Marc Balestrieri, canon lawyer’s diss article spells end of right wing Catholic publication

Church Militant, the far-right Catholic media network, will cease operating at the end of April 2024, according to a press release issued Friday (March 1) by the law firm Todd & Weld LLP.

The law firm announced that Church Militant, operated by St. Michael’s Media, had lost a defamation lawsuit to the Rev. Georges de Laire, a canon lawyer and priest in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. Church Militant agreed to pay $500,000 and apologize to de Laire, said the law firm, which represented de Laire.

On Jan. 17, 2019, Church Militant published an anonymously written story titled, “NH Vicar Changes Dogma into Heresy,” about de Laire. After de Laire sued the outlet for defamation, the author of the article was revealed to be Marc Balestrieri, a canon lawyer who was representing a client in a dispute where de Laire was representing the diocese of Manchester.

Church Militant, the far-right Catholic media network, will cease operating at the end of April 2024.

In that dispute, the Diocese of Manchester had accused the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire, of violating canon law, according to Todd & Weld. The Saint Benedict Center and its members, who call themselves Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, had promoted the position held by their founder, a Jesuit priest named Leonard Feeney, that salvation is only possible through the Catholic Church.

Feeney, who died in 1978, was excommunicated for refusing to go to Rome to explain his views, though he was later reconciled to the church.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also added the center to a list of hate groups in 2007 for its members’ antisemitic beliefs.

In 2019, the Diocese of Manchester forbade Catholics from participating in activities with the center and the center from calling itself Catholic because they said that they had warned the group that their position is contrary to Vatican teaching.

The law firm alleges that Balestrieri used his article to “discredit Father de Laire and the Diocese and to raise funds,” some of which would go to pay for Balestrieri’s legal work.

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