The First Allegation
According to accounts given anonymously to The Pillar in 1999, a young woman, who shall go unnamed, went to work for Priests for Life, a religious organization that works to slow the pro-choice movement and help women who have gone through an abortion or have considered doing so. This young woman had no experience in the area, and yet she was hired on the spot. She was asked to move to New York, where the organization was based, the request coming specifically from Priest Frank Pavone.
“He was this pro-life superstar,” the young woman had told The Pillar when referring to Father Pavone. “He was this celebrity, this amazing figure who wanted to give me all these opportunities… and I look back on it now, and it was all manipulation.”
As she continued to work with Father Pavone, she noticed he got rather close to her; close in a way that no God-loving priest would ever think of getting. From rubbing her back to petting her hair to unclipping her bra, and even coming into her private quarters and suggesting she “slip into something more comfortable”— these acts, no matter your religious views or your stance on abortion, are abhorrent through and through. When she reported her experiences, she told The Pillar that no action was taken. “It was creating a little paramour,” the woman said. “I think that he planned to have his way with me.” This account is one of three major allegations placed against Father Frank Pavone.
Who is Frank Pavone?
Father Pavone a nationally recognized priest who had become the figurehead of the anti-abortion/pro-life movement. If he wasn’t the most outspoken on the matter, he was certainly the loudest, and that fact got him close with the president of the United States come 2016 when he was given a chair as one of Trump’s Catholic advisors. He grew even closer when 2020 rolled around and he was granted the co-chair of the Pro-Life Voices for Trump’s campaign. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s widely agreed upon in the church that priests are not supposed to get involved in politics. Pavone, however, saw nothing wrong with his actions, even when a bishop wrote to him directly about his blatant political misconduct.
“It’s like, ‘Hey the house is on fire!’” he’d told Catholic News Agency after being confronted with his actions. “I’m not going to ask anybody’s permission to go scream that the house is on fire.”
The political and religious feuds over the validity of Father Pavone were fairly publicized, but not for the reasons that are most important. The allegations against Pavone were mostly brushed to the side by Priests for Life, including one by Mary Worthington, who described a relationship where she was fearful of going to work every day due to Pavone’s conduct. Inappropriate touches and flirtatious comments were the norm for the ordained priest. When it was reported, she was told that she didn’t “understand” and that Pavone was simply “very affectionate.”
Worthington’s case was dismissed with ease by Priests for Life, but what about the reports of a woman whose job it is to report the facts? Jenn Morson, a freelance journalist who has consistently written for large outlets and is said to be fairly credible. Her accounts of sexual harassment were quite chilling, though the most notable moment had to come from a recounting of a dinner where Pavone gleefully informed her about graphic footage obtained from an illeagal abortion. Jenn was rightly horrified by the story, and while they both were doing all they could to help the pro-life movement, Pavone didn’t see the problem in exploiting women in such a manner instead of giving them and their children the help they truly needed. All these women had one thing in common: they trusted Frank Pavone, and they genuinely believed in his organization. He, in turn, took advantage of their trust.
It needs to be stated that although the secual harassment scandals rocked Pavone’s reputation to the ground, it was not the reason why the Vatican defrocked him in the end. The stated reasons were for “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience” of his bishop. The “blasphemous communications” might refer to his shameless appearances online in support for right-wing ideologies and, more specifically, placing what he claimed was an aborted fetus on an altar table while asking that the people vote for Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
Frank Pavone has had a vast record of misconduct. With allegations of sexual abuse piled on top of video-recorded un-priestly behavior, it comes to a point where they can no longer be considered coincidences or fabrications. Perhaps this is a sign from God.