(RNS) — The Vatican will not open an investigation into Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prominent Canadian Catholic leader who was accused of sexual misconduct as part of a class-action lawsuit filed this week in Quebec.
According to reporting in The Washington Post and The New York Times, the woman, identified as F. in court filings, has accused Ouellet, who was archbishop of Quebec from 2002-2010, of inappropriately touching her lower back and kissing her on the cheek during public events that took place in 2010 and 2008.
As noted in a statement released by the Vatican on Thursday (Aug. 18), Pope Francis has declared that there are “insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation” into the actions of the 78-year-old cardinal, who has served in his position as head of the Dicastery for Bishops (formerly called the Congregation for Bishops) for more than a decade.
In that position, Ouellet has worked closely with Francis in the selection of bishops worldwide.
In a statement released by the Holy See press office Friday, the cardinal denied the “false accusations” against him. “I firmly deny having made inappropriate gestures on her person and I consider the interpretation and dissemination of these accusations as sexual assaults defamatory,” Ouellet said in the statement.
He added that he intends to “actively participate” in any future civil inquiry “so that the truth is established and my innocence recognized.”
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, notes that Servais collected testimony from the woman via Zoom, in the presence of a member of the ad hoc diocesan committee, after which he filed a written report concluding the woman did not “make an accusation that would provide material for such an investigation.”
Ouellet is one of 88 clergy named as part of the Canadian lawsuit that brings allegations of sexual assault from over 100 people against clergy and other archdiocesan staff dating back to 1940.
Ouellet is said to have massaged the young woman’s shoulders on several occasions, and stroked her back
to where the buttocks meet, according to Radio Canada. The woman, identified as F., who continues to work as an employee with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec, said she stopped attending events where she expected to run into Ouellet.
Ouellet has not been charged with any crime.
This story has been updated.