On Feb. 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, a former Member of 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 Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
We have not been able to speak about the case more than providing the scant details we reported 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.
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. However, the fact is that we simply do not have $130,000 to fight what we believe is a nuisance lawsuit.
The suit is against LifeSiteNews and five named staff. Also sued in the same legal action is the Quebec pro-life organization, Campaigne Quebec Vie. We are not in any formal way associated with that organization and infrequently communicate with them about happenings in their province. It is obvious that by far the main target of the lawsuit is LifeSiteNews. Why this totally separate Quebec pro-life advocacy organization is being sued together with a news service that reports on developments around the world is a mystery. Why the Quebec court would actually accept such an arrangement is also a big question.
Fr. 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 of 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?”
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.
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 defense 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 defense of LifeSiteNews.
This article is adapted from several articles that originally appeared at LifeSiteNews.com March 15 and is reprinted and excerprted with permission.