Priest scraps plans for anti-abortion society of priests

An outspoken Catholic priest has scrapped plans to build a religious society of priests dedicated solely to fighting abortion, just two
years after its founding.

The Rev. Frank Pavone said the religious community he founded in 2006, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, was diverting attention and resources from his primary goal: ending abortion.

"We don't want to get bogged down," Pavone said in an interview. "Once we started the community, all our time and energy were going into priestly formation."

Nine seminarians were studying to join the society based in Amarillo, Texas, Pavone said, but he was its only member. The goal was to ordain and train an army of priests free from diocesan duties and dedicated to fighting abortion across the country.

"It is the raising up of a professional band of men who are really going to engage in battle," Pavone said in 2006.

Earlier this month, Priests for Life and the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, released a joint statement that said Priests for Life and the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life will be one entity, "without the founding of a canonically distinct community."

The nine seminarians will return to their home dioceses, Pavone said.

Two years ago, the Missionaries for the Gospel of Life held a high-profile groundbreaking ceremony for its Amarillo headquarters attended by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as well as Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Priests for Life, founded by Pavone in 1991 and one of the largest anti-abortion groups in the U.S., will continue as a "private association of the faithful."

"It seems best that the association remain focused specifically and exclusively on the pro-life work itself," Pavone said, "and leave to dioceses and religious communities the specific task of forming men for the priesthood."

Pavone's strident style of anti-abortion activism has at times vexed the Catholic hierarchy. In 2001, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, where Pavone was living, forced him to step down as head of Priests for Life and accept a parish position. Egan eventually allowed Pavone to transfer to Amarillo.

In a Sept. 8 letter to supporters, Pavone said the pro-life movement was "entering yet another phase of this battle."

"We are closer to victory than ever before, and now is the time to redouble every effort and to push over the finish line," he said.
"Now is the time to cut off any 'dead wood,' any projects that aren't bearing fruit, any expenditures and efforts that are not actually moving us toward the goal of ending abortion, and any bureaucracy in our structures that is hindering rather than advancing the mission."

(Reporting from Catholic News Service contributed to this article.)

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