Pope Francis Names Retired Judge to Investigate Sex-Abuse Charges Against Canadian Cardinal

According to the Archdiocese of Quebec’s March 4 statement, the investigation into Cardinal Gerald Lacroix must be carried out ‘in accordance with the provisions of the motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi.’

Quebec Cardinal Gérald Lacroix speaks at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 7, 2021.
Quebec Cardinal Gérald Lacroix speaks at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 7, 2021. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez / CNA)

The Archdiocese of Quebec in Canada has announced that Pope Francis has appointed a retired judge to lead an investigation into the accusations of sexual abuse against Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, charges that the cardinal “categorically” denies.

In a March 4 statement, the Archdiocese of Quebec said that it was informed “last Feb. 8 that Pope Francis has commissioned André Denis, a former judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, to conduct an investigation” into the accusations against Cardinal Lacroix.

Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, the archbishop of Quebec and member of the “council of cardinals” that advises Pope Francis, has been accused of abusing a 17-year-old girl almost four decades ago, as part of a lawsuit against his archdiocese. The cardinal has previously denied the accusation.

According to the AFP news agency, the accusation against the 66-year-old Canadian cardinal is part of a class-action lawsuit. The accusation dates back to 1987 and 1988, when the alleged victim was 17 years old, according to her lawyer Alain Arsenault, who is prosecuting the case against the Archdiocese of Quebec, which began in 2022.

According to the Archdiocese of Quebec's March 4 statement, the investigation by Denis must be carried out "in accordance with the provisions of the motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World)” for accusations involving a bishop, an archbishop or a cardinal. 

The document by Pope Francis, published in May 2019, established new procedures to prevent and report cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

“The Diocese will offer its full collaboration to Mr. Denis upon his request, but will not intervene in the progress of the investigation or in its conclusions,” the statement noted, adding that “we will not make any further comments on this process which is taking place without intervention on our part.”

According to Radio-Canada Ici Québec, the judge wrote a Feb. 19 letter to the parties involved stating that he will conduct “a preliminary investigation in which we will decide not on the guilt or innocence of the person concerned but whether the facts [of the case] are plausible or not.”

The station reported that the judge wanted to “personally meet” with the complainant, but she refused, a decision that Denis said he will respect as he moves forward with the investigation.

“I intend to do my work with respect for the people [involved] while ensuring the confidentiality of any remarks that may be reported to me. That’s the reason why I do not wish to make any further public comments,” the retired judge said in an email to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Arsenault, the lawyer leading the class-action lawsuit filed by more than 140 people against the Archdiocese of Quebec, including the woman accusing Cardinal Lacroix, said that he doesn’t place any value in the investigation announced by the Church.

Cardinal Lacroix’s Response to the Allegations

“I categorically deny the allegations made public. Never, to my knowledge, have I made any inappropriate actions towards anyone, whether minors or adults. My soul and my conscience are at peace in the face of these accusations, which I refute,” Cardinal Lacroix said in a Jan. 30 video posted on the archdiocesan website.

However, after consulting with his closest collaborators, the archbishop said: “I have decided to temporarily withdraw from activities in my diocese. This is not a resignation, but a temporary withdrawal, to allow us to better evaluate the next steps to take and consider the decisions to be made.”

“Let this be very clear, our diocese remains resolutely committed to ensuring that victims of abuse receive financial reparation in addition to other means at their disposal to attain healing. For me, for us, this is fundamental,” he added.

The archbishop of Quebec then encouraged prayer for all victims of sexual abuse in the Church and for everyone “to be vigilant and ensure that no situation of abuse occurs again.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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