Fr. Raymond Gravel
A Roman Catholic priest who claims he was falsely characterized as “pro-abortion” has filed a $500,000 libel lawsuit against LifeSiteNews.com that could shut down the pro-life news source.
In a message to its readers, Toronto-based LifeSiteNews explained that the damages sought by Fr. Raymond Gravel, a Quebec priest and former member of Canada’s Parliament, is the equivalent of a full year’s budget and would put the anti-abortion news service out of business.
Gravel admits in his complaint that he is “pro-choice” but argues he is not “pro-abortion.”
John-Henry Westen, LifeSiteNews.com co-founder and editor-in-chief, told WND he believes the case has serious ramifications for free speech, with the potential of dictating how the pro-life movement describes its opponents.
“We are going to defend this case vigorously,” he said. “We stand behind what we have written.”
LifeSiteNews, which also has an editorial office in Washington, D.C., contends it has largely reported on what Gravel himself has publicly stated.
In a 2004 radio interview, the priest said: “I am pro-choice and there is not a bishop on earth that will prevent me from receiving Communion, not even the pope.”
The lawsuit is against LifeSiteNews’ Canadian organization.
During his political career, Gravel was rated as “pro-abortion” by the political arm of Canada’s pro-life movement, LifeSiteNews pointed out. He has also repeatedly has criticized his church’s teachings on homosexuality and abortion.
The news source said Gravel also defended the awarding of Canada’s highest civilian award to the country’s “father of abortion,” Henry Morgentaler.
Gravel, who complained about LifeSiteNews during a speech on the floor of the House of Commons, blamed the newssite for his exit from politics. He said in April 20, 2009, that his bishop received a letter from the Vatican “which forced me to retire from political life.”
Attached to the letter, he said, “was a file almost exclusively in English made up of negative comments about me … which came from those ultra-conservative media.”
He also blamed the newssite for the removal from his position as a chief catechist for his diocese.
In its appeal to readers, LifeSiteNews said that despite the fact “that LSN has made it clear that we wish no harm to Fr. Gravel, and that, in fact, we are concerned for his wellbeing, he has launched a suit that could severely, even permanently disrupt our life- and culture-saving work.”
“At LSN we are completely dependent upon Divine Providence; we usually
have just enough in our bank account to get by until our next quarterly
fundraiser (if even!). We simply have no money to spend on potentially
crippling legal fees.”
The first preliminary hearing in the case was held Thursday in Joliette, Quebec.