Cardinal Ouellet Named in Canadian Sex-Abuse Lawsuit

The Archdiocese of Quebec is the subject of a civil-action suit. Eighty-eight clerics face accusations.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet takes part in the Pontifical Council for Culture's Plenary Assembly on Women's Cultures in Rome on Feb. 6, 2015.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet takes part in the Pontifical Council for Culture's Plenary Assembly on Women's Cultures in Rome on Feb. 6, 2015. (photo: Bohumil Petrik / CNA)

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, was accused of sexual assault in a civil suit filed against the Archdiocese of Quebec.

AFP reported that the class-action suit, filed Aug. 16, includes the testimony of 101 people who say they were sexually assaulted by clerics or Church staff from 1940 to the present. Eighty-eight clerics face accusations in the suit.

Cardinal Ouellet is accused by a woman who says that he assaulted her multiple times while she worked as a pastoral intern for the Quebec Archdiocese, between 2008 and 2010, while he was archbishop of Quebec. She described him kissing her and sliding his hand down her back to her buttock.

According to the CBC, the alleged incidents involving Cardinal Ouellet occurred at public events.

The suit says that the alleged victim wrote to Pope Francis about Cardinal Ouellet in January 2021, and she received an email Feb. 23, 2021, saying Father Jacques Servais was appointed to investigate the cardinal. Her last communication with Father Servais was the following month, and as of now, “no conclusion concerning the complaints against Cardinal Marc Ouellet has been sent” to her.

Another class-action suit was filed against the Brothers of the Christian Schools. In that case, 193 alleged victims have accused 116 De La Salle Brothers of sexual assault.

Cardinal Ouellet, 78, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Amos, Quebec, in 1968, at age 23. He joined the Sulpicians in 1972. In 2001 he was appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and consecrated a bishop.

He served as archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010, when he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Cardinal Ouellet has been outspoken about sex abuse and priestly formation.

At a 2018 meeting of the presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, he said, “We would need participation of more women in [training] of priests” to prevent abuse.

He reiterated this point in a 2020 interview with Donne Chiesa Mondo, saying, “for the priest, learning to relate to women in the context of formation is a humanizing factor which promotes the balance of man’s personality and affectivity.”

The cardinal said he thought the Church would benefit greatly from an increased presence of women on seminary formation teams, as theology, philosophy and spirituality teachers, and “in particular in vocational discernment.”

Cardinal Ouellet verbally sparred with Archbishop Carlo Viganò as details of Vatican knowledge of Theodore McCarrick emerged in recent years. 

In an October 2018 letter, Cardinal Ouellet said it was communicated to Archbishop Viganò in 2011 that McCarrick “had to obey certain conditions and restrictions because of rumors about his behavior in the past” and that he “was strongly urged not to travel and not to appear in public, in order not to provoke further rumors about him. It is false to present the measures taken against him as ‘sanctions’ decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and annulled by Pope Francis.”

And in January 2019, Cardinal Ouellet wrote that his congregation had blocked the U.S. bishops from voting on proposals to address the sex-abuse crisis that November because it believed more time was needed to discuss the measures.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has led the Vatican’s office for choosing bishops for over a dozen years, talks with Hannah Brockhaus, CNA Rome correspondent, and EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser at the Dicastery of Bishops in Vatican City on Feb. 23.

Quebec Cardinal Says New Claims of Sexual Assault Are ‘Defamatory’

Attorneys representing a woman who has accused retired Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet of sexual assault say two other women have come forward with accounts of alleged sexual assault and other misconduct. The cardinal has denied the claims and stressed the need for the judicial process to determine the truth.