Frank Pavone

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Frank Pavone Counseled to Seek Another Diocese: Amarillo Vicar for Clergy Urged Frank Pavone to Get Away from "Bishop Zurek’s Reach".

A Letter from Rev. Msgr. Harold Waldow, Vicar for Clergy for Bishop Patrick Zurek

In the Catholic Church, a diocese is a geographical grouping of parishes under the jurisdiction of a bishop. It is the job of the vicar for clergy to act as a liaison between the bishop and his priests.


As Frank Pavone’s difficulties with his bishop, Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo, dragged into a fourth year, then-Vicar for Clergy Monsignor Harold Waldow, who is now deceased, wrote a letter about the bishop’s abusive dealings with Fank Pavone. The vicar concluded that the best thing for Frank Pavone’s spiritual life and health was to find another bishop and get out of Amarillo.


Much of the criticism of Frank Pavone centers on his “obedience” to his bishop, and it’s true a priest cannot just ignore an order from his bishop. He must appeal to the Vatican, which is exactly what Frank Pavone did more than 10 years ago. Appealing to Rome should not be seen as an act of disobedience. He followed every single step he was supposed to follow, and was looking forward to being assigned to a different diocese, with a supportive bishop.

March 5, 2016


To Whom It May Concern:

I served as Vicar Episcopal for three consecutive bishops of the Diocese of Amarillo.  I was Vicar for Hispanic Affairs under Bishop Leroy Matthiesen (four years) and Vicar for Clergy for Bishops John Yanta and Patrick Zurek (sixteen years).  For nearly ten of those years, Father Frank Pavone was incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo.

Father Pavone first came to the diocese under Bishop John Yanta.  As Bishop Yanta explained to me after the fact of Father Pavone’s incardination, the purpose of the incardination was to facilitate the founding of a Society of the Apostolic Life dedicated to the charism of the protection of the unborn.  There was also to have been the development of an international center for pro life causes, especially the unborn.

For a number of reasons, these two projects did not come to fruition.  Bishop Yanta retired and Bishop Zurek was named ordinary in Amarillo.  From the outset, the relationship between Bishop Zurek and Father Pavone was strained, even thou Father Pavone was generally well received by clergy, laity and religious alike, when exercising ministry in the Diocese of Amarillo.

On occasion it was my responsibility to communicate with Father Pavone on matters relating to his ministry and the bishop’s wishes.  In all instances, I can state unequivocally that Father Pavone responded promptly, respectfully and appropriately.  During Holy Week of 2010, on April 20 at 11 a.m., I was present at a meeting between Bishop Zurek and Father Pavone.  During this meeting, Father Pavone related his discernment of many years’ duration of having been called to pro life ministry in the Church and his concomitant frustration at the experience of failure in achieving the same within existing ecclesial polity.  It was an open, respectful revelation on Father Pavone’s part.  Bishop Zurek responded with an expression of anger and withdrawal from the meeting.  At that time I informed Father Pavone that it was my personal opinion that he should seek another bishop/diocese.  The relationship between Bishop Zurek and him had long since become toxic and I encouraged Father Pavone to find a way out of the diocese and Bishop Zurek’s reach.

Since that time and before, I have witnessed occasions at which Bishop Zurek was present for any variety of meetings, such as the presbyteral council, priests’ retreats, Holy Week liturgies, and funeral celebrations, during which Father Pavone’s name would come up, often in the context of positive comment about his ministry within the diocese and elsewhere.  Bishop Zurek often takes these occasions to reveal the toxic nature of his relationship to Father Pavone.  He makes remarks publicly about sensitive matters concerning Father Pavone.  On more than one occasion he has seriously misrepresented the actual situation by his remarks.  While there were occasions in which I had to speak with him about sensitive, even unpleasant matters, Father Pavone, in m experience, demonstrated himself to be an effective and generous priest, completely dedicated to the ministry, especially pro life ministry.  I have seen the fruits of his ministry in the diocese and elsewhere on the national and international scene.  It is in this context that I encouraged Father Pavone to leave the diocese and place himself beyond the impact of Bishop Zurek’s personal animus toward him, so that he could continue to flourish as a priest and that the fruits I had seen personally could continue to mature.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. Msgr. Harold Waldow

View a copy of Msgr. Waldow's original letter.