Vatican: Influential Cardinal and Possible Pope Successor Marc Ouellet Accused of Sexual Assault in Canada

Vatican: Influential Cardinal and Possible Pope Successor Marc Ouellet Accused of Sexual Assault in Canada

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Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who sits at the Vatican, is the subject of accusations of sexual assault following a class action made public in Canada.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, cited for a time among the favorites to become pope, is accused of sexual assault in a class action made public Tuesday in Canada.

The cleric, current prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most important functions of the Vatican government, allegedly inappropriately touched an intern between 2008 and 2010 when he was archbishop of Quebec according to accusations contained in a document resulting from the class action authorized by the Superior Court of this French-speaking province last May.

The revelations come three weeks after a visit by Pope Francis to Canada, during which he apologized for abuses perpetrated by members of the Church in residential schools for indigenous people. Contacted by AFP, the diocese of Quebec responded to “take note of the allegations against Cardinal Marc Ouellet”, 78, and did not want to “make absolutely no comment on this subject”.

This complaint is among the testimonies of 101 people claiming to have “been sexually assaulted” by more than 80 members and lay employees of the diocese of Quebec between June 1940 and today, underline the court documents.

“The feeling of being chased”

In the case of Marc Ouellet, the complainant, designated by the letter “F.”, claims to have been assaulted several times by the cardinal. In 2008, the young woman explains that the cardinal would have massaged her shoulders “with force”, would have stroked her back while holding her “firmly against him”, on several occasions.

F. tries to avoid the cardinal, but he comes back to her. She then “feels like she is being chased,” the document reads. In 2010, Marc Ouellet met her twice in one week. This is the opportunity to “kiss her again” because “there is no harm in spoiling yourself a little”, he would have said, according to the same source. A “completely inappropriate” comment, according to F. She adds that the religious would have “kissed” her and “slid his hand” along her back “to her buttocks”.

An investigation launched by the pope

When the complainant dares to address the facts around her, she learns “that she is not the only woman to have this kind of” + problems + with him”, specifies the court documents. It is only in 2020 that F., who recounts having also been the victim of sexual assault by another cleric, speaks about it to the advisory committee on sexual abuse of the diocese of Quebec.

The organization then recommends that he write a letter to Pope Francis. In 2021, the sovereign pontiff responds by appointing “Father Jacques Servais to investigate Cardinal Marc Ouellet”. No conclusion has yet been sent to the complainant. Contacted by AFP, the Vatican did not react immediately. Marc Ouellet was cited among the favorites of the last conclave at the end of which the Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013.

In February, Cardinal Ouellet castigated the “drama of sexual abuse committed by clerics” and “criminal behavior too long concealed to protect the institution”, during an important symposium at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Francis. “We are all torn and humbled by these crucial questions that challenge us every day as members of the Church,” he said.

In Canada, the Catholic Church is currently facing several class action lawsuits for sexual assault. In the west of the country, more than 30 students are currently suing several leaders of a Christian school, the public broadcaster CBC reported.

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