Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S.
Archbishop of Québec, 2002-2010; President, Pontifical Commission for Latin America, 2010-2023; Prefect, Dicastery for Bishops, 2010-2023. Resignation as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and as prefect for the Dicastery for Bishops announced 1/30/2023, to take effect 4/12/2023.
Summary: Ouellet has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by two women. Before the cases became public, each woman had reported her abuse to the Church, and Pope Francis had decided that a full canonical investigation was not warranted in either case.
Background: Ouellet was first accused publicly on 8/16/2022, when a law firm representing 101 clergy sex abuse victims published its court-filed application for class action against the Québec archdiocese. The cardinal’s alleged abuses were detailed in the complaint, and his name also appeared in the list of 88 accused Québec clerics and other archdiocesan personnel that was appended to the document. According to the filing, Ouellet subjected a young woman to “touching of a non-consensual sexual nature,” including putting his hands on her buttocks. The incidents occurred three times from August 2008 to February 2010, when Ouellet was Québec archbishop and the alleged victim, called “F” in the law firm’s documents, was a pastoral intern, ages 23-25. The young woman had reported the incidents without naming Ouellet to the Québec archdiocese’s Committee for the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Persons in November 2020. At the committee chair’s request, she detailed her allegations, naming Ouellet, in a letter to Pope Francis dated January 26, 2021. In February 2021, F was contacted by Rev. Jacques Servais, S.J., who said that the Pope had asked him to investigate her allegation. Servais is an associate of Ouellet: he directs Casa Balthasar, a house of formation in Rome run by the Lubac-Balthasar-Speyr Association, for which Ouellet sits on the board. Servais interviewed F virtually on March 4, 2021.
F didn’t learn of the outcome of her case until 18 months later, on 8/18/2022, two days after her allegation became public, when the Vatican stated that the Pope had found “insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation.” The next day, Ouellet publicly denied F’s allegations, calling them “false” and “defamatory.” On 12/13/2022, Ouellet announced that he had filed a lawsuit against F in the District of Montreal superior court, alleging defamation. He is seeking 100,000 Canadian dollars (around $74,000 in US dollars) in compensatory damages; if he wins his case, he says he will donate the award to fight sexual abuse of Canada’s indigenous people.
On 1/18/2023, a France-based Catholic weekly, Golias Hebdo, revealed the existence of a prior complaint against Ouellet from another woman. [See also National Catholic Reporter’s article.] In August 2020, three months before the Québec archdiocese first heard from Groleau, Québec archbishop Gérald Lacroix had received a written complaint from “Marie.” The alleged incidents occurred in late 2008 and early 2009 and were “much more serious” than those reported by Pamela Groleau, according to Golias Hebdo. At Lacroix’s request, Marie detailed her allegations in a six-page letter dated 9/13/2020 that the archbishop transmitted directly to the Pope. It appears that the Pope designated Fr. Servais to look into this allegation too: On 3/2/2021, according to Golias Hebdo, a relative of Marie received an email from Servais expressing his concern that Marie was a “sick person” who may have been “manipulated by a pressure group animated by political interests.” [Note that Servais sent this email regarding Marie just two days before interviewing Pamela Groleau.]
On June 23, 2021, Marie received a letter signed by Lacroix [see image of letter here] indicating that Ouellet had been the subject of a preliminary investigation under Vos estis lux mundi and informing her that Pope Francis had evaluated her claim and had found “no reason” to conduct a fuller investigation.
Following Golias Hebdo‘s January 2023 report, Ouellet issued a written statement, saying, “I deny having committed any reprehensible behaviour with regard to this woman.”
On 1/30/2023, twelve days after the Golias Hebdo report of a second allegation, the Vatican announced that the Pope had accepted Ouellet’s resignation as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops and as president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. In a statement, Ouellet noted that having served three years beyond the standard retirement age of 75, it was time for him to “take on new challenges.” His resignation takes effect 4/12/2023.