Cardinal Marc Ouellet says he “firmly denies” the sexual assault allegations made against him in a recent class-action lawsuit against the archdiocese of Quebec.
The former archbishop of Quebec, who now holds one of the highest-ranking positions in the Vatican and is seen as a potential successor to Pope Francis, called the allegations “defamatory” in a statement released Friday morning on the Vatican News website.
His comment follows an announcement from the Vatican on Thursday that there was insufficient evidence to investigate Ouellet.
The priest tasked with doing a preliminary investigation into the allegations against Ouellet, theologian Jacques Servais, said he found no evidence that warranted disciplinary measures.
But one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the class action, Justin Wee, said Servais had a conflict of interest because he knew Ouellet and worked closely with him.
Wee also said Servais did not follow the Vatican’s protocol of informing the complainant of a decision within 90 days from when the complaint is made.
The cardinal is accused of unwanted touching and kissing, as well as sexual harassment by a woman identified as “F” in the civil lawsuit. His name and that of some 88 clergy members who worked for the archdiocese of Quebec appear on the court documents.
The lawsuit represents more than 100 alleged victims of sexual assault.
Ouellet said he will participate in the lawsuit to make sure “the truth is established and that my innocence is recognized.”