Priests for Life (PFL) was founded in 1991 with the canonical status as a Catholic association of the faithful. It is one of the most prominent pro-life organizations in the United States and operates in more than 50 countries throughout the world.
PFL's work and its current executive director, Fr. Frank Pavone, were highly praised by the Vatican in 2015. Some American bishops, however, like New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have complained that Pavone allegedly does not cooperate with them.
Church Militant has obtained an email written by Bishop John Noonan — a registered Democrat as of 2012 — sent to every priest in the Orlando diocese.
Dated November 30, 2016, it warns, "Thus it is not anticipated that any permission and/or faculties will be granted to the priests and lay persons involved with this organization. I advise caution in collaboration with this group lest there be confusion as to their status among the Catholic Faithful."
Noonan goes on to direct, "Therefore, before involving this group or any of those associated with it in any church-related activities, you are directed to consult with me personally." He goes on further to say:
Please ensure there are no exceptions to this directive either by you, your staff or parishioners. Also be sure to share this caution with groups like our Councils of Catholic Women and Knights of Columbus so that they do not unwittingly allow this group to operate in conflict with this directive.
"[A]void anything that would harm the good name or reputation of the group or its members," he comments. "Priests for Life has chosen to operate its affairs without the endorsement of Ordinaries."
Noonan's advisory comes in response to the announcement that PFL is moving its national headquarters from Staten Island, New York to Titusville, Florida, located within the boundaries of the Orlando diocese sometime this year.
Noonan has shown support for the controversial Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Daytona Beach, known for its pro-homosexual advocacy, and whose website states, "All traditions, religions, cultures, sexes, orientations, statuses, colors, ages, sizes are welcome here." The parish includes outreach to LGBT, divorced, remarried and separated people but no pro-life group, and yearly participates in the local gay pride festival.
Priests for Life has 11 ministries, including Deacons and Seminarians for Life, Rachel's Vineyard, Silent No More and Hispanic Outreach. Pavone is also a member President Donald Trump's 34-member Catholic Advisory Group — a panel of prominent Catholics to counsel Trump on issues and policies important to Catholics.
In November, just before the election, Pavone became embroiled in controversy when he put the remains of an unborn baby on an altar. He declared in the video:
Today I am showing you a child who was killed by abortion and entrusted to us by a pathologist for burial. We have had a funeral for this baby, who rests in a Memorial Chapel — but today I am showing him to you because in this election we have to decide if we will allow this child killing to continue in America or not.
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform says yes, let the child-killing continue (and you pay for it); Donald Trump and the Republican platform says no, the child should be protected.
His bishop, Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, responded that the act violated "the dignity of human life and is a desecration of the altar," and declared, "We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason, especially the body of a fetus." He also noted the matter would be investigated.
Father Pavone defended himself, rejecting the notion that the video "exploited" the unborn. In response to other criticism, he commented on November 7:
The issue is not how I'm treating a baby. (I've been providing funerals and burials for these children for decades, with full legal and canonical counsel, and those concerned about these things would do well to talk to me rather than the media.)
The issue is how the abortionists, supported by the Democrats, are treating these babies. What's sacrilegious is abortion, and voting for those who support it. It's time we get our heads screwed on straight about who the bad guys are.