

Pro-life supporters in the Catholic Church denounced activist Father Frank Pavone for what he said was n “emergency situation” on the eve of the U.S. presidential

“What did he Do?” wrote Ed Mechmann, a public policy director whose areas of concern
include pro-life issues, in a blog for the Archdiocese of New York. “He
used a dead aborted baby, laying naked and bloody on an altar, as a prop for
his video.”

But Father Pavone, no stranger to controversial situations, 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. Father Pavone, appealing for votes for Trump,
said he was showing “the Democrats’ support of baby-killing.”

“I’m showing the reality,” he said in an interview on Election Day with Catholic News
Service. Father Pavone is a member of Trump’s Catholic advisory group.

Bishop Zurek said the diocese “deeply regrets the offense and outrage caused by the video for the
faithful and the community at large. The action and presentation of Father
Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”

Many agreed with the bishop, saying what Father Pavone did, how he did it and where he did it — a
body on an altar via Facebook Live — amounts to desecration of a body and also
is sacrilegious because it was done on an altar, which should be used only for
sacramental purposes, not to advance a political candidate.

“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 Nov. 7.

Mechmann, of the New York Archdiocese, wrote: “It is hard for me to express in calm, measured terms, the revulsion I feel about this.”

But Father 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  words,” he said, about why he chose to do a Facebook Live video.

Father 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 honor the child with a viewing,” he said.

But the viewing was a very public affair. By Election Day, it had been viewed 707,000 times. Father
Pavone said he has apologized to those who were offended and has posted an
apology but has not taken down the video. Church members need to communicate
with one another instead of posting criticism publicly, he said referring to criticism
from Mechmann, adding that anger should be directed at Democrat Hillary
Clinton, who supports abortion.

He said he doesn’t see
what he did as desecration or 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.

“I am always
welcoming advice,” he said.

In 2014, New York
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan cut ties with Father Pavone and his group Priests for
Life, saying the priest refused to allow an audit of the group’s finances.
Priests for Life is based in Staten Island, New York. In the statement from the
diocese, Bishop Zurek said Priests for Life “is not a Catholic institution, but
a civil organization, and it is not under the control or supervision of the
Diocese of Amarillo.”

Father Pavone was
ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese in 1988 but was incardinated into
the Amarillo Diocese in 2005 by Bishop John W. Yanta, then head of the diocese,
who served on the organization’s board of advisers. In 2012, the Vatican
Congregation of the Clergy issued a decree allowing Father Pavone to minister
outside the Diocese of Amarillo, but he still must obtain specific permission
to do so from Bishop Zurek.

Father Pavone told CNS
the bishops have never supported his work, and he was not concerned about
repercussions out of Amarillo.

“I don’t belong in
Amarillo, to tell you the truth,” he said. “The bishop (Yanta)
invited me. I have no reason to be there.”

The Catholic blog
Patheos, whose bloggers denounced Pavone in several posts over the incident,
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

“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
favored presidential candidate.”

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