A Roman Catholic priest known for his confrontational tactics has been accused of using an aborted fetus in a ploy to help boost the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of the non-profit group Priests for Life, offered a sermon via video just days before the election. During the talk, Pavone placed what he said was an aborted fetus on an altar and told viewers to vote for Trump. (Pavone said the fetus was given to him by a pathologist who asked him to bury it.)
During the event, which was carried by Facebook Live, Pavone said, “I am showing him to you because in this election we have to decide if we will allow this child killing to continue in America or not. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform says yes, let the child killing continue (and you pay for it); Donald Trump and the Republican platform says no, the child should be protected.”
Pavone posted the video to YouTube. It was later removed, however.
Although Pavone’s group is based in New York City, his home diocese is in Amarillo, Texas. Shortly after word of the incident appeared in the media, the diocese issued a statement saying it is investigating Pavone. It called his actions “against the dignity of human life and is a desecration of the altar.”
“The Diocese of Amarillo deeply regrets the offense and outrage caused by the video for the faithful and the community at large,” the statement reads. “The action and presentation of Father Pavone in this video is not consistent with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.”
Pavone’s tactics have landed him in hot water before. In 2014, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City severed ties with Priests for Life after asserting that the organization failed to enact internal financial reforms. Dolan told The Washington Post that he had no comment on the video.
Others were not so reticent. Ed Mechmann of the Archdiocese of New York blogged that he felt “revulsion” over the video.
“A human being has been sacrificed and the altar of God has been desecrated, all for politics,” Mechmann wrote. “Everyone who respects the dignity of every human person should reject and disavow this atrocity.”
Pavone refused to back down. He told The Post that while his actions have caused “no small controversy,” his followers have remained supportive.
Pavone served as an adviser to Trump during the campaign. His organization is tax-exempt and under federal law is not permitted to intervene in politics by endorsing or opposing candidates.
In other news about churches and politics:
A Baptist pastor in Kannapolis, N.C., offered voters a ride to the polls on Nov. 8, but there was a catch: They had to vote Republican.
Pastor Tim Jones of Resurrection Baptist Church issued a message Nov. 3 offering rides to the polls but adding, “The only stipulation is you vote against abortion, corruption, excessive gun control, Obamacare and career political criminals. Otherwise, you will have to take a cab! Our church is NOT ashamed to stand up and support Donald Trump!”
Jones later posted a message on Facebook that read, “Although I don’t support all of Trump’s ideas, I don’t support any of Clinton’s!”
The Charlotte Observer contacted Jones and asked him if he is aware that his actions violated federal law. He insisted that they don’t because his church is not tax-exempt.
Americans United says that’s unlikely. Under Internal Revenue Service regulations, houses of worship are automatically considered tax-exempt as soon as they form.