ROME (AP) — A Vatican cardinal sued a Canadian woman for defamation in a Canadian court on Tuesday after she accused him of sexual assault while he was archbishop of Quebec.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office, is seeking 100,000 Canadian dollars (US$74,000) in compensatory damages for “injury to his reputation, honor and dignity,” according to a copy of the complaint provided by Ouellet’s office.
The woman, identified only as F., was one of several people who brought a class-action lawsuit against the archdiocese of Quebec in August that accused several priests, including Ouellet, of sexual abuse or assault. F. accused Ouellet of inappropriate, sexual touches on four occasions in the late 2000s.
Ouellet’s countersuit, filed Tuesday in the Superior Court in Quebec, repeats the cardinal’s firm denial and says he has no recollection of meeting F.
His lawsuit said that even if the allegations were true, the woman’s specific claims about his alleged behavior could not be construed as “sexual assault” or sexual abuse of minors, which are other crimes included in the class-action lawsuit.
“To associate Mr. Ouellet with such acts creates, in the mind of the ordinary citizen, the perception that Mr. Ouellet is an individual of the same ilk, which he is clearly not,” the cardinal’s lawsuit says.
It said he had experienced “significant psychological anguish” since the woman’s allegations went public and that his international reputation was “seriously tarnished.”
Pope Francis shelved a church investigation into Ouellet after a priest investigator interviewed F. and determined there weren’t grounds for further investigation. The Vatican said the investigator determined the woman didn’t bring forward accusations that warranted it.
Calls seeking comment from F.’s attorney were not immediately returned.
In a statement, Ouellet said victims of sexual abuse are entitled to justice and compensation and said he was sensitive to their suffering.
“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,” he said.
He said any damages awarded would be donated to the “fight against sexual abuse of Indigenous peoples in Canada.”
Robert Gillies contributed from Toronto.