John Westen

Archdiocesan canon lawyers differ on asking RealCatholicTV.com to drop ‘Catholic’ name

John Westen
John Westen
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January 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canon lawyers at two American dioceses disagree over the question of jurisdiction in the case of Michael Voris and RealCatholicTV, who were recently asked by the Archdiocese of Detroit to stop using the name “Catholic” in their work.

The decision by the Detroit diocese to demand that RealCatholicTV stop calling itself “Catholic” came as a shock to fans of the website, which has become relatively well known in the pro-life and pro-family world due to Voris’ straight-talking defense of the right to life and sanctity of the family. However, some of his broadcasts bluntly holding Catholic Church leaders, including bishops, to account for failures in defending Catholic principles in these areas have also raised the ire of various clergy and diocesan staffers.

Following the announcement of its decision, the Detroit archdiocese received numerous complaints and questions from RealCatholicTV fans, prompting the diocese to issue another press release January 3rd.

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Responding to the inquiries, Archdiocesan Director of Communications Ned McGrath noted that concerns about Voris had been public since 2008; however, the release did not say anything about the nature of those concerns. To date the diocese has not made any specific allegations against RealCatholicTV or its programming.

While the questions asked by most pertain to why the action was taken, the issue being discussed by canon lawyers is where jurisdiction over RealCatholicTV.com lies – with the Archdiocese of Detroit, where Michael Voris, the star of the show, lives and works, or in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, where the owner and financier of RealCatholicTV.com, Marc Brammer, resides.

Fr. Mark Gurtner, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana spoke with LifeSiteNews, acknowledging that the diocese did know of Mr. Brammer’s enterprise of RealCatholicTV.com.  When asked if the diocese had any complaints about RealCatholicTV.com, Gurner replied, “No, as far as I know there’s nothing.”

Speaking as a canon lawyer and not an official of the diocese, Gurtner also said he believes the jurisdiction of the case resides with the Indiana diocese. “It certainly seems to me that canonically Michael Voris would not be the one that this would be imposed on,” he said. “Even though he is the one that regularly appears on (the show) he, in a sense, is really just an employee of (RealCatholicTV.com).”

“It seems like if the Archdiocese of Detroit is trying to go after (Voris), that’s the wrong person to address this with, that would have to be with the owner of the website or blog,” he added.

“I suppose if this Marc Brammer is paying for and running, constructing his blog from our diocese in his home I suppose you could make the argument that we have jurisdiction canonically.”

When asked by LifeSiteNews what concerns the Detroit Archdiocese had about Voris and RealCatholicTV.com, Detroit Archdiocesan Director of Communications McGrath would not specify any concern other than the use of the word ‘Catholic’.

Asked if the archdiocese has asked any other group or individual in the archdiocese not to use the name Catholic, McGrath said he couldn’t remember any other cases during his 20 years with the diocese.  “I don’t know. I’ve been here 20 years I can’t say that we’ve never done that in the history of the Archdiocese,” he said.

Pressed on the point, he said, “I wouldn’t want to say that definitively. But not any that I can recall recently, no.”

Fans of RealCatholicTV have noted that there are entities in the archdiocese, such as the Jesuit University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), which bills itself as “a Catholic university,” that regularly violate Catholic teaching but have been permitted to retain their “Catholic” designation without interference from the diocese.  UDM has proposed abortion agencies as career opportunities for students; had links to pro-abortion groups on its website; retained a renowned pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage” nun on its Board of Trustees; held an annual event called ‘sexapalooza’ with activities such as ‘safe sex games’, sex-tac-toe; and has professors that put stickers on their office doors indicating their support for abortion.

Regarding the question of jurisdiction, McGrath directed LifeSiteNews to a blog post by canon lawyer Ed Peters, a professor at the AOD seminary, who has supported the archdiocese’s claims of having jurisdiction in the case.

In an initial blog post Peters, wrote, in his capacity as a canon lawyer and not as a representative of the diocese, about canon law 216, noting that the bishop has authority over the name Catholic. In a subsequent post, Peters took up the matter of jurisdiction, suggesting that Detroit is on “firm ground” in pursuing Voris. 

“I have yet to see the ‘lack of jurisdiction’ claim being made by anyone who knows how canon law actually determines jurisdiction over persons and projects,” Peters wrote. “As a blog is not the place for me to attempt a pre-emptive tutorial on canonical jurisdiction, I’ll just say that, to the extent that jurisdiction is or might be an issue in this matter, I believe the [Archdiocese of Detroit] to be on firm ground.”


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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