Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, once considered a favorite to become pope, has been accused of sexual assault and is among a list of clergy and diocesan staff named in a class-action lawsuit against the Quebec archdiocese.
A female identified as “F”. In court papers filed Tuesday, she accused Ouellet of several incidents of unwanted touching, including sliding her hand up her back and touching her buttocks at a 2010 event in Quebec City.
“That day, more than in previous meetings, F. understood that he had to flee from Cardinal Marc Ouellet… the discomfort he felt was more present than ever,” the lawsuit says.
In the introductory class action application filed Tuesday, F. claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Ouellet between 2008 and 2010 and by Father Léopold Manirabarusha between 2016 and 2018.
The lawsuit involving Ouellet is one of two introductory class action applications filed by Montreal-based law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats. The two class action lawsuits had recently been authorized by a Quebec judge, and the law firm had 90 days to file introductory documents detailing the alleged crimes.
Attorney Justin Wee said in an interview Tuesday that it is “inevitable” that class action lawsuits filed by his law firm will lead to more people suing the church in the coming weeks.
In the first lawsuit, in which Ouellet is named, 101 alleged victims have accused some 88 priests or diocesan personnel of sexual assault. The Quebec archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday that it was aware of the allegations but declined to comment.
In the second lawsuit, against the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Francophone Canada, 193 alleged victims have accused 116 members of that organization of sexual assault. The brothers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
According to the lawsuit involving Ouellet, F. met the cardinal in 2008 when she was 23 years old and working as a pastoral intern in the archdiocese of Quebec. At the time, the cardinal was the archbishop of Quebec, “the most important person in the archdiocese,” Wee said.
“If the most important person … is capable of doing such a thing, we can imagine what others can do,” he said. “When the person best positioned to implement anti-assault policies engages in (alleged) sexual misconduct, that means a lot.”
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After a dinner at the Sisters of Charity in Beauport, Quebec, in August 2008, the cardinal allegedly massaged F.’s shoulders and patted his back in a conference room, according to the suit.
“F. he was frozen by this intrusion and did not know how to react,” the lawsuit says.
In November of that year, the cardinal allegedly kissed her on the cheek and embraced her “familiarly, though they had only met once or twice before, and held her firmly against him, stroking her back with his hands.”
In 2010, during a colleague’s ordination ceremony, Ouellet allegedly told F. that it was the second time they had seen each other in a week and that he could kiss and hug her again because “there’s nothing wrong with spoiling yourself a little.” . .”
The Cardinal then allegedly kissed her on the cheek, put his arms around her, and “slid his hand down F.’s back to her buttocks.”
When he tried to speak out about the cardinal’s alleged actions, F. was told that Ouellet was “very nice” and that she was not the only woman who had such a “problem” with him, according to court documents.
In 2020, after F. participated in training on sexual assault, he began to have “recollections of what he experienced with Cardinal Marc Ouellet”, and understood that the clergyman’s actions “constitute non-consensual touching of a sexual nature and therefore So sexual assault.” ”, the lawsuit said.
Ouellet in 2013 was considered one of the favorites for the papacy, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. At the time, Italian media reported that Ouellet was tied with Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola in the early vote in the Sistine Chapel, with Jorge Bergoglio, who eventually became Pope Francis, in third place. Ouellet reportedly convinced his fellow cardinals to support Bergoglio.
F. wrote a letter to Pope Francis in January 2021 regarding Ouellet, and a month later, he was informed that the Pope had appointed Father Jacques Servais to investigate his allegations. The court documents said that, as of the summer of 2022, “no conclusion regarding the allegations against Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been transmitted to F.”.
Wee said that F. tried to contact the Vatican more than a year and a half ago, and since he has not received any response, “you can consider that it is not being taken seriously.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 16, 2022.