Marc Ouellet, the Canadian cardinal who was once considered to be the front-runner to become the pope, has been accused of sexual assault in a class action suit that involves 80 other members of the clergy.
The lawsuit represents over 100 individuals, including minors who were allegedly sexually assaulted by 88 clergymen and staff members at the Quebec diocese starting in 1940, court documents revealed.
In the filing in Quebec superior court, a woman, identified only as “F” accused Mr Ouellet of inappropriately touching her, including “forcefully” rubbing her shoulders and sliding his hand down her back at a 2010 event.
“That day, more than during previous meetings, she understood that she must flee Cardinal Marc Ouellet … the uneasiness she felt was more present than ever(sic),” the lawsuit said.
The incidents of abuse allegedly took place from 2008 to 2010, when Mr Ouellet was the archbishop of Quebec and the head of the diocese, while the complainant was working as a 23-year-old intern.
According to the documents, when she tried to raise the issue, she was told she wasn’t the only woman to have such a “problem” with Mr Ouellet.
The woman was advised to write to Pope Francis about her accusations. Her complaints against Mr Ouellet were then directly filed to the Vatican in 2021, following which priest Jacques Servais was tasked with looking into the matter.
However, the woman said she is yet to learn of any conclusions.
In the lawsuit, the woman alleged that she was also sexually assaulted by father Leopold Manirabarusha between 2016 and 2018.
Mr Ouellet now heads the Vatican’s 'Congregation for Bishops' which advises the pope on selecting bishops.
At the last papal conclave that elevated Francis to the papacy, Mr Ouellet was selected as one of the candidates to succeed Francis. Being one of two resident Canadian cardinals at the Vatican, he had the pope on his trip to Canada last month.
The archdiocese of Quebec said it had “taken note of the allegations” without offering further comments.
The suit involving Mr Ouellet is one of two applications for class action brought by law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats.
In the second lawsuit, filed against the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Francophone Canada, at least 193 people have accused 116 members of sexual assault, Toronto Star reported.