Pope mandates retired judge to investigate Quebec City cardinal

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]

March 4, 2024

By Erika Morris

Archbishop Gérald Lacroix has been accused of sexual assault

Pope Francis has tasked retired Quebec judge André Denis to investigate allegations of sexual assault against Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, the Archbishop of Quebec, which could lead to a canonical trial.

The alleged incidents involving Lacroix took place between 1987 and 1988 in Quebec City when the plaintiff was 17. Lacroix is accused of touching her without her consent. The victim’s lawyer, Alain Arsenault, said there was also fellation and penetration.

The allegations surfaced in January and are part of changes to a class-action lawsuit that targets the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec. Lacroix denies the allegations but on Jan. 26, 2024, stepped back from his functions “until the situation is cleared up.”

Denis received the Pope’s mandate on Feb. 8.

Denis said his job will be to determine whether the allegations are substantial enough to warrant a canonical trial, which is conducted by the church.  The investigation will not determine whether Lacroix is guilty.

In his letter to Denis, the Pope said he recognizes “the necessity of conducting an investigation based on facts, circumstance and imputability of the alleged offence.”

The plaintiff declined to participate in the investigation, according to a letter sent by her lawyer. He said investigations led by the church and canonical trials have “little credibility” and that clients of his who went through the process “came out of it bruised and battered.”

“This process brought them nothing positive, to the contrary,” said Arsenault. “Trust is non-existent at this time.”

He said his clients who filed the lawsuit are suspicious of the church’s motives in conducting the investigation into sexual abuse allegations, as it is “not independent and not credible.”

“It’s through the civil process that victims have the highest chance of getting reparations, not through the Catholic Church,” said Arsenault.

Denis said he will finish his investigation nonetheless, but it’s unclear what the process will look like.

Denis studied nearly 10,000 files of sexual abuse allegations in Quebec’s Church dating from 1940 to 2021. He authored a report revealing that 87 employees had been the subject of confirmed or substantiated allegations of sexual abuse involving minors or vulnerable adults. He was also tasked by the Pope last year to investigate sexual abuse allegations against Inuit children in Nunavut.