Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, one of the Most Powerful Officials in the Vatican, Faces an Accusation of Abuse

    The complainant, a former scholarship holder of the diocese of Quebec, added the name of the prelate to a class action lawsuit against 88 representatives and workers of the Church

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    Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a prominent prelate who holds the position of prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops, has joined the list of high-ranking Church officials linked to a case of abuse. His name appears in a collective complaint filed by more than 100 victims against the diocese of Quebec and that points to 88 people between representatives of the Church and local employees of the institution allegedly responsible for sexual assaults from the 1940s. Ouellet, who was archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010, does not currently face any criminal charges.

    The case dates back precisely to those years. The victim, a former intern, is a woman who identifies herself as F., who was doing a voluntary internship as a pastoral agent. The abuses, according to the lawsuit, occurred during public events. “He grabbed me and then… his hands went down a lot on my back,” said the complainant, who reported what happened to the Enquête program. “Pretty intrusive to, say, be my superior, the Archbishop of Quebec.” According to her version, the cardinal said that there was nothing wrong in socializing a little. “That made me feel very uncomfortable,” she lamented.

    This behavior was repeated on several occasions. “I felt persecuted. It became more and more invasive, more and more intense, to the point where I stopped attending the events. I tried to avoid his presence as much as possible,” the victim continued. The archdiocese of Quebec is aware of the accusations made against the cardinal, as it has acknowledged when asked about it, but has declined to comment further on the complaint.

    Not the only one

    The lawyer representing the complainants has recalled that Ouellet had then, as archbishop, the last word on the institution’s staff contracts. “At that time, you have a young woman in her 20s facing a powerful man in a position of authority, known worldwide at the time, who was perhaps 60 years old,” the lawyer stressed. In addition, when the victim decided to talk about her anguish with her surroundings, she was told that the cardinal is an expansive man and that she was not the only woman who had suffered this type of “problem” with him, according to the text of the complaint.

    A priest who at that time was under the orders of the cardinal in the diocese and who has agreed to offer his testimony on condition of anonymity, stated that rumors were heard about the conduct of Ouellet, who is now 78 years old.  When he heard the story of the complaining woman, he believed her. “He came as a sheriff who came to bring order to the diocese of Quebec, they sent him from Rome,” he recalled. Ouellet returned to the Vatican in 2010 and was promoted to prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops, the body that selects those high officials of the Church. That same year he became a cardinal. In 2018, the cardinal put together a tight defense of the Pope when he was accused by the former nuncio in Washington, Carlo Maria Viganò, of covering up the abuses of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and called for his resignation.

    Even more serious cases

    The complaint, which documents even more serious cases involving clergy officials less prominent than Ouellet, comes three weeks after Pope Francis undertook a pastoral trip to Canada. During the trip, which the Pontiff himself described as a “penitential pilgrimage“, he apologized for the abuses of the Church in the old boarding schools for indigenous minors. The Pope’s apology aroused shows of emotion; however, they did not please everyone and also aroused criticism for not going beyond words.

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