ROME — A outstanding cardinal who was briefly listed as pope in the last two conclaves was accused of sexual abuse by a former student intern. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the most recent accompanying Pope Francis on the apostolic journey of penance arrived in Canada, was accused of massaging, kissing and groping the buttocks of a 23-year-old woman who was his pastoral intern in 2008.
The allegation is part of two class-action lawsuits brought by 193 victims against 116 members of the Canadian Francophone Brothers on Tuesday. A judge in Quebec allowed the cases to continue, prompting the Montreal law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats to produce documents, including the charges against Ouellet.
Famous Canadian cardinal named in first of two lawsuits alleging Abuse by 87 teachers and staff at the school is rampant. The woman who accused Ouellet was identified only as “F.” In summary.
The alleged victim described Ouellet as “the most important person in the diocese” at the time they met for a dinner at the Sisters of Charity in Beauport, Quebec in August 2008. At some point after the meal evening, F. said Ouellet had massaged her. shoulders and back, causing her to “freeze in the face of this intrusion and not know how to react,” the lawsuit states.
A few months later, F. said Ouellet kissed her cheek and hugged her with “familiarity, even though they had only met once or twice before, and held her close to him, stroking her back with his hand”.
Two years later, in 2010, the lawsuit alleges Ouellet told her he could hug and kiss her again because “it wouldn’t hurt to pamper yourself a little.” That’s when he “ran his hand from F.’s back down her ass,” according to the suit. “That day, more than before, F. understood that she had to run away from Cardinal Marc Ouellet as much as possible. The insecurity she feels is more present than ever.”
Then, 25, the alleged victim said she complained about the cardinal’s unwanted advances but was rebuked, saying he was just “very friendly” and that she was not at all. was the first or only woman to have this kind of “problem” with high-ranking clerics.
It was 10 years later, in 2020, that F. said she began reminiscing during a sexual assault training course and later understood that Ouellet’s advances “constituted a non-consensual touch of self. sexual substance and, therefore, sexual assault”.
Before joining the lawsuit, F. said she wrote a private letter to Pope Francis as she followed Ouellet’s trajectory before the Holy See. She was told that the matter had been turned over to Father Jacques Servais, but, according to the lawsuit, “no conclusion has so far been made regarding the claims against Cardinal Marc Ouellet that have been referred to F.”.
The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ouellet or Francis’ response to the lawsuit.
The head of Canada’s network of survivors, known as SNAP, said the latest allegation was predictable. “Ouellet oversees the Congregation for Bishops, which means he is the one who chooses the new Bishops. What hope do we have for leadership in the congregation? ” Leona Huggins, SNAP Vancouver leader, said in a statement. “We also have to ask, who among the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Canada knew about his behavior and did not say anything? Do some of them want to, but fear it will affect their careers? Imagine what the victim would be like if he moved on.”
It is unclear whether Ouellet will face the same fate as Cardinal George Pell, another senior cardinal who was sacked while the investigation into his alleged sexual assault continued in court. . Pell was convicted and later acquitted of historic sexual abuse and remains a confidant of Pope Francis in Rome.