Fr. Gravel sues LifeSite over abortion-stance allegations

By 
  • February 16, 2011

OTTAWA - Fr. Raymond Gravel, a Quebec Catholic priest and Bloc Quebecois MP from 2006-08, has launched a defamation lawsuit against LifeSiteNews.com.

Gravel, who is incardinated in the Joliette diocese, is seeking $300,000 for the attack on his reputation and consequent pain and suffering, and another $200,000 in punitive damages for what he calls a voluntary, intentional and malicious attack. He said LifeSiteNews.com has reported that he is pro-abortion, a charge he denies.

The lawsuit, if successful, could put an end to LifeSiteNews.com, said its editor.

“We’ve been online since 1997, but this could indeed shut us down,” said John-Henry Westen.

In a 31-page statement filed with the Quebec Superior Court in Joliette, Gravel asserts that he has been a Catholic priest for 25 years and has always been faithful to the magisterium of the Church. He also said he has from time to time expressed personal opinions on controversial topics, including homosexuality, abortion, secularism and religious education in the schools.

Gravel contends in his statement that the smear campaign against him began in 2003 when he wrote an open letter criticizing a Vatican document that said respect for homosexual persons cannot lead to approval of homosexual behaviour or legal recognition of homosexual union. Gravel disagreed, saying the position of the Church is discriminatory and hurtful.

But Gravel’s fight with LifeSiteNews.com goes beyond the abortion issue. He also blames LifeSiteNews.com for having to give up his job representing the Repentigny riding in the House of Commons.

“I was a member of Parliament,” he said. “I had to abandon this because of what they wrote.”

Westen said any coverage of Gravel has been truthful, relying on the priests’ own public commentary in newspapers, in his homilies and on television.

Westen and other LifeSiteNews.com employees received notification of the lawsuit in December.

“Our yearly budget is $500,000,” he said, adding he could not minimize the gravity of the lawsuit.  “We are a pretty small operation and most of us are in it for the love of faith, life and family.”

LifeSiteNews.com did not meet its last quarterly fundraising goal and has already had to shell out $6,000 to defend itself, he said. Costs will skyrocket when it goes to court.

“We’re planning to fight it, in the interests of truth and for the good of the Church and indeed for Fr. Gravel’s own good,” Westen said. 

Westen said coverage has not been malicious.

“As we’ve said on the web site, we bear no hatred or ill will towards Fr. Gravel,” said Westen. “We’re concerned for him in that he is a Catholic priest and should be upholding the teachings of the Church and yet he has fought against Cardinal (Marc) Ouellet and the Vatican on issues of the right to life and homosexuality.”

Gravel said he had informed his bishop about the lawsuit but that he was acting on his own. Joliette Bishop Gilles Lussier was away and a spokesman said the diocese had no comment.

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