It’s with great relief that I read this blog post by Fr. Thomas Rosica on the Salt and Light TV blog that says “the matter is now closed” concerning a threatened lawsuit against a Toronto blogger, Vox Cantoris.
Fr. Rosica writes:
As the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network, I am not a high-ranking Vatican official nor a member of the hierarchy of the Church as erroneously claimed in several recent blogs. In addition to my work at Salt and Light, I have had the privilege of serving since 2013 in a volunteer capacity as English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office. I relate on a daily basis to hundreds of English language journalists around the world. I know that this daily service has been encouraged and appreciated by the Vatican and by hundreds of journalists all over the world.
I fully support the teaching of the Church and welcome Pope Francis’ invitation to the whole Church to reflect seriously on the foundations of our faith. The recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops has invited us to mature, honest dialogue and conversation and to find new ways and a new language to communicate the ancient story of the Church and our beautiful, unchanging doctrine to future generations.
Mature expressions of differences are welcome. It is one thing to have differing opinions on church matters. However, there is fine line between difference of opinion and blatant destruction of person’s lives and reputations. Having been strongly advised to respond, as an individual and in no institutional capacity to the Vatican or to my place of work, to the continuous false, slanderous statements of a blogger over a long period of time that resulted in gross distortion, misinformation, many phone calls, letters and clear threats from callers based on the repeated false information contained in the blog, it was never my intention to sue, but rather to issue a letter to “cease and desist” the frivolous calumny. A legal firm, offering its service pro bono to us, issued a letter to cease and desist. No lawsuit was ever launched against the blogger! The matter is now closed.
Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have taught clearly that the Internet and blogs can be of tremendous service to the up-building of the Church and of humanity. They have never taught that blogs and social media should be used, in the name of fidelity, to engender slander, hatred, reviling and destroying.
ROME — Despite a frenzy in the conservative Catholic blogosphere, a high-profile priest who volunteers as an English-language assistant to the Vatican press office says he’s not planning to take legal action against a Canadian blogger who had criticized him, and considers the matter closed.
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, also a Canadian, said Wednesday he never planned to sue the blogger, and also insisted that he’s not a “high-ranking Vatican official” and hence there was never any prospect of the Vatican taking action.
2. Our response to the original letter of Fogler Rubinoff LLP, suggested that Canon Law was the appropriate vehicle and should have been chosen for any perceived grievance.
3. Our suggestion was not only rebuffed but resulted in a “doubling-down” with new demands including complete censorship meaning by extension, no commentary on the Synod this October.4. Our response to that continued threat of litigation was to advise that we would no longer engage in a campaign of letters and lawfare resulting in a slow and painful bankruptcy. We advised that as of the close of business on March 3, 2015, we would begin to prepare a robust defense should it become necessary and a crowd-funding campaign to finance a rigorous defense.My wife Francoise and I extend to all of you our gracious thanks for your prayers, your letters, emails and Tweets and messages, phone calls and your offers of financial support should it have become necessary.Friends, we have much work to do for Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. It will not be long until the Synod is upon us. We must be vigilant to proclaim the eternal truths of the Church and the upholding of doctrine on matters of marriage and the family and most especially, the Holy Eucharist.
For those interested in the state of Canada’s defamation law, the case involving some free speech blogger friends of mine Connie and Mark Fournier of Free Dominion got written up in today’s Ottawa Citizen. This decision will help shape how defamation law applies to the Internet, the blogosphere and online forums (my emphases, fellow bloggers please take note!).
In finding the words to be defamatory, Polowin rejected the argument of Free Dominion’s founders, Mark and Connie Fournier, who said they should not be held legally responsible for the messages that other people post on an open Internet platform. That position was supported by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which argued that holding website administrators liable for the content of message board postings would impair the free exchange of ideas on the Internet.
Polowin, however, said defamation law must balance two fundamental values: the worth of an individual’s reputation and freedom of expression. “To adopt the position of the defendants would leave potential plaintiffs with little ability to correct reputational damage and would impair that delicate balance,” she wrote.
The Fourniers also argued that the statement was not defamatory in the context of the political blogosphere, where profanity, insults and invective run wild. But Polowin rejected the notion that the Internet is too unruly to be governed by conventional defamation law.
“Implicit in their submissions is that based on the rough and tumble nature of these media platforms there would be little, if anything, that would tend to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable reader. However, there is nothing in the law of defamation to suggest that that is the case.”
Polowin concluded that Baglow’s reputation was damaged by the suggestion that he was a Taliban supporter. The judge, however, accepted the Fourniers’ argument that the defamatory words could be defended as fair comment in the blogosphere.
Fair comment can be used as a defence when the words at issue are based on fact and honestly expressed on a matter of public interest.
Anyway, I’m relieved that “the matter is closed.” And I am glad Fr. Rosica has let David Domet know publicly that he is not going ahead. The legal letter that was sent, which you can read at Domet’s site, sure made it sound like a lawsuit was imminent.
I hope all of us can take a look at what we are writing on our blogs and before we hit publish or press send in a comment section, have we based what we’ve said on fact and is our opinion being stated honestly on a matter of public interest.