Reading Time: 4 minutes

Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest who became known for his anti-abortion extremism and MAGA cultism far more than anything Jesus-related, has (finally) been removed from the priesthood by the Vatican. The previously unreported laicization occurred on November 9 with “no possibility of appeal,” according to the Catholic News Agency.

Given that Pavone’s work with the group “Priests for Life” fell perfectly in line with the Catholic Church’s extreme position against reproductive rights, you might wonder what the hell he did to earn their wrath.

It wasn’t his most famous stunt.

In 2016, Pavone urged Catholics to vote for Donald Trump in a (now-deleted) video in which he used an actual dead fetus as a political prop.

He became emblematic of the problem with the anti-abortion movement. People like Pavone claim to be “pro-life,” but they rarely talk about the life of the women or how to care for the babies they want to “save.” They oppose contraception, even though that could prevent a lot of unwanted pregnancies. They oppose the sort of public policies that would make it easier to raise a child in a safe environment.

Frank Pavone never urged women to use birth control. He never put condoms on his altar. He never fought for health care for babies whose parents couldn’t afford it. He never showed empathy for victims of sexual assault.

But using a dead fetus to scare people into voting for a buffoon? Sure, why not. The Catholic Church, to Pavone, was all about the sanctity of life, not respect for the dead.

For the Catholic Church, the bigger problem with that stunt may have been seeing a priest make an explicit political endorsement instead of a more subtle one like usual. That wasn’t the last straw, though, since Pavone continued serving as a priest.

But where? No one seemed to know where Pavone actually worked:

It is not clear in what diocese Pavone, 63, is incardinated as a priest. On the Priests for Life website, it says he received permission from the Vatican in 2019 to transfer from the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, where he was incardinated in 2005, to another, unnamed diocese.

Pavone hosted the show “Defending Life” on EWTN for many years until the Bishop of Amarillo, Texas, revoked Pavone’s permission to appear on the Network. EWTN is the parent organization of CNA.

The recent letter said nothing about that.

Was it his childish tweets in 2020 that finally tipped the scales against him?

In tweets that were subsequently deleted, Pavone reportedly called then Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a “[expletive] loser” and said the Democratic party was “God-hating” and “America-hating” and that Biden’s supporters “can’t say a [expletive] thing in support of their loser candidate without using the word Trump.”

“What the hell do you have to say for yourselves, losers?” Pavone asked.

(“Goddamn.” He said “Goddamn.”) That’s what upset the Church because those tweets actually played a role in his dismissal; the letter referenced “blasphemous communications on social media,” suggesting the use of a profanity was more of a problem than his irrational beliefs and selfish actions. Still, it’s hard to fathom how offensive tweets got him kicked out of the priesthood when other priests have received far less punishment for far worse behavior.

More than anything, it seems, Pavone’s biggest problem was not obeying orders from someone above him in the Catholic hierarchy:

“Father Pavone was given ample opportunity to defend himself in the canonical proceedings, and he was also given multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop,” explains a separate statement attached to [Apostolic Nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe] Pierre’s letter. “It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.”

He disobeyed a bishop, repeatedly, for some unnamed reason. That’s why he’s no longer a priest. That’s why he’s now just Frank, the creepy fetus dude who participates in Catholic cosplay to convince people God wants them to support the MAGA Republican agenda.

None of this stopped Pavone from donning Catholic garb for his YouTube videos over the past month. On Sunday, he put a leather jacket over his white collar and delivered the same tripe as usual:

YouTube video

In case you were wondering, Pavone is handling all this with complete maturity:

Online, Mr. Pavone seemed to compare his removal itself to abortion.

“In every profession, including the priesthood, if you defend the #unborn, you will be treated like them!” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday night. “The only difference is that when we are ‘aborted,’ we continue to speak, loud and clear.”

That’s… not the problem. The Catholic Church has fully embraced his anti-abortion extremism. His position on reproductive rights falls perfectly in line with the Church’s views. Pavone has no remorse because he fully believes he did nothing wrong. But it had to hit him personally when the letter announcing his laicization said Priests for Life was “not a Catholic organization.”

The biggest mistake the Church made was not booting this guy earlier. He’s built a career for himself using his standing with the Catholic Church. It’s far too late for the removal of that standing to impact him. The Church didn’t get rid of the monster, and now the monster has too much power. The people who take Frank Pavone seriously are those who think the Catholic Church’s problem is that it’s not anti-abortion enough.

Pavone is going to use this “punishment” to boost his reputation with an ever-shrinking base. And the Church isn’t going to do a damn thing to fight it.

Avatar photo

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.