Canadian Cardinal Lacroix to ‘temporarily’ step down, denies sexual abuse allegations

Catholic World Report [San Francisco CA]

January 29, 2024

By Peter Pinedo for CNA

Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, head of the Archdiocese of Quebec, has temporarily stepped aside from his duties as archbishop after being accused in a lawsuit of sexual abuse of a 17-year-old, allegations that the archbishop is strongly denying.

In a short French-language statement released on Friday, the archdiocese said that though Lacroix “categorically denies the allegations against him,” he is “temporarily withdrawing from his activities until the situation is clarified.”

According to the statement, Lacroix maintains that the allegations are “unfounded.”

The statement said, however, that archdiocesan authorities “will continue to move forward in the process of collective action, with respect for the truth and with a concern to offer reparation to survivors of sexual abuse.”

Lacroix, 66, is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis. He has been a cardinal since 2014 and archbishop of Quebec since 2011.

The legal action filed against the archdiocese last week is a continuation of a class-action lawsuit that originated in 2022 and initially involved 101 people who were allegedly sexually assaulted by priests and laypeople since 1940.

The new court documents list 46 new alleged victims, bringing the total number of people suing the archdiocese to 147.

Among the new list of alleged abusers, Lacroix was named as allegedly sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl in 1987 and 1988.

Lacroix is not the first high-ranking Canadian bishop to be accused of abuse in this lawsuit.

The initial 2022 filing of the lawsuit also accused Cardinal Marc Ouellet — who served as archbishop of Quebec between 2003 and 2010 and is prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for Bishops at the Vatican — of sexual abuse.

In August 2022, Ouellet defended his innocence, calling the accusations of sexual abuse false and firmly denying “having made inappropriate gestures” to the alleged victim.

That same month, the Vatican released a statement that said Pope Francis had determined there was insufficient evidence to initiate a canonical investigation against the cardinal.

The lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec was filed by the Canadian law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats, which has also filed several other class-action lawsuits against other Catholic dioceses and religious orders.