Pro-Life Priest’s Personal Pope Trump

| Reproaction

By: Jessica Ensley

Frank Pavone, president of the national anti-abortion organization Priests for Life (PFL), is a Catholic priest and leader in the ‘pro-life’ movement. As we previously covered, Priests for Life is helping to intensify anti-immigrant, racist, and anti-gay rhetoric within the mainstream pro-life movement. Within the past few years, Pavone has shifted more and more to the radical right as he unquestionably follows Donald Trump and his supporters down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and dangerous lies.

Pavone has gotten into trouble with the Catholic Church, and more than once. It takes a lot to get backlash from the same Church leadership that is accused of giving no oversight to clergy that allegedly sexually abused children. [1] So, why is it they would reprimand a ‘pro-life’ priest?

In 2000, Pavone took out a full-page ad in The New York Times in support of presidential candidate George W. Bush. [2] New York archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan promptly ordered Pavone to stop running Priests for Life and return to the New York archdiocese. Soon after, he resumed work full-time at Priests for Life. In 2011, he was suspended from active ministry over financial questions of how he ran the organization. [3] Diocese Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, stated that members of the clergy had “persistent questions and concerns” over how millions of dollars in donations were being spent by Pavone. Pavone appealed the decision to the Vatican and was partially successful: he was allowed to return to Priests for Life, but Zurek still had authority over him. [4]

During a podcast interview in 2020, Pavone strangely claims that no clergy has ever pointed out anything he did that was “wrong” by his own moral standards. [5] This falls into an emerging pattern of the priest deciding for himself what morals and values to follow, even if Church leadership directly disputes that. This behavior is grossly atypical of the Catholic Church’s leadership structure, let alone among devout followers of the faith.

He came under Church criticism again in 2016, when he publicly displayed an allegedly aborted fetus in a video encouraging Catholics to vote for Trump. Bishop Zurek stepped in again, condemning what Pavone did and opening an investigation. [6] This behavior, aside from being grossly unethical and immoral outside of the faith lens, veers into messy territory of what political speech is acceptable for representatives of 501(c)(3) organizations that are bound by law to not take place in electioneering. Then in July 2020, Pavone came under fire yet again for openly supporting Trump’s reelection campaign. The Catholic Church directed Pavone to resign from his advisory positions on Trump’s campaign. [7]

Pavone was furious. On his podcast titled “End Abortion,” which seems to serve as a platform for Pavone’s increasingly lengthy and frequent political rants, he openly criticized the Church. In July 2020, he read an open letter he sent to the bishops and stated their lawyers are wrong and that Trump is doing more for freedom of religion than the bishops. “Bishops are not given a holy spirit to teach tax law” Pavone said. [8] According to Pavone, he continued to have conversations with the Trump campaign despite being told to step down by Church officials. In November he admitted, “I’ve been involved in conversations and briefing every day with folks representing the campaign.” [9]

Pavone’s unwavering support of Donald Trump appeared to ramp up after this. Not only had he now participated in two of Trump’s election campaigns, he talked about him seemingly constantly, often titling podcasts with “prayers” or “updates” for Trump and his reelection campaign. He praised Trump for the most mundane things. In October 2020, he said “(Trump’s) campaigning actively for president and at the same time carrying out the duties of the Oval Office of president of the United States. It’s just amazing.” [10] Trump was doing what every presidential nominee who runs for reelection has done and Pavone phrases it as some never-before-seen feat.

While Pavone continued to uplift Trump, he began to openly criticize the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. In August 2020, Pavone said, “… clergy sometimes, you don’t know what the heck they believe and the Pope saying things that confuse people left and right, it’s hard to tell anymore who speaks for the Church.” [11] Here we see Pavone, a Catholic priest who has made a career tying himself to the Church’s purported ‘pro-life’ nature, directly contradicting the Pope’s authority. In the same podcast, he insinuated he would still have his supporters if he was no longer a priest. “I don’t need – I could take this collar – you know what? If I took this collar off right now, you tell me, my friends who are supporters and who listen to these things. Would what I say still make sense? That’s why I say it.”

In November 2020, Pavone continued to spout dangerous conspiracy theories that falsely claimed Donald Trump won the election. The day after the Pope congratulated then President-Elect Joe Biden, Pavone said “Whether it’s the Pope or anybody else, anyone who calls him [Biden] the President-Elect is being presumptuous because that’s simply not the case.” [12, 13]

Pavone trump tweet

Pavone continues to face minor consequences for his transgressions against the Church. In January 2021, the Legionaries of Christ university in Rome decided to reverse their decision to give an award to Pavone due to “the political situation.” [14]

Fr. Frank Pavone is a corrupt, unhinged, narcissistic priest who financially benefits from his organization’s nonprofit status and the Catholic Church when it suits him and slams the Pope himself when it doesn’t. Pavone’s distaste for the Pope – the very core of his faith’s governing structure – is made clearer when juxtaposed to how he praises the ground Donald Trump walks on. His current moral standards do not seem to come from the Church, but rather his and Trump’s own self-interests. Pavone’s ‘pro-life’ rhetoric tied with his constant spouting of conspiracy theories is a great cause for concern for the Catholic Church, those whose money he has taken, and the marginalized communities that he consistently attacks. In our next part of this blog series, we’ll detail where this dangerous trajectory is heading.

Reproaction is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse or oppose candidates for political office.


  5. Marana, Janet, host. “Interview with Fr. Frank Pavone about His Personal Life (05/11/20).” End Abortion Podcast, iTunes app, 11 May 2020.
  8. Pavone, Frank, host. “ Frank Pavone’s Open Letter To The US Catholic Bishops.” End Abortion Podcast, iTunes app, 1 July 2020.
  9. Pavone, Frank, host. “Continued Prayers and Reflections About the Election.” End Abortion Podcast, iTunes app, 9 November 2020.
  10. Pavone, Frank, host. “News Regarding The Elections And The Supreme Court (10/25/20).” End Abortion Podcast, iTunes app, 26 October 2020.
  11. Pavone, Frank, host. “Pro-Life MAGA Class with Fr. Frank Pavone for August 5, 2020.” End Abortion Podcast, iTunes app, 5 August 2020.
  13. Pavone, Frank, host. “Breaking Election 2020 News From Today Regarding President Trump’s Re-Election.” End Abortion Podcast, iTunes app, 13 November 2020.
Stay Connected

Support The Cause

donate now

Take Action

Find a campaign and take action now