Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet resigns over sexual assault allegations

Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet resigns over sexual assault allegations
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A powerful Canadian cardinal, who has twice been accused of sexual assault, will retire on April 12, Vatican intelligence said Monday.

The announcement made no mention of the allegations against Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s powerful Episcopal Office. He was once thought to be a strong contender for the papacy.

Instead, the news service said Pope Francis had accepted Ouellet’s resignation “on reaching the age limit” for cardinals, which is 75. after that independent national Catholic reporter.

The Vatican’s mishandling of high-profile abuse cases is prolonging its biggest crisis

His resignation could investigate the allegations more closely. It also draws attention to Francis’ treatment of the affair, which comes just a week later Catholic leader told an interviewer that he would like more “transparency” in how the church deals with abuse.

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

“The timing is suggestive and raises disturbing questions about the Pope’s possible complicity,” Barrett Doyle said in a statement. She said Francis should be more transparent: “Is his impeachment a sanction?”

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

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

In the lawsuit, Ouellet was accused of inappropriate touching, including kisses, massages and remarks, by a woman initially identified only as “F”. According to the lawsuit, the incidents began about 15 years ago, when Ouellet was Archbishop of Quebec and the woman was a pastoral intern.

Pamela Groleau later publicly identified herself as “F” and said she faced “threats and intimidation” from the Catholic Church. Ouellet denied all allegations. In December, he took the highly unusual step of suing Groleau for defamation, seeking $100,000 in damages.

Catholic cardinal charged with sexual assault

The Catholic publication Golias Hebdo reported this month a second allegation of sexual misconduct against Ouellet in 2020. The French weekly published a letter in 2021 from Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, current Archbishop of Quebec City, telling the unnamed complainant that the allegations would not be raised prosecuted.

In a statement released to Canadian media after the report was released, Ouellet denied the allegations and said he had “nothing to hide” with no charges being filed against him in civil or criminal courts.

The allegations against Ouellet are uncomfortable for Francis, not only because he was considered a close ally of the Pope in the Vatican. Although Ouellet was appointed by Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis retained Ouellet well past his regular five-year term.

Ouellet has also been the face of several Vatican responses to abuse allegations, including the alleged sexual misconduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006. Ouellet initially released the allegations against McCarrick as “a political conspiracy that lacks any real basis”.

An ecclesiastical inquiry and trial found McCarrick guilty of “sins against the sixth commandment with minors and with adults.” removed him from the clergy. He is the most senior member of the Church known to have been laicized.

Groleau reported Ouellet to the Vatican in 2020 and, according to the class action lawsuit, approached Francis himself in 2021. In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the Vatican said Francis found there were “insufficient grounds” for a canonical inquiry.

It soon emerged that the Vatican had entrusted the inquiry into the matter to a priest, Rev. Jacques Servais, who knew Ouellet well and with whom he was a colleague of a small religious association.

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