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Second allegation of sexual misconduct surfaces against prominent Quebec cardinal

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MONTREAL - The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Quebec City confirmed Friday that it had received a second complaint from a woman alleging sexual misconduct by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the former archbishop in the Quebec capital.

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MONTREAL – The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Quebec City confirmed Friday that it had received a second complaint from a woman alleging sexual misconduct by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the former archbishop in the Quebec capital.

A letter dated June 23, 2021, from Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, the current Quebec City archbishop, informs the woman that allegations she had made several months earlier were “directly transmitted” to Pope Francis, who ordered an internal investigation that ultimately rejected the complaint against Ouellet.

In the letter, Lacroix explains that a preliminary investigation was carried out without the participation of the Quebec archdiocese, in accordance with the procedure established by the Pope in 2019 to evaluate claims of abuse or misconduct. The letter adds that witness statements were collected in Quebec and in Rome.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet attends a Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, on March 12, 2013. The Quebec archdiocese has confirmed that it had received a second complaint involving allegations of sexual misconduct by prominent Quebec cardinal Marc Ouellet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andrew Medichini

“Pope Francis communicated to me … his decision not to retain the accusation against the cardinal,” Lacroix writes. He ends the letter by telling the woman that he is asking the Virgin Mary to protect her.

The letter was published this week by the French Catholic weekly Golias Hebdo, with the woman’s name redacted. It does not include details of the allegations, beyond saying they involved “sexual misconduct.”

Valérie Roberge-Dion, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, confirmed Friday that the letter is authentic.

“As soon as Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix received this complaint, it was immediately forwarded to Cardinal Ouellet’s immediate superior, Pope Francis,” she said in an email. “From that point on, the investigation was entirely directed by the supreme authority.”

Last week, another woman alleging sexual misconduct by Ouellet, who is now head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office, revealed her identity and accused the Catholic Church of trying to silence her through “threats and intimidation.”

Paméla Groleau, who along with 139 other complainants is part of a class-action lawsuit filed in August against the Quebec City archdiocese, said she initially kept her identity secret to protect her family, her job and her mental health.

In the lawsuit, Groleau accused Ouellet of several incidents of sexual assault between 2008 — when she was 23 — and 2010, including sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks at an event in Quebec City.

The allegations have not been tested in court, and Ouellet last month countersued Groleau in Quebec Superior Court for defamation, denying the allegations and seeking $100,000 in damages.

In his countersuit, Ouellet said he has no recollection of ever meeting Groleau. “He does not know her,” the lawsuit says. In a statement on the Vatican News website in December, he said he was suing her “in order to prove the falsity of the allegations” and to restore his reputation and honour.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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