ROME, ITALY, July 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has not been suspended, said the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy in May, but his bishop has the right to assign him duties outside his pro-life ministry, according to the Diocese of Amarillo.

Amarillo Bishop Patrick Zurek reported that the Vatican body granted at least a partial victory for the Priests for Life leader, who had petitioned Rome for clarification after Zurek announced that he had “suspended” Fr. Pavone last September.

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According to the diocese, the Vatican clarified that Pavone was not canonically suspended, and remains a priest in good standing. However, the statement from the Vatican also apparently re-asserted Zurek’s authority to appoint Pavone chaplain of a religious community in Amarillo.

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“In its decree of May 18, 2012, the Congregation for the Clergy has sustained Father Frank A. Pavone’s appeal of his suspension from ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo and his appointment from me on October 4, 2011, as Chaplain of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in Channing, Texas.  Father Pavone is to continue his ministry as chaplain until further notice,” said Zurek in a June 20 statement.

“As a gesture of good will, I will grant permission to him in individual cases, based upon their merits, to participate in pro-life events with the provision that he and I must be in agreement beforehand as to his role and function,” the bishop stated. “All other matters are outside the purview of this statement.”

In its own statement, Priests for Life (PFL) lauded the Vatican statement that “Father Pavone is not now nor has ever been suspended.” However, like Zurek’s statement, the ministry’s words indicated that the affair had yet to be resolved, and that PFL would continue to seek enough freedom to pursue pro-life ministry.

“While we fully agree that Bishop Zurek has rightful authority over the priests of his diocese, we also see the urgent need for Father Pavone to be allowed to conduct his priestly ministry outside the diocese of Amarillo for the good of the pro-life movement,” wrote PFL.

The pro-life ministry emphasized that “we will continue to be as transparent as possible” regarding all inquiries related to Pavone’s status and the diocese.

“In this way we can best respect the rights and privacy of all concerned, particularly ecclesiastical authority and communications which are intended to be confidential at this time,” PFL stated. Fr. Pavone declined to elaborate beyond the official statement.

Zurek had ordered Fr. Pavone to return to Amarillo for an indefinite period of “prayer and reflection” last fall, citing “deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priest For Life (PFL) organization.” Pavone maintained that he remains a priest in good standing, and that his organization had always been transparent with his bishop regarding finances. Life Dynamics founder Mark Crutcher decried what he called the “outrageous” treatment of Fr. Pavone at the remote convent where the priest was sequestered.

The order to remain in Amarillo was relaxed by January, when Pavone was spotted at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Pavone told LifeSiteNews.com at the time that PFL was being “fully cooperative” with Zurek, and that the bishop had clarified that he was “not in prison” and free to travel.