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.
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 contended that the allegations of such “reprehensible behavior” only further defame him. He stressed the need for the judicial process to determine the truth.
The 79-year-old cardinal previously filed a defamation lawsuit against Pamela Groleau for her claims that the cardinal inappropriately kissed or touched her on four occasions, characterizing it as sexual assault. She initially made these claims in an August 2021 class-action sex-abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec concerning many priests, including those who allegedly abused children.
Attorneys for Groleau, seeking to defend her against the accusation of defamation, say that two other women have claimed that they suffered sexual harassment or experienced uncomfortable behavior from the cardinal.
The cardinal responded to the new allegations in a June 13 statement.
“As part of the defamation suit I initiated to clear my name, Ms. Groleau is now alleging that I have engaged in reprehensible behavior towards other people,” Cardinal Ouellet said. “Ms. Groleau’s view of things is not in keeping with the person I am and amounts to new defamatory allegations.”
The woman “continues to impute unfounded intentions to me,” said the cardinal, who added: “I intend to demonstrate this in a court of law and to respond to these allegations with complete transparency.”
The new allegations come in two letters filed in defense of Groleau. The letters are included in court documents the Quebec newspaper Le Journal was able to review.
According to Le Journal, the first new accuser alleges that on a Sunday in 1992 in Montreal, while preparing for a celebration, the cardinal pinned her between a table and rubbed his pelvis on her.
Another woman, in a letter directly written to Pope Francis, claims that in the summer of 2014, after 10 years of friendship, the cardinal made her “really uncomfortable.” She was in the presence of her boyfriend and mentioned financial problems. As the cardinal left, during a second hug, he slipped $50 into her vest over her upper chest.
In December 2022, Cardinal Ouellett filed a defamation lawsuit in Quebec courts contending that Groleau had wrongly accused him of sexual assault in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec.
The woman, first identified only as “F,” said that the cardinal, then archbishop of Quebec, inappropriately kissed or touched her at four different public events while she worked as a pastoral intern for the Quebec Archdiocese between 2008 and 2010. She alleged that the misconduct included kissing her and sliding his hand down her back to her buttock.
The class-action lawsuit against the Quebec Archdiocese, filed in August 2021, said that Groleau wrote to Pope Francis about Cardinal Ouellet in January 2021. She received an email in February 2021 stating that the Vatican had appointed Jesuit Father Jacques Servais to investigate the cardinal.
The Vatican, for its part, concluded a preliminary investigation in August 2022. Pope Francis determined that there was not sufficient evidence to begin a canonical investigation against Cardinal Ouellet for sexual assault.
The cardinal’s defamation lawsuit says Cardinal Ouellet has no recollection of ever meeting the accuser and said her account is inconsistent with his behavior in public settings. His lawsuit further contends that even if the alleged acts took place, which the cardinal denies, they did not constitute “touching of a sexual nature” or sexual assault.
The cardinal’s lawsuit questioned why her story was included in a lawsuit among “reprehensible acts of pedophilia,” saying it was negligence to associate the cardinal with such individuals.
In his June 13 statement, the cardinal said the progress of his lawsuit “demonstrates the importance of relying on the judicial process to uncover the truth.”
“This process has already highlighted the fact that the behavior she is accusing me of (which is otherwise denied) is nothing more than cordial gestures made in the context of public appearances,” he said. “Indeed, the actions in question would all have been taken, without exception, in full view of several people present, very near the alleged events.”
In his view, the evidence shows that he has never interacted privately with Groleau or tried to do so.
“Moreover, the fact that Ms. Groleau allegedly felt pursued because of my presence at certain public events she attended is unjustifiable and essentially amounts to my sitting next to her or greeting her. I was present at diocese events because of my duties and my desire to be close to the community,” he said. “Several people involved in the activities in which I participated will testify at the trial.”
The current evidence “clearly demonstrates” Groleau was “unjustified” to include her allegations in the lawsuit against the Quebec Archdiocese, the cardinal said.
“The acts of which Ms. Groleau accuses me are out of all proportion to the allegations made against the other clergy members. To equate what she alleges with serious sexual assaults in which I have no involvement is simply shocking,” he added. “I continue to believe that if I were not a cardinal, my name would never have been included in these proceedings.
Cardinal Ouellet’s defamation lawsuit alleged that the “false allegations” against him “have caused and continue to cause serious damage” to the cardinal’s personal and professional reputation. He has also suffered “significant psychological anguish.”
The cardinal’s lawsuit initially sought 100,000 Canadian dollars in compensation, about $74,000. He said any financial compensation would be donated to support efforts to combat sexual abuse of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
Cardinal Ouellet served as archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010. He later served as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, a key Vatican body that helps the pope evaluate prospective candidates to be named Catholic bishops. The cardinal resigned from that body in January, citing age.
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