Priests for Life

Priests for Life
Priests for Life logo
Abbreviation PFL
Established 1990 (1990)
Type NGO, Private Association of the Faithful
Headquarters Staten Island, New York
National Director
Fr. Frank Pavone

Priests for Life (PFL) is a pro-life organization based in Staten Island, New York. It functions as a network to promote and coordinate pro-life activism, especially among Roman Catholic priests and laymen, with the primary strategic goal of ending abortion and euthanasia and to spread the message of the Evangelium Vitae encyclical written by Pope John Paul II.

On April 30, 1991, Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco officially approved Priests for Life as a Private Association of the Faithful, a term drawn from the Code of Canon Law. The organization was later listed in the Official Catholic Directory. Priests for Life have formed an international association of the faithful called "Gospel of Life," and has requested the Vatican to grant appropriate status and structure in the Church.[1] Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo said that Priests for Life is a civil institution, not a Catholic organization.[2]


Priests for Life came about in 1990 through the work of Father Lee Kaylor,[1] a Roman Catholic priest serving in the Archdiocese of San Francisco; Kaylor found out about a new piece of legislation being proposed in Sacramento, California which he felt went against the pro-life cause - his response was to write to all the other Roman Catholic priests in California, along with his two friends Fr. Frank Felice and Fr. Voight Emmerick, trying to galvanize further opposition to the legislation.[3] Sending the letter turned out to be a timely move, as Kaylor received in response a large number of positive letters and financial contributions to his cause.[3] Encouraged by this, he decided to establish a group which would serve to co-ordinate pro-life action by the clergy both nationally and more effectively[1] - this too met with highly favorable feedback, so much so that Kaylor went to Archbishop John R. Quinn to seek canonical approval for the group.[3] Priests for Life was subsequently approved and granted official approbation as a Private Association of the Faithful on 30 April 1994.[1][3]

In 2003, it was granted non-governmental organization status by the United Nations.


While primary membership is for Catholic bishops, priests and deacons, there is also a lay auxiliary membership, as it has the canonical status of a Private Association of the Christian Faithful.[4] It has about 60 full-time paid employees. Its national director is Father Frank Pavone. Priests for Life exists primarily in order to show the clergy how to fight what John Paul II called the "culture of death".[5]

On August 1, 2012, there was a Special Order on the floor of the United States Congress headed by Representative Michele Bachmann, noting the 20th anniversary of Priests for Life and the importance of Priests for Life in the world today. There were six members of Congress who spent 35 minutes (collectively) speaking about the work of Priests for Life. These six Representatives of Congress included Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Rep. Jean Schmidt, Rep. Louie Gohmert and Rep. Tim Walberg. C-SPAN broadcast the Special Order live.[6]


Fr Frank Pavone

On September 6, 2011, Bishop Patrick Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas limited Father Pavone to duties within the Diocese of Amarillo because of a protracted disagreement over financial transparency for Pavone’s nonprofit Priests for Life and its affiliates — Rachel’s Vineyard, which counsels people affected by abortion, and Gospel of Life Ministries, a lay association for Priests for Life. Pavone remained a priest in good standing, and the bishop did not alleged fiscal impropriety,[7] Gospel of Life Ministries lost its tax-exempt status for failure to file required documentation, according to IRS records.[8]

A Catholic World News analysis of tax returns indicated that between 2006 and 2008 Priests for Life spent less than 63% of its revenues on its programs. It also found that Pavone did not draw any salary from the organization. [9] Charity Navigator awarded PFL one star out of four for financial accountability and transparency.[10] The Better Business Bureau Charity Review lists PFL as "Did Not Disclose" indicating that the "...organization either has not responded to written BBB requests for information or has declined to be evaluated in relation to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability." It explained, "...without the requested information, it is not possible to determine whether this charity adheres to all of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability."[11]

Upon an appeal filed by Pavone the Congregation of the Clergy allowed Pavone to minister outside the Diocese of Amarillo, however recognized that he still must obtain specific permission to do so from his bishop.[12]

In November 2012, the Congregation decided that since the principal office of Priests for Life is in the archdiocese of New York, the archbishop of New York is the competent authority to exercise vigilance over the association.[13] Pavone subsequently complied with demands to straighten out the group’s finances and returned to New York to become accountable to his home diocese.[14]

In November 2014 Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to the bishops of the United States to advise them that the Congregation of the Clergy had conducted an apostolic visitation of PFL the previous year, and had subsequently requested that he “assist Father Pavone with several necessary reforms.” Cardinal Dolan wrote to advise the bishops that Pavone had not cooperated with the reforms. As a result, the cardinal told the Vatican that “I am unable to fulfill their mandate, and want nothing further to do with the organization.”[15]

HHS Contraception Mandate Lawsuit

On February 15, 2012, Priests for Life filed a lawsuit against the contraception mandate because the organization (Priests For Life) feels that the Health and Human Services ruling is unconstitutional on many levels.[16][17][18] The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.[19] The case was initially dismissed without prejudice. In November 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case, which it combined with six other similar challenges to the Health and Human Services' Contraceptive Mandate under Zubik v. Burwell. Briefs were then scheduled for January 4, 2016.[20] [21][22]

Graphic images

The Priests for Life organization provides an extensive collection of photos of live babies as well as aborted babies, via the internet.[23] Its photos have also appeared in print.[24] According to Pavone: "There is no single thing that I have seen more powerful to change people on abortion than simply showing them the pictures....When people see what abortion does to a baby, they are stung to the heart and their consciences are awakened."[25]

Pre-election videos

In early November 2016, ahead of the elections in the United States, Pavone, a member of Donald Trump's 33-member Catholic advisory council,[26] posted a live video to Facebook in opposition to the continued “child killing” in America, urging people to vote for Trump. The Diocese of Amarillo, Texas subsequently issued a statement stating that it was opening an investigation into the actions which were “against the dignity of human life and a desecration of the altar.”[27]

Priests for Life Canada

Priests for Life Canada is independent of the organization in the United States. The Canadian organization stated that it was "deeply disturbed" by the actions of PFL national director Father Frank Pavone in displaying the purported body of an aborted child on an altar. Fr. Thomas Lynch, president of Priests for Life Canada, stated that they supported the investigation concerning the video being undertaken by the Diocese of Amarillo.[28][29]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "History of Priests for Life". Priests for Life. Archived from the original on 24 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  2. Smith, Jesserer Peter. "Father Pavone Faces Diocesan Investigation Over Aborted Baby on Altar", National Catholic Register, November 14, 2016
  3. 1 2 3 4 DeStefano, Anthony (January–February 2001). "How Did Priests For Life Start?". Priests for Life Newsletter. 11 (1). Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  4. "Canon Law Excerpt"
  5. PFL Web Site: Purpose.
  6. Special Order of Congress: Start on Page H5623
  7. Welch, Karen Smith. "Bishop: Pavone's mission not in question", Amarillo Globe-News, October 5, 2011
  8. Welch, Karen Smith. "Supporters speak out against Pavone's suspension at convent", Amarillo Globe-News, October 9, 2011
  9. "Priests for Life tax returns show heavy management, fundraising costs", Catholic World News, October 19, 2011
  10. "Priests for Life", Charity Navigator
  11. "Priests for Life", BBB Charity Review
  12. "Father Pavone allowed to minister outside diocese, must consult bishop", Catholic News Service, June 29, 2012
  13. "Texas bishop says concerns about Priests for Life ‘favorably addressed’", January 21, 2014
  14. Gibson, David. "Anti-abortion activist Frank Pavone is back in church’s good graces", January 22, 2014
  15. "New disciplinary action looming for Father Pavone?", Catholic World News, December 11, 2014
  16. "Priests for Life to file lawsuit against US government". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  17. "EWTN, Priests for Life File Suit Against Obama Mandate". Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  18. "Priests for Life Begins New Lawsuit Against Contraception Mandate". ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  20. Zubik v. Burwell; Scotus Blog; November 2015
  23. Images at PFL web site.
  24. Balkin, Jack. What Roe V. Wade Should Have Said: the nation's top legal experts rewrite America's most controversial decision, page 218 et seq. (NYU Press 2005).
  25. White, Hilary and Jalsevac, Steve. "Use of Graphic Abortion Photos Strongly Defended by Pro-Life Leaders", (2007-07-20).
  26. Roewe, Brian. "Fr. Frank Pavone uses aborted fetus in message for Election Day", National Catholic Reporter, November 9, 2016
  27. Criddle, Christina. "Pro-life Catholic priest put an aborted foetus on altar in support for Donald Trump", The Telegraph, November 10, 2016
  28. Kandra, Greg. "Priests for Life Canada ‘shocked and horrified’ by Father Pavone’s video",, November 14, 2016
  29. Shea, Mark. "Priests for Life Canada Refuses to Drink the Sacrilegious Kool Aid", Catholic and Enjoying It, Patheos, November 15, 2016

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