tampabay.com

Priest turns considerable energy to Schiavo case

By JEAN HELLER
Published April 1, 2005


PINELLAS PARK - Frank Pavone, the Catholic priest who was a fixture outside Terri Schiavo's hospice in the hours before her death, has long ties to antiabortion and anti-euthanasia causes and organized a group to target abortion-rights Catholic politicians, abortion clinics and family planning services.

Pavone, 46, based in Staten Island, N.Y., is known for inflammatory rhetoric. He spent Wednesday night at a gift shop near the hospice with members of the Schindler family. On Thursday he described Schiavo's death as "a killing" and "an atrocity," and accused her husband, Michael, of refusing to allow family members at her bedside at the moment of her death.

Since 1993, Pavone has led Priests for Life, which claims in an ad in the 2004 Official Catholic Directory to coordinate antiabortion activities throughout the world.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that the Roman Catholic Church plans to establish its first religious society devoted exclusively to fighting euthanasia and abortion. The male-only Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, founded by Pavone, will be headquartered on the grounds of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.

The order will have a decidedly political bent and will be active rather than contemplative, Pavone said. Its priests will be trained to register voters, use the media to get out its message and lobby lawmakers to restrict abortion rights.

Recently, Pavone's full attention has been on the Schiavo case.

"This is not only a death, with all the sadness that brings, but this is a killing, and for that we not only grieve that Terri has passed but we grieve that our nation has allowed such an atrocity as this," Pavone told reporters after Schiavo died.

His comments drew a pointed rebuke from Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, during a news conference.

"It was very disquieting to hear the priest issue venom and make extremely harsh statements about Mr. Schiavo," Felos said. "We felt that was highly inappropriate under the circumstances."

Times staff writer Jade Jackson Lloyd contributed to this report.