MONTREAL—Pope Francis has ruled there are insufficient grounds to open a full ecclesiastical investigation into allegations against Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet of sexual assault.
A Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, relayed the pope’s conclusion on Thursday, saying a preliminary investigation by a Belgian priest, Father Jacques Servais, found “that there are no elements to start a trial against Cardinal Ouellet for sexual assault.” .
Ouellet was one of more than 80 priests and church officials named in the lawsuit statement of a class action lawsuit against the Diocese of Quebec this week alleging widespread abuse by clergy.
The specific claims in the lawsuit against the diocese have not been proven in court and no defense statement has been filed in the case.
It is alleged in court documents that Ouellet inappropriately touched a diocese intern in her early 20s on several occasions between 2008 and 2010, when he was archbishop of Quebec.
The claimant, identified only as “F.” She said Ouellet engaged in unwanted touching, including hugging her, massaging her shoulders and, on one occasion, rubbing her back and allowing her hand to slide down her buttocks.
“F.” She alleges that she, too, was sexually abused several years later by a second priest in the Diocese of Quebec, acts that included oral sex, masturbation, and penetration and occurred at the plaintiff’s home, in hotels, and in churches.
The priest, Father Léopold Manirabarusha, was suspended in April 2022 due to unspecified allegations against him of misconduct that are being investigated by church officials.
The plaintiff said in the lawsuit statement that she approached church officials in Quebec City in late 2021 to report what had happened to her, told her the actions constituted sexual assault, and urged her to file a complaint with the Vatican, where Ouellet holds the position of prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, responsible for advising Pope Francis on the selection of bishops.
Servais was quickly appointed to investigate her claims, contacted the woman, but has not been in contact for more than a year, according to the statement of claim.
The Vatican press office said Pope Francis consulted with Servais and received the following response: “There is no reason to open an investigation into the sexual assault of Person F by Cardinal Ouellet. Neither in the written report of him sent to the Holy Father, nor in the testimony via Zoom that I later collected in the presence of a member of the ad hoc diocesan committee, did this person make an accusation that would provide material for such an investigation.”
The church statement said Francis made further inquiries.
“Pope Francis declares that there are not sufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for the sexual assault of Cardinal Ouellet against Person F.”
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