Right-Wing Catholic Site Church Militant to Close After Settling Defamation Suit

Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The right-wing Catholic media outlet Church Militant is shutting down in April after settling a defamation lawsuit filed by a canon lawyer and priest with an apology and $500,000 payment.

The impending closure, announced by the law firm that represented the priest, comes just four months after Church Militant founder Michael Voris was ousted for breaking its “morality code”—reportedly by sending out shirtless pictures of himself.

Voris launched Church Militant—called Real Catholic TV until the Catholic Church objected—in 2006 to address what he called “serious erosion” of the faith and push back at any hints of progressive movement.

It was sued by the Rev. Georges de Laire of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, who was smeared as unstable and vindictive in an article after he decreed that St. Benedict Center, an organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, could not represent itself as a Catholic institution.

The article was anonymously written, but the author was later revealed to be canon lawyer Marc Balestrieri, who was representing St. Benedict Center, Religion News Service reported.

Church Militant said on its site last week that Balestrieri led it and St. Michael’s Media, which operates the network, to believe “that the claims in his article were supported by anonymous sources known to him.”

“SMM and Church Militant regret that the article was not properly vetted. It was later revealed that Mr. Balestrieri could not substantiate his claims regarding Father de Laire with any credible sources,” it said.

“Further, Mr. Balestrieri did not disclose to SMM his active involvement in a canonical dispute in which he was representing a client and Father de Laire was representing the Church at the time he wrote the article, which would have raised questions about the motive behind the anonymous allegations in the article prior to its publication.”

It added, “SMM sincerely apologizes for their part in any distress or damage they may have caused Father de Laire.”

The months before the resolution of the lawsuit were turbulent ones for Church Militant. Beset by financial troubles, it laid off 19 employees and scrapped its nightly news show in May.

Then Voris was forced out in November; he said only that he had to “address and work on horrible, ugly things” and “conquer these demons.”

The Washington Post, however, reported that he was accused of sending workout selfies to male staffers—and to a donor.

Seven years earlier, the 62-year-old had revealed sexual relationships with men but claimed to have renounced that lifestyle and, in fact, waged rhetorical war on LGBTQ+ communities.

After Voris’ resignation, Church Militant had to sell off real estate. When Voris showed up to a lawsuit hearing in December, he did not have an attorney; the one retained by the board had recused himself because the board was considering legal action against Voris, according to OSV News.

“Somehow, things have gotten out of control,” Voris told the court.

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