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 *
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.