An American diocese has said it is investigating the incident of a pro-life priest who placed the body of an aborted baby on an altar and broadcast it on Facebook Live to get people to vote for Donald Trump, causing what the diocese called “the desecration of the altar”.

Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo said: “We believe that no one who is pro-life can exploit a human body for any reason, especially the body of a foetus.” Its use for political purposes was “against the dignity of human life,” he added.

Pro-life supporters in the Church denounced activist Fr Frank Pavone for what he said was an “emergency situation” on the eve of the US presidential election.

“What did he do?” wrote Ed Mechmann, a public policy director whose areas of concern include pro-life issues, in a blog for the Archdiocese of New York. “He used a dead aborted baby, laying naked and bloody on an altar, as a prop for his video.”

But Fr Pavone said he was trying to drive home, in a powerful way, what it meant to choose one presidential candidate over the other. Fr Pavone, appealing for votes for Mr Trump, said he was showing “the Democrats’ support of baby-killing”.

“I’m showing the reality,” he said in an interview on election day with Catholic News Service. Fr Pavone is a member of Trump’s Catholic advisory group.

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