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Prominent Canadian cardinal charged with sexual assault

#Prominent #Canadian #cardinal #charged #sexual #assault

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, once considered a strong candidate for the pope, has been charged with sexual assault in a class-action lawsuit against more than 80 clergy in the archdiocese of Quebec, court documents showed on Tuesday.

The charges of allegedly abusing an intern from 2008 to 2010 – when he was Archbishop of Quebec – come just weeks after Pope Francis visited Canada, where he apologized for decades of abuse of indigenous children in Catholic-run dormitories.

Ouellet is prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most important positions within the Curia, the government of the Vatican.

At the last papal conclave that made Francis pope, Ouellet was named as one of the favourites. All cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible. Ouellet is now 78.

When asked by AFP, the Archdiocese of Quebec said in a statement that it “takes note of the allegations regarding Cardinal Marc Ouellet” and has made no further comments.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

The charges against Ouellet in the civil suit that the Quebec Supreme Court could hear in May include testimony from 101 people who say they were sexually assaulted by members of the clergy and church staff from 1940 to the present.

Ouellet’s accuser, identified only as “F,” says the cardinal assaulted her on multiple occasions – kissing her, massaging her shoulders “vigorously” and once sliding his hand down her back to her buttocks.

The accuser says she felt she was being “hunted,” the filings say. When the woman tried to address the issue, she was told she was not the only woman to have such a “problem” with Ouellet, documents show.

She was later advised to write a letter to Pope Francis about her allegations. She was then informed that Francis had named someone to examine Ouellet.

The woman has not heard any conclusions in this investigation.

So far, the cardinal has not been prosecuted.

– “Unworthy” –

In February, Ouellet opened a Vatican symposium on priesthood before an audience that included Pope Francis, apologizing for “unworthy” clergy and the cover-up of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

“We are all heartbroken and humbled by these crucial questions that challenge us every day as members of the Church,” Ouellet said at the time.

He said the symposium was an opportunity to express regret and seek forgiveness from victims after their lives were “shattered by abusive and criminal conduct” that was hidden or handled lightly to protect the institution and perpetrators.

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has struggled to address decades of sex abuse scandals, though many campaigners against pedophilia insist much more needs to be done.

In Canada, the Church faces several class action lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct. In the western part of the country, more than 30 students have filed lawsuits against several officials at a Christian school, CBC reported.

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#Prominent #Canadian #cardinal #charged #sexual #assault

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