Vatican launches attack investigation into Canadian cardinal claims

ROME — The Vatican said Thursday that a preliminary ecclesiastical inquiry into allegations of sexual assault by a Canadian woman against a top cardinal, Marc Ouellet, has determined the case warrants no further investigation.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni released a statement in response to reports this week that Ouellet was one of several people named in a class-action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec that accused several priests of sexual abuse or assault. .

Ouellet, 78, headed the Archdiocese of Quebec from 2002-2010, when he became the powerful prefect of the Vatican Episcopal Office. In that capacity, he oversees all Catholic Church investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct involving adults and bishops or cardinals.

Bruni confirmed that allegations against Ouellet were received by the Vatican and investigated by a Jesuit theologian, the Rev. Jacques Servais. Servais determined that there were no grounds to proceed with a canonical investigation or trial, Bruni said.

Asked about the lawsuit, Servais said he came to that conclusion after reading the woman’s written charges, identified as “F,” and interviewing her via Zoom with a member of a diocesan committee present.

“This person has not made any allegations that could provide material for an investigation,” Servais was quoted as saying in the Vatican statement.

As such, Pope Francis stated “there are not enough elements to open a canonical investigation into sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet against F,” according to Bruni’s statement.

The Catholic Church has sophisticated procedures for investigating and punishing priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors, but rarely takes punitive action against clergy accused of sexual misconduct with adults.

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The woman was quoted by the Canadian Press and other media outlets as accusing Ouellet of several incidents of unwanted touching, including sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks at a 2010 event in Quebec City.

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