Pope Francis posts Twitter poll on whether to laicize Fr. Frank Pavone

Pope Francis tweeted a poll yesterday asking Twitter users whether he should laicize Fr. Frank Pavone, saying he would hold himself to the results. 

Fr. Frank Pavone has been subject to repeated controversy for his anti-abortion work in the United States. He had allegedly desecrated an altar by placing an aborted baby’s corpse on it during a fundraising video, but more recently has taken flack for partisan political activity. Pavone formally joined President Trump’s campaign team in 2020 and embroiled himself in debates of that election’s validity. 

His activism has also put him at odds with members of the Catholic hierarchy; Pavone often butted heads with Cardinal Egan in his native Archdiocese of New York, and then later with Cardinal Dolan. These tensions apparently flared enough to prompt his transfer to the Diocese of Amarillo Texas in 2019. There have been long-standing calls for disciplinary action on the priest, which Pope Francis apparently has noted in turning the issue over to the people. 

The poll asks “Should I laicize Fr. Frank Pavone?” and gives a simple “Yes” or “No” option. The poll remained open for 24 hours, in which over 17 million users participated. Most chose “Yes.” 

The 86-year-old Pontiff calls himself “a synodal absolutist” and has long promoted synodality and decentralization in the Church. Many see this Twitter poll as only the latest move by the Pope towards “a people’s Church,” drawing both admiration and criticism from Catholics. 

Regardless, Pope Francis seems to be abiding by the poll results as reports emerged later that day that Fr. Frank had been defrocked. He was notified in his Twitter DM’s.