Steve Jalsevac

LSN defense against ‘pro-choice’ Catholic priest’s $500,000 lawsuit now public

Steve Jalsevac
Steve Jalsevac
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On February 15 of last year LifeSiteNews announced, much to the shock of our readers, that LifeSiteNews and five of its staff are the subject of a $500,000 lawsuit from a self-professed ‘pro-choice’ Quebec Catholic priest - Fr. Raymond Gravel.

Fr. Gravel, one of Canada’s most prominent priests and a former Member of federal Parliament, who was forced by the Vatican to leave politics, argued that LifeSiteNews’ coverage of some of his more controversial public statements amounted to “libel.” He was particularly incensed that we had referred to him as “pro-abortion,” whereas he says he is only “pro-choice” on abortion. Also, we have reported on Fr. Gravel’s severe public criticisms of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

We have not been able to speak about the case more than providing the scant details we did in February of 2011.  Now, however, our defense has been filed and we are finally able to reveal information on the case, information which many of you have been asking about for the last year of near-silence.

At long last, as of a few days ago, we are free to present many of the disturbing details about what we will argue is an abusive and politically-motivated lawsuit that amounts to an extreme attack on freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

We can also reveal the details about our countersuit, as well as ask for the financial support we desperately need to fight this case to its conclusion.

Today we are releasing a brief executive summary (see below) of the 99-page defense document. That will be followed by the publication of a much more detailed presentation of the defense, which we believe is a fascinating story on its own, in stages in the coming weeks.

At this time we really need the help of our supporters.

Fighting this suit is requiring the involvement of a team of lawyers and professional expert witnesses, plus many disbursements: it is thus far estimated that the additional costs to be paid for the defense, including future trial days in court perhaps next year, would total about $130,000.

Our lawyers are devoted to winning this case, and for the amount of work involved these fees are extremely reasonable.

* See also, A few more important items about the Gravel lawsuit *

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Raymond Gravel vs. Life Site News – Chronological summary of the defence

March 2012 – Fr. Raymond Gravel’s motion against LifeSiteNews in the Superior Court of Québec has almost systematically ignored the declarations and triggering actions that he initiated, and to which the defendants simply responded in their articles, in an “action-reaction” manner that was illustrated in the numerous exhibits the plaintiff presented. This is an important aspect of the case that the defendants will present to the court.

Moreover defendants will submit to the court that plaintiff Raymond Gravel’s appeal is abusive; his use of the courts is excessive and unreasonable, and his goal is to settle the score with his political adversaries. His primary objective, it will be argued, is to limit the defendants’ freedom of expression within the context of highly public debates on abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, seeking to deprive them the opportunity to fully exercise their constitutionally-protected rights – rights that are crucial to fulfilling their jobs as journalists.

Involvement by the Apostolic Nuncio in Canada, the Bishop of Joliette, Bishop Gilles Lussier - Rev. Raymond Gravel’s immediate superior – would seem to have mobilized the Catholic Church in Canada, and particularly in Québec, to deal with this unusual situation. On December 21, 2010, plaintiff Raymond Gravel brought legal action against LifeSiteNews in the Superior Court of Québec. 

On April 16, 2011 Fr. Gravel was quoted in Le Devoir stating, “Sometimes Rome can go over the head of the bishop; we saw this when I had to leave politics.” According to Raymond Gravel, wrote the reporter, “It is in the Church’s interest to accept his positions on homosexuality and abortion, because they represent Quebecois values. Otherwise, the Church here will die.”

We argue that since January 2011, Rev. Gravel has made himself the primary spinner of the defamation he claims to be a victim of by promoting an article, primarily on his website, entitled: “Why is Raymond Gravel suing LifeSiteNews.com?” [English Translation]

The defendants will argue that, in granting interviews where he has been repeating the statements that he alleges are defamatory to him, Rev. Gravel has been contributing to his own “damages”. He has been publicizing these statements, we will plead, even more broadly than they were initially published by the defendants, attempting to bring justice for himself by condemning the defendants in a public arena, without awaiting the Court’s decision.

Among the articles presented for the defence, we note especially the following:

•  “The Vatican errs – The Catholic Church has no credibility in the current debate about the redefinition of marriage,” by Raymond Gravel, La Presse, August 5, 2003.

•  “Communion and abortion,” by Léo Kalinda, Dimanche Magazine, Radio-Canada, June 20, 2004: “As for me, I am pro-choice, and I will receive Communion on Sunday. There isn’t a bishop on this earth who will prevent me from receiving Communion on Sunday. Not one. Not even the Pope.” – Raymond Gravel.

•  “A missed opportunity,” La Presse, December 19, 2004. “The leaders of the Catholic Church, in this case the Catholic Bishops of Canada, are missing out on a historic opportunity. They have locked themselves up in their archaic and obsolete doctrines that were defined in a completely different era, and which have become irrelevant for the majority of believers; they refuse any re-definition of marriage that would allow homosexual couples to legalize their union.” – Raymond Gravel.

•  “Raymond Gravel, the ‘pink’ priest,” Fugues, June 2005: “The positions I have taken regarding abortion and gay marriage were not well received at the Vatican. My bishop (Bishop Gilles Lussier, Bishop of Joliette) even received a letter from the Holy See, which stated that if I persisted in not conforming to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, I would have to endure the consequences.” – Raymond Gravel.

•  “Priests denouncing the Church’s attitude regarding the issue of homosexuality, ‘The Church is depressive, not evangelical’.” Raymond Gravel, co-signatory, February 26, 2006.

•  Regarding bill C-484, House of Commons (protection of the fetus), Raymond Gravel, Hansard, December 13, 2007: “Mr. President, I am a little uncomfortable with this bill. […] I am a Catholic priest, and I’m having a little bit of a problem determining where I stand with this bill, simply because the deputy who is presenting it is part of a group that is called ‘Pro-Life’, which, in my humble opinion, is a group that is rather extreme and fanatical about life.”

•  “Henry Morgentaler: A Hero or a Criminal?” Raymond Gravel, Le Devoir/La Presse, July 1, 2008: “Whether he wanted to or not, this doctor worked tirelessly to make abortion a legal medical act [...] That’s why I would ask the leaders of the Catholic Church to show a little more discretion with their comments.”

•  “Raymond Gravel’s Chronicle – Crisis of values or religion?” Raymond Gravel, Le Journal de Montréal, October 16, 2008: “If Bishop Ouellet claims to be a victim of contempt from the Quebecers, perhaps it’s due to the fact that he personifies this religious authoritarianism. […] It would seem to me that this isn’t a crisis of values, but rather a challenge for a religion that tramples on, imposes, rejects and excludes, all in the name of a doctrine they won’t modernize.”

•  “An organized witch hunt,” Raymond Gravel, Le Devoir, July 12, 2010.

The LifeSiteNews attorneys will submit to the court that the plaintiff did not prove any of the damages that he alleged in his action, where he most notably alleges that “they have robbed him of his great pride as a politician, a dream that came true in the form of a secondary career, and from which he gained great satisfaction.” In fact, our argument is that the plaintiff made the decision of his own volition to comply, albeit belatedly, to his Church’s internal rule of discipline, prohibiting priests from actively pursuing politics.

Regarding the plaintiff’s reputation, we will propose, an exhaustive examination of the press reviews produced for the defence’s case demonstrates that over the years, Rev. Gravel built his own reputation as a polemicist (a person who argues in opposition to another; controversialist)

The defence will also argue that Fr. Gravel meticulously fuels, maintains and cultivates this reputation himself, as he, most notably, resorts to provocation, as he explained to a journalist during an interview: “We must protest, make claims, provoke and even shock, so pockets of resistance may dwindle and disappear.” In short, LifesiteNews attorneys will claim, Mr. Gravel already was a controversial character, regardless of the defendants’ actions, sowing the very controversy of which he claimed to be victim.

As a result of the abusive nature of the present action, the defendants request that the Courts order the plaintiff to pay damages in compensation for the injuries incurred by the defendants, dismiss the action brought by Rev. Raymond Gravel, and accept the defence of LifeSiteNews.

Journalists or others who wish to obtain a copy of the complete 99-page LifeSiteNews defense document may obtain a copy of either the French or English versions from the Joliette court (Court document file is:  705-17-003784-103 titled Defence and counterclaim of Hilary White and Patrick B. Craine). As well, the full defense document is expected to be available via the Internet in the near future.

Note: because this is a matter still before the courts and LifeSiteNews is named in the lawsuit, comments have been disabled.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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