The defamation lawsuit says the cardinal “has no recollection of ever having met Mrs. F. He does not know her.” It says her accounts are inconsistent with the nature of the cardinal’s interactions in public settings. At these events, his lawsuit says, he would make a customary greeting “either by shaking hands or by a kiss on the cheek and would attempt to personalize each interaction in a manner consistent with the behavior of any person in a public representation role.”
His lawsuit further contends that even if the alleged acts took place, which the cardinal denies, they did not constitute “touching of a sexual nature” or sexual assault. It claims the accuser’s comments are contradictory.
The defamation lawsuit alleges another legal fault in that the allegations came in the context of “other allegations involving serious acts against minors.” The allegations against the cardinal are not of a similar nature to the sexual assault of minors by other clergymen alleged in the suit against the archdiocese.
“Ms. F. could not allege her story in such a procedural context,” the lawsuit says. “One may wonder why Ms. F.’s story is included among reprehensible acts of pedophilia, except to include a member of the high clergy in the case.”
“To have associated Mr. Ouellet with individuals who would have committed acts of such a nature constitutes negligence,” the defamation lawsuit continues. “This is so, because the ordinary citizen will perceive that all the reproaches made against the ecclesiastics named in the application are of the same nature, as they are grouped under the same procedure.”
“I firmly denied these slanderous and defamatory accusations unfairly made against me,” he added, citing his previous statement of Aug. 19.
“In truth, I want to emphasize that I never committed the acts of which the plaintiff accuses me,” he said Tuesday.
Ouellet said that sexual abuse victims need justice.
“It is clear that the victims of sexual abuse are entitled to just compensation for the harm they have suffered. I am sensitive to their suffering and reiterate my sincere closeness to them,” he said. “Their right to justice is not questioned by my taking this stand, which is nevertheless painfully necessary to defend the truth, my reputation, and my honor.”
The class-action lawsuit against the Quebec Archdiocese, filed Aug. 16, says that F. wrote to Pope Francis about Ouellet in January 2021. She received an email Feb. 23, 2021, stating that the Vatican had appointed Jesuit Father Jacques Servais to investigate the cardinal. Her last communication with Servais was the following month, March 2021.
Less than a week after the lawsuit was filed, the Vatican said it would not hold a trial against Cardinal Ouellet over the sexual assault allegations.
(Story continues below)
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Servais, the Vatican investigator, said in August that “there are no grounds” to open an investigation into sexual assault. “Neither in his written report sent to the Holy Father nor in the testimony via Zoom that I subsequently took in the presence of a member of the Diocesan Ad Hoc Committee, did this person make an accusation that would provide grounds for such an investigation.”
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni added that after relevant consultations, Pope Francis “declares that there are insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault.”
Ouellet was ordained a priest of Quebec’s Diocese of Amos in 1968, at age 23. He joined the Sulpicians in 1972. In 2001 he was appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and consecrated a bishop.
He served as archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010, when he was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Ouellet has been outspoken about the need to prevent sex abuse by clergy and the need for sound formation of priests. He has advocated for the increased inclusion of women in the formation of priests and has said that priests need to know how to relate to women well to have a balanced personality.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.