The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform recently announced that the group will be picketing “Catholic facilities and activities in the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.” The anti-abortion group wants to force Bishop Patrick Zurek to allow Father Frank Pavone “to resume full-time anti-abortion ministry.” Zurek recently suspended Priests for Life leader Frank Pavone for “concerns about financial improprieties.”

According to a press release from the group:

To ensure that the Diocese understands exactly what is at stake in Bishop Zurek’s decision to “suspend” Fr. Pavone from pro-life work outside of Amarillo, CBR’s picket signs will include large, color photos of aborted babies.

Pickets will be conducted at many of the Diocese’s forty-nine parish churches, with special emphasis on St. Laurence and the nine other parish churches in the City of Amarillo, proper. Parental warning signs will be posted as a courtesy near targeted churches, to caution parents of small children that they may wish to attend Mass elsewhere. Demonstrations will also be staged at Holy Cross Academy to encourage students to contact Bishop on Fr. Pavone’s behalf.

Although Bishop Zurek is actively attempting to discourage Catholics from donating to Priests For Life, we will not stoop to any reciprocal attempt to discourage Catholics from donating to the Diocese of Amarillo.

Street pickets will be supplemented by the operation of a fleet of large billboard trucks bearing signs which will also depict aborted babies and urge Amarillo Catholics to tactfully contact Bishop Zurek to request that he “FREE FR. FRANK!” The trucks will be accompanied by aircraft towing large aerial billboards which will also bear aborted baby imagery and exhortational text messages.

These pickets will continue until Bishop Zurek releases Fr. Pavone from what amounts from ecclesiastical “house arrest.”

The group claims that Zurek “has chosen to convert a routine personnel conflict into a proxy for the wider ideological war being fought over the Church’s response to abortion.”

In a letter addressing the allegations against Pavone, Zurek explains that Priests for Life “has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight.”

Catholics for Choice, a religious abortion rights advocacy group, said in a statement that “Pavone has used his own image and personality to promote his cause, posting large photographs of himself in a wide variety of materials, especially outdoor advertising”:

He often described himself in terms reminiscent of a touring performer or campaigning candidate for office. In a May 2006 letter to supporters, the PFL leader basked in the “commitment and enthusiastic response” of his fans. He added that the “dynamic” of his interaction with supporters—hence, not his commitment to the cause—was “what drew me into full-time pro-life ministry.”

Catholics for Choice also mentioned that “in 2007, [Pavone] transferred [Priests for Life] to its current location in Amarillo, where an attempt to start a seminary for priests was abandoned due to a lack of recruits—despite the organization’s $10.8 million budget.”

Operation Rescue has also announced it is standing behind Pavone.

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