Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet denies sex assault allegations, says he is being defamed

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MONTREAL — A prominent Quebec cardinal is denying allegations he sexually assaulted a woman and says he will participate in any civil legal action against him in order to clear his name, the Vatican's official news portal said Friday.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who was once considered a front-runner to become pope, is quoted in Vatican News saying he has "learned of the false accusations made against me … I firmly deny having made any inappropriate gestures toward her."

The allegations are part of a class-action lawsuit against the archdiocese of Quebec that was formally filed in Quebec Superior Court this week. In the lawsuit, a woman identified as "F." accused Ouellet of several incidents of sexual assault between 2008 and 2010, including sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks at an event in Quebec City.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The cleric, who currently heads the organization that advises the pope on the appointment of bishops, said the description of his alleged actions as sexual assault is defamatory.

"I consider defamatory the interpretation and dissemination of these allegations as sexual assault. Should a civil investigation be initiated, I will actively participate in it to ensure that the truth is established and that my innocence is recognized."

On Thursday, the Holy See press office said that Pope Francis ruled out further investigation into the allegations against Ouellet due to a lack of evidence.

Justin Wee, a lawyer for F., said in an interview Thursday his client is "determined" to prove her allegations in civil court.

The lawsuit involving Ouellet, in which allegations are made by roughly 100 people against more than 80 priests and diocesan staff, is one of two class actions formally filed this week by Montreal-based law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats against members of the Catholic Church in Quebec.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press