Pope rules out sex assault inquiry into Canada cardinal
VATICAN CITY, Aug 18, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Pope Francis has ruled out a formal
church investigation into a sexual assault claim against Canadian Cardinal Marc
Ouellet after a preliminary inquiry found no basis for one, the Vatican said
Ouellet, himself once considered a strong candidate to be pope, was named
in court documents this week relating to a class action suit targeting more
than 80 members of the clergy in the archdiocese of Quebec.
The 78-year-old is accused of abusing a female intern, identified only as
"F", from 2008 to 2010, when he was archbishop of Quebec.
In the Vatican's first public response to the civil suit, spokesman Matteo
Bruni said a "preliminary investigation" already ordered by Pope Francis had
found there were "no elements to initiate a trial".
He said the pontiff again consulted the author of that probe, a Father
Jacques Servais, and was told again that there were no grounds for opening a
"Following further relevant consultations, Pope Francis declares that there
are insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault
by Cardinal Ouellet against person F," the statement said.
- 'Chased after' -
Ouellet is a prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most
important functions within the Curia, the government of the Vatican.
The claims against him in the civil suit, which the Quebec supreme court
ruled could go ahead in May, are among the testimonies of 101 people who say
they were sexually assaulted by members of the clergy and church staff from
1940 to today.
They emerged just weeks after Pope Francis visited Canada, where he
apologised for the decades-long abuse of Indigenous children in Catholic-run
So far, the cardinal is not facing criminal charges.
Ouellet's accuser claims the cardinal assaulted her multiple times --
kissing her, "forcefully" massaging her shoulders, and once sliding his hand
along her back to her buttocks.
She says she had the feeling of being "chased after", according to the
documents. When the woman tried to raise the issue, she was told she was not
the only woman to have such a "problem" with Ouellet, documents show.
It was not until 2020 that F., who says she was also sexually abused by
another cleric, spoke to the Quebec church's sex abuse advisory committee.
It recommended she write to the pope, who in 2021 responded by nominating
Servais to look into the case. She had not yet been told of his conclusions.
According to Thursday's Vatican statement, Servais said he had interviewed
the woman via Zoom in the presence of a member of the committee.
He was quoted as saying that neither in her report to the pope, nor in the
testimony he heard, "did this person make an accusation that would provide
material for such an investigation".
In February, Ouellet opened a Vatican symposium on the priesthood by
apologising for "unworthy" clergy and the cover-up of child sexual abuse by
Catholic clergy, before an audience that included Pope Francis.
"We are all torn and humbled by these crucial questions that every day
question us as members of the Church," Ouellet said at the time.
He said the symposium was an opportunity to express regret and ask victims
for forgiveness, after their lives were "destroyed by abusive and criminal
behaviour" that was hidden or treated lightly to protect the institution and
Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has sought to tackle the decades-long
sexual abuse scandals, although many activists against paedophilia insist much
more needs to be done.