Monsignor Harold Waldow, vicar of clergy for the Diocese of Amarillo, had this to say regarding the assets of Priests for Life. He stated, "This is patrimony of the church. It belongs to the church. People give their money over the understanding that it goes to the church or church auspices and programs and ministries."
This donor (that is, I) would like to know precisely what he means by that. Surely he is aware that our donations, as such, are intended for the usage and control of Priests for Life. I understand that while Father Pavone and the other priests are personally answerable to their bishops, but what about Priests for Life itself, as an entity? To whom/what does the entity answer? There are two parts to that answer, corresponding to civil law and canon law.
In US civil law, Priests for Life Inc is a not-for-profit corporation. By definition, there are no stockholders. There is a board of directors, as there is for any US corporation. It is this board that bears legal responsibility for the well-being and conduct of the corporation. It is they who select the executive director and other officers of the corporation. The executive director is the "front man", if you will. It often does happen that it is the drive and passion of the executive director that is the moving force behind the corporation. However, if the board of directors is content to just let the executive director have his/her way without real "hands-on" oversight, that board is seriously derelict in its duties.
Father Pavone has mentioned that on this board are several bishops. He has also mentioned in recent communications that all board members, including the bishops, have received all financial and audit reports of Priests for Life. He also mentioned that he sent copies of all reports to his own bishop, as well as the ordinaries to whom other Priests for Life clergy report.
At canon law, Priests for Life is a Private Association of the Faithful. Until just a few days ago, I wasn't aware that PFL had that canonical status. On the right bar of this blog are a number of links; one of these is to the Code of Canon Law. The pertinent section I found is between and including Canon 321 and 326. All private associations have statutes by which they conduct themselves; I'd suppose they're roughly analogous to by-laws. Canon 325 s1 states that "A private association of the Christian faithful freely administers those goods it possesses according to the prescripts of the statutes, without prejudice to the right of competent ecclesiastical authority to exercise vigilance so that the goods are used for the purposes of the association." Therefore, on the surface, it seems that the statement of Msgr Waldow, as quoted in this post's beginning, is canonically incorrect. As to what constitutes "competent ecclesial authority", I'm gathering from Canon 321 (and 305, to which 321 refers) that this authority is either the bishop in which the association is headquartered, or the bishop who granted to PFL the status of Private Association of the Faithful. Even that understanding could be incorrect, as I am not a canon lawyer by any stretch of the imagination. In either event, it doesn't appear that Bishp Zurek of Amarillo has sole authority over the affairs of Priests for Life, as he does for Father Pavone.
In his statement of September 13th, Father Pavone stated that "Now, although Bishop Zurek is my Ordinary, he is not the bishop of Priests for Life. Each of our staff priests has his own Ordinary, and the organization has an entire Board of Bishops. We keep them all informed of our activities, and of our financial audits." Some in the blogosphere accused Father Pavone of arrogance towards Bishop Zurek. Not so - he was merely stating the relationships as they exist in canon law.
Getting back to the original comment about the assets of FPL and donations to the same, they belong to Priests for Life, to be used for the purposes as set forth in its statutes. They are not available for appropriation for other purposes, laudible though those purposes may be for that would constitute misappropriation. LifeSite News will have updates; please check with them periodically.
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