Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet resigns amid sexual assault allegations


A powerful Canadian cardinal twice accused of sexual assault will retire on April 12, the Vatican news agency announced Monday.

The notice made no mention of the charges against Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, the head of the Vatican’s powerful bishops’ office. He was also considered a strong opponent for the pope.

Instead, the news service said that Pope Francis accepted Ouellet’s resignation “when the age limit is reached” for cardinals, which is 75. Ouellet, 78, reached the limit some time ago. years – but so have several heads of other major Vatican bodies. according to the Independent National Catholic Correspondent.

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His retirement could bring the charges under closer scrutiny. It also draws attention to Francis’ handling of the case, which came just a week after the incident. Catholic leader told an interviewer that he wants more “transparency” in the church’s handling of abuse.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.orgnote that the announcement comes less than two weeks after a French Catholic publication reported on new sexual abuse allegations against Ouellet.

“The timing is suggestive and it raises disturbing questions about the pope’s potential complicity,” Barrett Doyle said in a statement. She said Francis should be more transparent: “Is his dismissal a punishment?”

Ouellet was once considered a reformer in the Vatican on abuse issues. He called the outrage over child sexual abuse that engulfed the Catholic Church in Canada a “source of great shame and scandal” in 2012 and said the church’s handling of the allegations is “often inadequate”.

But last August, a class action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec detailed new allegations against him personally.

In the lawsuit, Ouellet accused of inappropriate touching, which includes kisses, massages, and comments, by a woman who was initially identified only as “F.” According to the lawsuit, the cases began about 15 years ago, when Ouellet was the archbishop of Quebec and the woman was a pastoral intern.

Paméla Groleau later publicly revealed herself as “F” and said she was facing “threats and threats” from the Catholic Church. Ouellet denies all charges. In December, he made the highly unusual move of suing Groleau for libel, demanding $100,000 in damages.

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The Catholic publication Golias Hebdo this month reported on a second allegation of sexual misconduct against Ouellet in 2020. The French weekly published a 2021 letter from Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, archbishop current state of Quebec City, told the unnamed complainant that those allegations were not made. follow.

In a statement sent to Canadian media after the report was published, Ouellet denied the allegations and said he had “nothing to hide”, no lawsuits were filed against him in court. civil or criminal.

The charges against Ouellet are awkward for Francis, not least because he is seen as a close ally of the pope in the Vatican. Although Ouellet was appointed by Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis retained Ouellet beyond his usual five-year term.

Ouellet has also been the face of several Vatican responses to allegations of abuse, including allegations of sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who served as archbishop of Washington since from 2001 to 2006. The original Ouellet was removed The charges against McCarrick are a “political conspiracy that lacks any factual basis.”

A church investigation and trial found McCarrick guilty of “violating the Sixth Commandment against minors and adults” and remove him from the cleric. He is the most senior member of the church known to have been fired.

Groleau reported Ouellet to the Vatican in 2020 and contacted Francis himself in 2021, according to the class action lawsuit. In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the Vatican said that Francis had determined that there was “insufficient basis” for a canonical investigation.

Soon, the Vatican assigned the task of investigating the incident to a priest, Father Jacques Servais, who knew Ouellet very well and was a member of an association. small religious association.


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