This situation certainly got a bit uglier this week, didn't it.
When Bishop Zurek claimed Fr. Pavone was a no show to a scheduled meeting, I thought to myself, surely there is a crossed wire but I wasn't exactly edified by the explanation.
I get the part where the canon lawyer sends messages to Bishop Zurek saying he's advised Fr. Pavone not to meet with without a mediator. You've got a Bishop with absolutely zero on the record for defending the murders of the innocents implying some kind of canonical crime has taken place, Fr. Pavone has refused to provide evidence that clears him and he is therefore 'suspended'. The Bishop's statements are also suspect for political motive as he asked the faithful to stop giving money to Priests for Life. Even a crappy canonical lawyer wouldn't let a meeting happen without counsel.
Where this story starts to lose me, is how the meeting didn't get off the Bishop's calendar which ultimately led to him waiting like a fool for Fr. Pavone to show up.
The dynamic between a bishop and a priest is different than one between a bishop and a lay person, but coming from a unique perspective of a diocese headed by a weak and paralyzed bishop who is letting Bryan Hehir and his political commorades from the Democratic National Party persecute the Catholic religion from the Chancery, our experiences here may help shed light onto the situation.
Forgive the length of this parable but I believe it's important...
Say what you will about the flaws of Cardinal Law, but when one of his priests was shacking up with a lover or the deposit of faith was being hijacked, when the faithful made the situation known to him, he put the kibosh on it - suspended and removed priests, tried to get them spiritual counseling. With the exception of a few renegades out on the margins, most of them just quietly complied. I have numerous examples I won't bore you with, but anyone with a long history of defending the faith on the ground will confirm that this is the truth.
Bishops come with a variety of personalities and when the guard changes, seasoned activists have to learn what people to send to get the message across so that it is received and acted upon.
This is how we conduct our affairs across the spectrum in our lives. Each of us has an animus. We are attracted to people who are similar because we can speak freely. But we have to learn as a mother, a father, a friend, a colleague - how to interact or be affectionate and even love when it is appropriate. When a relationship evolves to a personal one, we guard our own animus and learn how to deliver a message in a way that it will be received.
We are not always on our toes. Sometimes we misfire. Like when you have a teenager who is not such a hot driver and every time she borrows the car, she brings it home with a new scratch or dent in it. You don't always take the time to reflect on ways to deliver a message in ways that particular child can receive the message for the umpteenth time. Oops, I digress!
The point is, in every personal, professional, ministerial, evangelical or casual relationship, we have to learn how to get the puck past the goalie.
When a new Bishop is appointed, there is a period of trial and error.
There was an interim sheriff after Cardinal Law - Bishop Lennon. He is faithful to the Magisterium but somewhat naive, with a gentler personality. Any rational and seasoned activist knows that..how shall I say this...McKinley is not the person to send to deliver the message and ask for his assistance. I can put the package of facts together, explain how this is affecting families, salvation, children and call the troops together to brainstorm on how to calibrate the message. We pick out people to deliver the message in various ways. If we are lucky, we can find a soul in the Chancery who is on the pursuit of truth and serving Christ, come what may, who will mediate. Christ's church was lucky to have a few good solid priests in the Chancery at that time.
Most things are taken care of quietly and under the radar in this kind of matrix. The priests are preserved from the public scandal and the faithful are restored to truth. It is a win-win situation.
Then, Cardinal O'Malley came moseying on down the road. For the period of trial and error, which took approximately five years and hundreds of people, every recourse to truth was met with obfuscation, lies, public slander, punishing and persecuting people who speak the truth. He fires, or causes to be fired, anyone who makes known that when it comes to a choice to being loyal to him and disloyal to truth and Christ's Church, they will choose Christ. This is a threat to a Bishop whose administration has agendas other than serving truth and Christ. The Cardinal has the peculiar theological attraction to priests who create sexual scandal - either in the presbyterate or among the faithful and priests and lay people who reject Church teaching on the sanctity of life. Be surrounds himself with them. He appoints them to teach their errors to the faithful and children.
At some point you realize that no matter who you send to deliver the message good faith efforts to preserve the priest's reputation are being hijacked at the expense of the salvation of souls - and in the case here in Boston, literally the murders of innocent children with a contract put out by the Cardinal. People who gather to serve Christ have to acknowledge the deposit of faith is under siege at the hands of the Bishop and make the decision to go public to warn potential victims of the physical and spiritual abuses perpetrated with the consent of the Bishop. This is the procedure we are to follow given to us from the Christ. No allegiance or loyalty is owed to a wolf. If there is a wolf in the pack, you separate from the wolf and turn your allegiance to Christ and His Church. Warn others.
When it reaches this point, they respond with public messages that they would like to sit down and resolve the situation by chatting with you. The reality of the situation is, you know and in fact everyone who has been meeting with his nibs privately to resolve the situation knows, you've already gone beyond the call of duty to resolve the matter behind closed doors and the only fruit it brings is protections for their culture warriors through the persecution, bullying and threatening of our good priests and faithful laity.
When they call for these meetings, you tell them - and in no uncertain terms - the reason why you are finished with meetings. You're happy to have a meeting but the next meeting will be about proceeding together to Rome to resolve the conflict - in unity. When they ignore that offer and you continue to publicly expose their corruption, along will come another offer for a private meeting. You may even get a specific offer with a specific date and time that has been set aside on the Bishop's schedule.
You again lay out the history the four or five years of trying to go through the proper channels in good faith. At the end of the communication, everyone reading it knows...there will be no stinking meeting. You have declined the invitation. The meeting gets removed from the Bishop's calendar. We are under no obligation to run a fool's errand to give legitimacy to a warped agenda.
Being from Boston, I know priests who have had a material conflict with the Cardinal's goon squad in the Chancery that has sadly gone through all of the stages above. The difference is, their communications say they'll be happy to meet, providing a third party is present who will represent their canonical rights and due process under proscribed law. It goes on and on like that for years. It is not a good situation.
It sounds to me like there have been communications between Fr. Pavone and Bishop Zurek for some time now and they have reached this stalemate. What I don't understand is how on earth the proposed meeting was not removed from the Bishop's schedule. No matter how bad things get, the courtesy of a reply to decline the Bishop's invitation should have been made crystal clear. You don't leave the man sitting in his office waiting for you. That only serves to light a fire to the emotions that are not serving anyone.
I absolutely disagree with Ed Peters that this proposed meeting posed no risk to Fr. Pavone. Bishop Zurek has implied Fr. Pavone has committed a canonical crime and has been 'suspended'. He has implied he needed to reign Fr. Pavonee in because he may be a thief and his apostolate could be a sham. The Bishop needs to be a man and acknowledge his own behavior and these serious allegations, denied by Fr. Pavone and Priests for Life, have contributed to the deterioration.
The fact that the Bishop would object to a discussion of Fr. Pavone's canonical due process doesn't come across to me as a man whose intentions for the outcome are pastoral or righteous.
There's only thing thing about the situation I can honestly say with full conviction of the heart: The battle between these two strong personalities need our prayers.