Judge poised to add confidential source/author to priest's defamation suit

·3 min read

Jun. 7—CONCORD — An unnamed source cited in a 2019 article published by a right-wing Catholic website is likely to be outed soon, the latest turn in a defamation lawsuit brought by a high-ranking priest in the New Hampshire Catholic Church.

The source already is known to lawyers on both sides of the case, and the website — churchmilitant.com — has admitted that the unnamed source cited in a January 2019 article is actually the article's author.

The twist is the latest in a lawsuit brought last year by the Very Rev. Georges de Laire, the canon law expert for the Diocese of Manchester. De Laire filed a defamation suit against the website, its editor and a reporter after a series of articles appeared that described him as unstable, manipulative, vindictive, a troublemaker and a careerist responsible for botched cases.

De Laire is also pastor at St. Pius X Church in Manchester.

During an at-times testy hearing on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante said he was likely to grant a request by de Laire's lawyers to add the source-author as a defendant in the case.

Doing so would reveal his name, which is now redacted in court records available to the public. The judge said his decision could come within a matter of days.

And Laplante had harsh words for Kathleen Klaus, the Michigan lawyer representing Church Militant and its editor, Michael Voris.

Shortly after de Laire filed the lawsuit, Klaus submitted a formal answer to the suit stating Voris was the author of the article.

It wasn't until February that Klaus admitted to de Laire's lawyers that the unnamed source in the article was in fact the author. Laplante said money had been spent litigating issues regarding the source, including disclosure of the name.

"If I seem upset about this, it's because I am," Laplante said. "It's a mockery of the process."

During the hearing, de Laire's lawyer, Suzanne Elovecky, said the source-author is a canon lawyer who has been on opposite sides of some canon law disputes with de Laire. She said he does not work for a diocese and is not a member of the clergy.

Elovecky said the author-source appears to be in hiding and de Laire's legal team has been unable to serve him with a subpoena.

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing a New Hampshire sect that was the subject of the Church Militant articles said the author-source had represented the St. Benedict Center in Richmond in the past.

"No one at Saint Benedict Center knew their canon lawyer had been the source/author of the January 2019 article and they did not assent to its publication," Manchester lawyer Michael Tierney said in an email. The man acted without his the knowledge or consent of the St. Benedict Center, Tierney said.

St. Benedict Center has been in a doctrinal dispute with the Catholic hierarchy that has gone all the way to the Vatican. It has no recognition in the Diocese of Manchester or the Universal Church, according to the Manchester Diocese. The Diocese has forbidden the organization from calling itself Catholic.

Laplante started the hearing with sharp questions directed at Klaus. Toward the end of the hour-long hearing, Laplante said he started the hearing expecting to withdraw permission for Klaus to litigate the case in New Hampshire, report her to the Professional Conduct Committee and order Church Militant to pay some of de Laire's legal costs.

But Klaus appeared forthright, the judge said, and he said he likely would not take the punitive steps.

mhayward@unionleader.com