Cardinal Marc Ouellet, current prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, appears in a class-action lawsuit targeting the Diocese of Quebec City, Canadian media outlets reported on August 16, 2022. The 78-year-old cardinal, who is not the subject of legal proceedings, is alleged to have made inappropriate gestures towards an intern between 2008 and 2010. The Vatican has not commented on the case.
The class action authorized by the Quebec Superior Court last May and led by Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats includes 101 victims who have claimed that they were assaulted by approximately 88 priests or persons from the diocese between 1940 and today, the Journal de Montréal reports.
Excerpts of some of the allegations filed by one complainant were released and concern the cardinal. “On different occasions, Cardinal Ouellet held her against him, massaged her shoulders and vigorously caressed her back ‘down to the place where the buttocks are joined,’ each time provoking a deep discomfort in the young intern,” reports Radio Canada.
Alain Arsenault, the lawyer bringing this action, explained to the Journal de Montréal that time had passed before the young woman “really understood what she had experienced.”
She then told her story to the advisory committee on sexual abuse of the Diocese of Quebec. According to the lawyer, at the suggestion of the committee, which recognized that such claims would indeed describe a case of sexual assault, the young woman wrote a letter to Pope Francis in January 2021.
The Vatican then reportedly appointed Jesuit Father Jacques Servais to investigate Cardinal Ouellet. “Nothing has happened for a year and a half,” Arsenault claimed.
Contacted by AFP, the Diocese of Quebec recognized “the allegations against Cardinal Marc Ouellet” but said they would make “strictly no comment on this subject.”
Cardinal Ouellet is often described as influential in the Roman Curia despite relative silence on the world stage.
Public opinion considered the cardinal “papabile” in the conclave of 2013. He has been the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops since 2010.
He was archbishop of Quebec from 2003 to 2010.
Last February, he asked for forgiveness for victims of sexual abuse committed by clerics and “whose lives have been destroyed” during the opening of a colloquium on the priesthood at the Vatican.