Pope Francis has decided there is not sufficient evidence to open a Church investigation into Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet over allegations of sexual assault, the Vatican said in a statement on Thursday.
Ouellet, a prominent Vatican official, was named earlier this week in a class action lawsuit against the Quebec Catholic diocese that alleged cases of sexual assault by some 88 priests and staff working at the diocese starting in 1940.
In the filing in Quebec Superior Court, an anonymous complainant alleged that Ouellet inappropriately touched her, and made comments that made her feel uncomfortable between 2008 and 2010 when Ouellet was archbishop of Quebec and she was working as a 23-year-old intern.
The Vatican was told about the allegations against Ouellet in 2021 and Francis appointed a priestly investigator, Jacques Servais, to look into the case. Servais subsequently advised against launching a full church investigation, the Vatican said.
“Following further relevant consultations, Pope Francis declared that there were not sufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet,” the Vatican statement said.
Ouellet heads the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for Bishops which advises the pope on which priests should be made bishops. He is on many experts’ short lists of candidates to succeed Pope Francis after the pontiff dies or resigns.
The pope paid a six-day visit to Canada last month that focused on apologising to indigenous people for abuse in government schools run by the Roman Catholic Church.