Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Media Foundation, participates in a press briefing in English at the Vatican in March 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Over the past several weeks, a curious saga of Priest vs. Blogger has been playing out here in Canada, marked by strong words, assorted accusations, and threat of legal action. This has been accompanied by a steady stream of side-taking and commentary, itself often heated and contentious, indicating deep divisions within the Church in Canadadivisions that have been a source of intense frustration, as revealed in this most recent conflict.
In a March 4th post Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Media Foundation and Television Network, denied that he had ever intended to sue a blogger. That message appeared online thirteen days after the blogger, Toronto church musician David Domet, received a letter from Rosica's lawyer at Fogler, Rubinoff, Barristers and Solicitors.
The February 17 communication stated that unless Domet removed all mention of Fr. Rosica from his blog Vox Cantoris and posted an apology by February 22, the firm would seek instructions to commence an action against him. Nevertheless it warned Domet: “We reserve the right to commence litigation against you regardless of any apology or retraction, but assure you that in absence of apology or retraction, the damages claimed will be significantly higher.”
In response, Domet published the letter on his blog, retained counsel, and contacted some friends, one of whom contacted Michael Voris of Church Militant TV.
When Voris, known for his sometimes harsh and wide-ranging criticisms of bishops, reported the story on his show The Vortex the next day, Domet became a cause célèbre among traditionalist Catholics.Dozens of Catholic bloggers published posts sympathetic to Domet and linked to his blog, expanding his readership from fewer than 500 to tens of thousands. Even a prelate was connected with the story. When the Rorate Caeli blog interviewed Cardinal Raymond Burke, it asked his opinion of Vatican officials suing Catholic bloggers and reporters.
On February 22, Domet's lawyer sent Fogler, Rubinoff a refusal to comply with its demands, citing Domet's denial that his remarks about Fr. Rosica were false and defamatory. On February 24, Fogler, Rubinoff demanded that Domet never write about Fr. Rosica again and remove any reference to its February 17 letter from his blog. In response, Domet's lawyer wrote that if Fr. Rosica did not retract his threats to initiate proceedings by March 3, Domet would launch a crowdfunding campaign to fund his legal defense.
Domet's contested remarks about Fr. Rosica touched upon the latter's role in the Holy See Press Office. As Fr. Lombardi's English language assistant, Fr. Rosica was prominent at last October's controversial Synod on the Family. Michael Voris and various bloggers, curious that a high-profile priest would threaten an unknown layman, speculated that forces in the Vatican were planning a crackdown on bloggers who might criticize the Synod this autumn.
In actual fact the animus between David Domet and Fr. Thomas Rosica is several years old, dating from 2011, when Domet complained to Salt and Light and St. Joseph Communications (the Toronto-based communications company that supports Salt and Light) about Fr. Rosica's language concerning pro-life activists and more traditionally-minded Catholics. On March 8, 2011, Domet sent this strongly worded email:
From: David Domet [xxx@xxx]
Posted At: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 7:52 AM
Posted To: Info
Conversation: Father Rosica's Continued Comments
Subject: Father Rosica's Continued Comments
To Whom it May Concern,
I am not alone in becoming concerned about Father Rosica's continued comments that I believe are unbecoming of a Catholic Priest or the Executive Producer of a Catholic television station.
He uses the phase "Taliban Catholics" as referred to recently in the Toronto Star. He equates LifeSiteNews.com as "extremist" on the other end of the [spectrum] as a priest in Quebec [the late Father Raymond Gravel] who advocates positions at odds with the Church whom he also calls "extremist"; to say nothing of earlier comments that some who honestly criticised the canonisation of the late Senator Edward Kennedy were doing satan's work. He is insulting.
To whom is Father referring by the phrase "Taliban Catholics"? Why does he not come out and tell us, who these people are. Frankly, by doing so, he is denigrating the thousands of good people of Afghanistan and those who suffered at the hands of the Taliban inspired Muslim terrorists on 911. Is he somehow saying that some Catholics are like the Taliban and that they are going to blow people up? What kind of talk is this from a priest?
Is he not afraid that this Quebec priest will sue him for calling him an "extremist" just as LifeSiteNews is considered? Father Rosica makes statements that continue to frustrate many, many Catholics. I have recently cancelled all my Bell business because they dropped EWTN. If Father continues with these slanders against good and faithful struggling Catholics who other than LifeSiteNews he does not have the courage to name, then I will cancel my subscription on Rogers to Salt + Light. Given Father's view, I am sure Jesus is considered to be talibanesque for throwing the money-changers out of the Temple!
I ask for the courtesy of a response.
David Anthony Domet
Fr. Rosica's reply, later the same day, was a mixture of terse politeness and sarcastic hostility:
Dear Brother in Christ, David,
Thank you for your message. Thank you for taking the time to write. When colleagues have pointed out your blog postings, and upon receiving this message, I promise to continue to pray for you, asking the Lord to give you the joy, hope and peace that seem to be terribly missing from your life. Something went wrong somewhere and I feel your sadness.
I leave it up to you to keep or cancel Salt + Light. You are very free to do so.
Yours in Christ, Thomas Rosica
P.S. I might make the suggestion the title of your blog be changed to "Vox Umbris" [Voice of the Shadow] rather than Cantoris!
Two weeks later, Fr. Rosica sent what Domet says was an unsolicited email, attached to a National Catholic Reporter article by John Allen, Jr. entitled “April may be cruel month for relations with traditionalists”:
From: Thomas Rosica [mailto: xxx@xxx]
Sent: March 24, 2011 2:53 PM
Subject: For your VOX!
More news for you and your VOX. May the Lord grant you the peace you are seeking this Lent. No guarantees you will find it this side of the Resurrection but keep seeking. Fr. Rosica
“I have a collection [of Rosica's emails],” said Domet from his Toronto home. “I assume [this one] was to mock me and my work for the traditional liturgy.”
Domet invited Fr. Rosica out to dinner to sort out their differences, but his invitation was rebuffed. The email exchange continued until Rosica mentioned Domet's place of employment and Domet angrily told him to back off.
Nevertheless, Fr. Rosica was apparently unwilling to step back; he also was apparently keeping track of Domet's postings. He sent what Domet says was another unsolicited email, this time in August 2011, from the World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid. It refers to Domet's post about meeting Michael Voris at a lecture.
From: Thomas Rosica [rosica@xxx]
Subject: Voris' TV exposed for what it is
Date: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 2:36 PM
For all your chant and rant, you obviously have very poor judgment in those you prop up as your gods... and those with whom you enjoy being photographed!
Read this story below which has broken in the news today as Mr. Voris is exposed for what he is... and isn't.
I beg the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, heart and mind to the Truth, not the myth you are pushing as the real Church, the "real" Catholic TV, the real nonsense.
God bless you... from Madrid.
Domet posted this email on Vox Cantoris under the headline “Father Tom Rosica, I'm calling you out” (later edited to “A Nice Letter from Madrid”) and says he filed a complaint against Fr. Rosica with Congregation of Saint Basil.
“I was promised by the Basilians that he would stay away,” said Domet. “They told me not to contact him and I wrote that I had no intention of communicating with him, but I reserved the right to challenge him publicly on my blog regarding any of his public pronouncements.”
Domet continued to write the occasional post complaining about Fr. Rosica's opinions and speculating about his motives, but did not receive any correspondence from him after August 2011. He said he was “stunned” by the Shrove Tuesday letter from Fogler, Rubinoff.
Silence or more of the same?
In response to the criticism of Michael Voris, Domet, and other bloggers, Fr. Rosica asserted in his March 4, 2015 post on the Salt and Light blog that he is neither “a high ranking Vatican official” nor “a member of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.” He wrote:
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.
But the matter is not closed at Vox Cantoris where Domet has responded to Fr. Rosica's post, indicating that he does not think the matter is closed:
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.
It would seem that unless the two men reconcile, closure will not be forthcoming. Considering what has already happened and what lies aheadespecially the Synod in Octoberthe saga of Priest vs. Blogger may well involve a sequel.
Editor's Note (Mar. 18, 2015): The opening paragraph of this post was composed by the editors in order to better introduce the story; the first sentence originally used the term "alleged threats of legal action." The word "alleged" has been removed because it is not accurate; the threat of legal action by Fr. Rosica was clear and known, even if no lawsuit was ever "launched" against Mr. Domet.