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Voris fails again to get NH defamation case dismissed

A federal judge rejected right-wing provocateur Gary Michael Voris’ attempt to have the defamation lawsuit brought against him by a New Hampshire Catholic official dismissed, clearing way for a trial in a case that involves the radical sect, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This is the second time Voris, owner of Michigan-based online news outlet Church Militant, tried and failed to get the lawsuit brought by the Diocese of Manchester’s Judicial Vicar Rev. Georges de Laire dismissed. The lawsuit was filed in February after de Laire said in his complaint that he was subject to months of lies from Voris which resulted in threats to his life and damage to his reputation.

In a ruling released last week, Judge Joseph DiClerico found that one part of de Laire’s complaint, dealing with the celebration of Mass for the Slaves, did not meet legal standards and should be dismissed from the lawsuit. He also dismissed de Laire’s complaint claiming emotional distress, writing that New Hampshire law does not allow for any such finding.

However, that leaves the bulk of de Laire’s complaint in place. Both de Laire and Voris have stated in court records that there is no mediation or settlement likely, and both sides are moving to trial.

The one part where Voris succeeded in getting something from the case dislodged deals with Mass for the Slaves. When the Slave were disciplined by Bishop Peter Libasci in January of 2019 for disobeying the Catholic Church, de Laire sent a letter detailing that Mass could no longer be offered at the Slaves’ Richmond compound. Voris reported that de Laire prohibited Mass for the Slaves, while de Laire contends that he arranged for a Latin Mass celebration in another town for the Slaves.

DiClerico ruled that in effect, de Laire did cancel Mass at the Richmond compound, despite the other Mass being offered in a nearby town.

The lawsuit states that Voris started his campaign against de Laire in January of 2019 after the diocese barred the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from calling themselves Catholic and put the group under discipline.

The Slaves are considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Slaves appealed the discipline laid out in a Decree of Precepts of Prohibition written by de Laire, but the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome rejected that appeal last year because it was filed after the statute of limitations had run out. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is the Vatican governing body that defends Catholic teaching from heresy and has previously dealt with the Slaves.

Voris and his website, Church Militant, started covering the issue after the precepts were published, and the diocese advised Catholics in good standing to stay away from the Slaves. Voris, who is based in Michigan, even traveled to New Hampshire to interview members of the Slaves at their compound in Richmond. Voris did not interview de Laire or any priest in the diocese as part of his reporting, according to the lawsuit.

“In an initial article, published in January of 2019, Mr. Voris published multiple knowingly and recklessly false statements concerning Father de Laire’s work performance, his fitness to serve as a member of the clergy, his ethics, and other personal matters. These statements were first published in January of 2019 with no attempt to first interview Father de Laire, with little or no investigation, and despite Defendants knowing that what they were publishing was not true,” the lawsuit states.

In subsequent videos and articles, Voris and Church Militant would claim de Laire is not trusted by other priests in the diocese, that he does not do his own work, and that there have been at least three complaints filed against him. The articles also claim de Laire in known to be incompetent by Catholic officials in the Vatican. According to the lawsuit, none of these assertions is true.

“As with all other of the statements in the article, Mr. Voris did not cite a source for this statement, and, upon information and belief, his allegation was fabricated and not corroborated by anyone in Rome, as Father de Laire has always completed all of his work with utmost competence, once again, as evidence by his reappointment to his roles as Judicial Vicar and Vicar for Canonical Affairs,” the lawsuit states.

As the Judicial Vicar and the Vicar for Canonical Affairs in Manchester, de Laire has been dealing with the Slaves for several years in an effort to bring them into compliance with Church teaching, according to the lawsuit. The Slaves manipulated de Laire’s efforts, according to the lawsuit. For example, they used the fact that Manchester previously allowed them to have a priest in good standing celebrate Mass in Richmond to make it appear they were an approved Catholic organization, according to the lawsuit, which they were not.

Voris’s company used to be known as Real Catholic T.V. until the archdiocese of Detroit ordered that he stop presenting his organization as Catholic. Voris engages in climate change denialism, and has been accused of anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia, according to the New York Times. Voris has claimed, for example, that Judaism as currently practiced is a man-made religion.

The lawsuit states that Voris likely got his false information about de Laire from the Slaves.

“Mr. Voris has a relationship with (Slaves leader) Brother Andre Marie, and had first-hand knowledge of the correspondence between the Saint Benedict Center and the Roman Catholic Church throughout said correspondence’s history,” the lawsuit states.

The Slaves in New Hampshire are an off-shoot of a controversial group started in Massachusetts by Fr. Leonard Feeney in the 1940’s. Feeney was expelled from the Jesuit order over his public speeches against the Jews, and was later excommunicated. The Massachusetts Slaves are currently in good standing with the Church after Feeney died reconciled to Rome.

The New Hampshire Slaves formed as a splinter group, and were required in 2009 by then-Bishop John McCormack to sign a letter of obedience and to renounce anti-Semitism.

The New Hampshire Slaves operate a website, a school, and other enterprises while holding beliefs that range from traditional to radical. The Slaves are currently lead by Brother Andre Marie, also known as Luis Villarubia, who has a history of making anti-Semitic statements. In a 1998 speech, Villarubia said that Jews are the “worst enemy of the Church,” and called them “seed of the Devil,” among other similar statements.

The 2019 precepts of discipline from the diocese came after the Slaves continued their extremist interpretation of the Catholic teaching of “no salvation outside the Church,” in conflict with the instructions it received years ago from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The CDF’s Under Secretary, Monsignor Giacomo Morandi, wrote in a 2016 letter that the group’s theological position was “unacceptable,” and not subject to further discussion.

The Slaves’ interpretation does not allow for the possibility that non-Catholics can be saved through the grace of God, which goes against the full teaching of the Church, according to Morandi’s letter.

The lawsuit also claims that Voris also tried to imply de Laire improperly used Church funds when he bought a house in Amherst, which the lawsuit states is not true. DiClerico ruled that Voris’ statements about the house are fair game for the lawsuit.

Public records show that de Laire did but the house, but he has stated repeatedly in court he does not live there and lists a Manchester address. An elderly woman who shares de Laire’s last name is listed as living at the property in some public records.

The lawsuit also mentions that family members of multiple women who moved to New Hampshire to live at the Richmond compound have expressed concerns that the women are being held against their will. New Hampshire State Police and agents with the FBI investigated one such accusation, and found the woman in question was not being held against her will, according to law enforcement documents obtained in the case.

Disclaimer: NHReporter’s Damien Fisher is married to writer Simcha Fisher. Simcha Fisher writes for the New Hampshire diocesan magazine, Parable. Simcha Fisher is not involved in NHReporter, and had no part in the reporting and writing of this article.

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