A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of more than 100 victims of sexual assault dating back to the 1940s by members of the Roman Catholic Archbishopric and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Quebec.
In that lawsuit, a woman identified as “F” alleges that she was touched against her will by Cardinal Marc Ouellet and forced to perform sexual acts on another priest, Father Leopold Manirabarusha.
“F” said she met Ouellet over dinner in 2008 while she was serving as an intern for the Diocese of Quebec, the lawsuit says. She claimed in the lawsuit that later that evening she “felt two hands land on her shoulders and began massaging her shoulders forcefully.” F looks up and sees that it is Cardinal Marc Ouellet standing behind her massaging her shoulders. Cardinal Marc Ouellet smiles at her and rubs her back before leaving.”
In the lawsuit, “F” said the incident was intrusive and made her uncomfortable.
In another incident in 2008, “F'” came into contact with Ouellet again, according to the lawsuit. Another priest asked if he knew ‘F’, the filing says, ‘to which he replies very loudly that they both know each other very well.’ Cardinal Marc Ouellet then casually kisses ‘F’, although they had only kissed before — or twice, and hugs her tightly while he runs his hands down her back,” the lawsuit reads.
“F” claimed one of the last times she was in contact with Ouellet was in February 2010. According to the lawsuit, Ouellet told her he could kiss her again because “there’s no harm in spoiling yourself a little.”
“F” said she didn’t say anything because she was concerned that her internship and professional future depended on Ouellet, the lawsuit says.
After attending a sexual assault training course, “F” experienced flashbacks of what she had experienced with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, according to the lawsuit. Realizing that Ouellet’s interactions with her amounted to non-consensual sexual touching, and therefore sexual assault, according to the lawsuit, she decided to tell her new partner and some girlfriends.
One of those friends advised her to speak to the Quebec Catholic Church’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Persons about these sexual assaults, the lawsuit says.
Ouellet denied making “inappropriate gestures on her person” in a statement released Friday by the Vatican Press Office.
“Having learned of the applicant’s (F.) false allegations against me, I firmly deny having made any inappropriate gestures about her and I consider the interpretation and dissemination of these allegations as sexual assault to be defamatory,” Ouellet said in a statement. “Should a civil investigation be instituted, I intend to take an active part in so that the truth is discovered and my innocence is recognized.”
A statement released by Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office, says that a preliminary investigation by Fr. Jacques Servais, SI, at the request of the Pope, concluded “that there are no elements to support a trial against Cardinal Ouellet for initiate sexual assault”.
“Following further relevant consultations, Pope Francis states that there are insufficient elements to open a canonical inquiry into sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet against person F,” Bruni said in the statement.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec acknowledged the allegations made in the lawsuit against Cardinal Ouellet but said it had no comment.
In addition, “F” in the lawsuit described sexual assault by another priest in the Diocese of Quebec, Father Leopold Manirabarusha.
“F” claimed she was coerced into performing sexual acts for Manirabarusha while she was an employee of the diocese, the filing said. She claimed in the lawsuit that Manirabarusha took her to his library one day and made it clear that he expected her to perform oral sex on him. “F” complied with his demands and saw no other way out.
According to the lawsuit, she was sexually assaulted by Manirabarusha on about 15 separate occasions in various locations, including church grounds and a hotel.
The Archdiocese of Quebec confirmed Manirabarusha is still a Catholic priest, saying: “But he has been off duty since early April due to a suspension. So until the whole matter is settled, he cannot have pastoral interventions with the people.”
Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been one of the Vatican’s most prominent cardinals for over a decade. According to CNN reports from the time, his name was mentioned as a possible pope during the 2013 conclave.
He has headed the powerful Vatican episcopate since 2010. The office is responsible for the review and oversight of Catholic bishops worldwide and works closely with Pope Francis. Cardinal Ouellet usually meets with the pope weekly to update him on developments in his office, according to published bulletins of papal meetings.
In 2019, when Ouellet turned 75, he submitted his resignation to Pope Francis, as required by Vatican law, but Francis did not accept it as CNN has confirmed that Ouellet will remain in his position.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in an email to CNN it was unable to confirm whether there was a criminal investigation and that investigations would normally be confirmed if charges were brought against someone.
CNN has reached out to Quebec City’s Chief of Criminal and Law Enforcement over a possible criminal investigation and has been told via email that there is currently no public information on the case.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of the Abused by Priests, which has been assisting victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years, released a statement saying, “We applaud the courage of all the victims involved in this case for coming forward and hope they receive the justice and healing they deserve. In particular, we recognize that given the high profile of the man she has accused, Cardinal Ouellet’s alleged victim will no doubt face intense public scrutiny, and we recognize that it has taken great courage for her to come forward.”