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    Pope rules out investigation against cardinal accused of sexual assault in Canada

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    Pope Francis has ruled out, for lack of “sufficient evidence”, the opening of a new investigation against Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a senior Vatican official accused of sexual assault in his country. “Pope Francis declares that there are not sufficient elements to open a canonical investigation (religious, editor’s note) for sexual assaults by Cardinal Ouellet against person F.” (this is how the complainant is called, editor’s note), Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni announced Thursday in a brief statement.

    Inappropriate touching mentioned between 2008 and 2010

    Marc Ouellet, 78 years old and current prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most important functions of the Vatican government, allegedly inappropriately touched this intern between 2008 and 2010 when he was archbishop of Quebec. , according to charges appearing in a document made public on August 16 and resulting from the class action authorized by the Superior Court of this French-speaking province in May.

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    The revelations came three weeks after a visit by the pope to Canada, during which he apologized for attacks by members of the Church at residential schools for natives. It was not until 2020 that F., who said that he had also been the victim of sexual assault by another cleric, spoke about it to the advisory committee on sexual abuse of the diocese of Quebec, which then recommended that he write a letter to Pope Francis.

    The complainant, who claims to have been assaulted several times by the cardinal, explains that in 2008 the cardinal would have massaged her shoulders “with force”, would have stroked her back while holding her “firmly against him”, on several occasions. F. then tries to avoid the cardinal, but he comes back to her. She then “feels like being chased”.

    Other testimonies of sexual assaults by other members of the diocese

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    In 2010, Marc Ouellet met her twice in one week. This is the opportunity to “kiss her again” because “there is no harm in spoiling yourself a little”, he would have said, according to the same source. A “completely inappropriate” comment, according to F. She adds that the religious would have “kissed” her and “slid his hand” along her back “to her buttocks”. F.’s case is among the testimonies of about 100 people who say they were “sexually abused” by more than 80 members and lay employees of the Diocese of Quebec between June 1940 and today, according to court documents.

    In 2021, the pope responds to F.’s letter by appointing “Father Jacques Servais to investigate Cardinal Marc Ouellet”. And it is precisely on the basis of the elements gathered by Father Servais that the pope decided to exclude an investigation against Bishop Ouellet, according to Matteo Bruni. The spokesman specifies that Father Servais, whose preliminary investigation concluded on the absence of sufficient elements, was again contacted by the pope, who received the assurance that there was no reason to continue the procedure.

    Ouellet, one of the favorites of the last conclave

    Unusually, the statement, written in Italian, quotes statements in French from Father Servais, a Jesuit like the pope: “There is no reason to open an investigation for the sexual assault of person F. on the part of the Card. M. Ouellet”, he says. “Neither in the report written (by F., editor’s note) and sent to the Holy Father, nor in the testimony via Zoom that I subsequently collected in the presence of a member of the ad hoc diocesan committee, does this person has brought an accusation which would provide material for such an investigation”, declares Father Servais.

    Marc Ouellet was cited among the favorites of the last conclave at the end of which the Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013. In February, he himself had castigated the “drama of sexual assaults committed by clerics” and the “criminal behavior concealed for too long to protect the institution”, during an important symposium at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Francis. In Canada, the Catholic Church is currently facing several class action lawsuits for sexual assault.

    Source: Europe1

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