Pope Francis has ruled out the opening of a “canonical inquiry” by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet due to lack of evidence, a Vatican spokesman said Thursday. The Canadian was accused of sexual abuse in his country.
The pope spoke out after reports circulated in Canada about 78yearold Cardinal Ouellet, the current prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (one of the most important positions in Vatican government).
The allegations were made by one dubbed “F.” identified woman who claimed to have been assaulted by the cardinal on several occasions.
Ouellet was accused of improperly touching a woman between 2008 and 2010, when he was Archbishop of Quebec.
“F.” was a chaplain when the events allegedly took place and the complaint was filed directly with the Vatican in January 2021.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni indirectly confirmed that Pope Francis had commissioned Jesuit Jacques Servais to conduct a “preliminary investigation” into these allegations.
“The preliminary investigation entrusted by the Pope to Father Jacques Servais concluded that there are no elements to start a sexual assault trial against Cardinal Ouellet,” the note said.
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Reinterviewed after the recent allegations in Canada, “Servais confirmed that there are no valid reasons to launch an investigation into the sexual assault of Person F. by Cardinal Ouellet,” Bruni’s statement said.
“Neither in the written report sent to the Holy Father, nor in the statement on Zoom that I later made in the presence of a member of the ‘ad hoc’ diocesan committee, did that person make any allegation leading to such would lead to investigation,” said the Jesuit.
The revelations also come three weeks after the Pope’s trip to Canada, during which he apologized for abuses committed by church members at Catholic boarding schools for indigenous peoples.
During this historic sixday visit, dubbed a “penitential journey,” the Pope publicly confessed the mistakes and horrors committed by the Church for decades.
This complaint is among the testimonies of 101 people who allege, according to court records, that since June 1940 they have been “sexually assaulted” by more than 80 members of the clergy and lay officials of the Diocese of Quebec.
According to F’s complaint, Cardinal Ouellet kissed her and ran his hand down her back to her buttocks. When she was encouraged to speak out about these facts, she knew “that she wasn’t the only woman who had this kind of ‘problem’ with him,” the court documents say.
As recently as 2020, F., who said she was also sexually assaulted by another minister, spoke about it before the Diocese of Quebec’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee.
The organization then recommended that she write a letter to Pope Francis. The pope responded by appointing Father Servais to examine the cardinal.
Among the favorites to be pope in the last conclave that elected Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 2013, Ouellet was also president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, for which he is known across the region.
The scandal comes on top of a spate of allegations of sexual abuse committed decades ago by religious on minors around the world, a heinous crime within the Church that Pope Francis has vowed to severely punish.