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Horn: Setting the record straight

October 26, 2011

Dear Friends,

The following is an op-ed that was printed in the Amarillo Globe on October 25, 2011.

Horn: Setting record straight in dispute

For over a month now, a tremendous amount of misinformation has been spread across the country about Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life. In the interest of fairness, the editors have offered us the opportunity to set the record straight and we thank them.

This matter was made public because of the unauthorized release of a letter written by Amarillo Catholic Diocese Bishop Patrick Zurek to his brother bishops on Sept. 9, in which numerous unsubstantiated suspicions were cast against Priests for Life and Father Pavone.

First, we want to reiterate unequivocally that all of this should have remained a private matter between Bishop Zurek and Father Pavone. Indeed, Priests for Life has gone to great lengths to avoid any public statements except when absolutely necessary - such as now. We have encouraged our supporters to be calm, respectful, and prayerful as they voice their opinions.

Yet when we refrain from making public statements, we are accused by some in the media of trying to “hide” information. Despite these unfair charges, we will continue to be cautious about what we say to the press, refusing to publicly fight bishops, even if it means that some complain that we withhold information.

Second, Father Pavone has asked the Bishop on numerous occasions for the assistance of a mediator to resolve these matters (the first being Sept. 16, the latest Oct. 13). Why mediation? Because past communication with the bishop has regrettably proven unproductive and confused. At this point, trust is so low and confusion so high, that a mediator is absolutely necessary at least in the initial stage, in order to clarify the expectations of all parties involved.

Third, it has been asserted that Priests for Life and Father Pavone have not been transparent about financial management. In its defense, Priests for Life released a comprehensive list of 43 financial and internal management documents provided to Bishop Zurek over the years and has posted its 2010 audit on the Priests for Life website. The audit has evoked media criticism because it reports a loss of almost $1.4 million in 2010. But 2010 was a difficult year for everyone; most non-profit organizations in the U.S. showed a sharp decrease in income in 2010. Unlike many of these groups, Priests for Life did not cut back on its programs, and did not slash and burn its budget or fire any of its employees. Priests for Life instead attempted to “stick out” the bad times - and the strategy has worked. In 2011 so far, Priests for Life is in the black.

With the exception of 2010, Priests for Life has grown each year since 2000 (peaking at $12 million in 2009). That’s a pretty impressive record, considering the brutal economic climate. In fact, it’s a lot better than the growth numbers posted by the newspaper industry, the auto industry, Wall Street, and the U.S. government! Amid suspicions of “financial mismanagement,” many in the media seem to conveniently ignore this point.

Along these lines, one of the reasons for Priests for Life’s success is that we always foster unity within the pro-life movement, constantly assisting other pro-life organizations - especially those that need financial help. Rachel’s Vineyard, for example, as the largest post-abortion healing ministry in the world, has helped tens of thousands of women and men overcome the emotional and spiritual harm they suffer from abortion. Yet, without the help of Priests for Life this effort could not continue as it now does.

But does helping these ministries make Priests for Life’s “finances” look any better? Of course not! It would be much less costly to stop assisting Rachel’s Vineyard, but then tens of thousands of people would continue to suffer without help. The media and some in the Church criticize Priests for Life for sharing resources with groups like this - to its own financial detriment - but they really should be applauding.

Finally, a recent article in this paper raised an issue regarding Priests for Life’s status within the Catholic Church. Priests for Life was recognized as a “Private Association of the Christian Faithful” by Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco on April 30, 1991 and has operated as such to this day. It is recognized as a valid apostolate to which bishops and religious superiors assign their priests and invite us to their dioceses; it is recognized by the Vatican, which actively collaborates with it, and by bishops and Cardinals who join our advisory board.

Despite the present difficulties, we at Priests for Life remain confident that once all these issues are dealt with fairly, a resolution will come quickly. More importantly, we will be able to move full speed ahead in the most important work in the world - spreading the Gospel of Life!

Jerry Horn serves as director of Public Relations for Priests for Life. A resident of Texas and the father of seven children, Jerry was born in Midland and attended West Texas State University. As spokesperson for Priests for Life, Jerry does not represent or speak for Father Frank Pavone or any other individual.

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