ROME (AP) — The Vatican cardinal accused in a class-action lawsuit in Canada of sexual assault against a woman on Friday denied any inappropriate behavior and said he would vigorously fight the “false” and “defamatory” accusations if the case proceeds.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet issued his own statement via the Vatican press office a day after the Holy See said a preliminary church investigation into the woman’s allegations determined the case didn’t warrant further investigation or canonical trial.
The back-to-back statements were responding to lawyers in Quebec who recently filed a class-action compliant by 101 alleged victims accusing 88 prelates of sexual abuse and assault over decades.
Ouellet, who headed the Quebec archdiocese from 2002-2010, was accused by a woman identified only as “F” of several alleged incidents of unwanted touching, including sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks at a 2010 event in Quebec City.
In the statement, Ouellet termed the accusations “false.”
“I firmly deny having made inappropriate gestures against her person and consider the interpretation and diffusion of these accusations as sexual aggression to be defamatory,” he said. If the lawsuit proceeds “I intend to actively participate so that the truth is established and my innocence is recognized.”
In 2010, Ouellet became prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which is in charge of the world’s bishops. In that job, he oversees church investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct involving bishops or cardinals with adults.