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No proof of sexual misconduct against Quebec cardinal: Vatican-mandated investigation

Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec leaves after he delivering a speech during a Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of two Canadian saints, St. Francis de Laval and St. Mary of the Incarnation, celebrated by Pope Francis, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. (LA PRESSE CANDIENNE/AP/Andrew Medichini) Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec leaves after he delivering a speech during a Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of two Canadian saints, St. Francis de Laval and St. Mary of the Incarnation, celebrated by Pope Francis, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. (LA PRESSE CANDIENNE/AP/Andrew Medichini)
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A retired judge mandated by the Vatican to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against a Quebec cardinal says that despite the complainant refusing to collaborate with the probe, he could find no evidence tying the senior church leader to the alleged crimes.

Retired Quebec Superior Court judge André Denis says that while his investigation doesn't exonerate Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, archbishop of Quebec City, it hasn't uncovered evidence to justify a canonical trial.

"The elements gathered during the investigation make it implausible that the events associated with the cardinal occurred," Denis told a news conference in Quebec City on Tuesday. He said the recommendation he made to Pope Francis, who asked the retired judge in February to open the investigation, was that the case should not move forward through the Vatican's judicial process.

Lacroix's name was among 15 added to a list in January of perpetrators in a class-action lawsuit, authorized by the Superior Court in 2022, alleging sexual abuse by clergy and staff dating back to 1940. The alleged sexual touching involving Lacroix took place between 1987 and 1988 in Quebec City when the unnamed female plaintiff was 17.

The archbishop has denied the allegations, which he has described as "unfounded." The claims against him have not been tested in court.

Denis admitted to reporters that his report was incomplete because the complainant refused to take part in his investigation. But he said that despite the interviews he conducted and his extensive search through church archives, he couldn't find anything to substantiate the allegations.

"I searched everywhere. I didn’t find anything," he said, adding that the church had given him access to all the documents he asked for.

However, a lawyer for the complainant says the judge’s findings are of little importance. Alain Arsenault, with law firm Arsenault Dufresne Wee, says his client didn’t want to participate in the Vatican’s investigation because it was an internal process that lacked credibility.

"She wants to take part in a trial at the Quebec Superior Court because it’s an independent tribunal," he said, adding that his client is one of 147 involved in the class-action lawsuit against Quebec’s clergy — a hundred alleged abusers altogether.

"The Catholic Church doesn’t have a monopoly on truth," Arsenault said.

Denis says that in his past investigations of alleged clergy abuse, including a case involving a priest in Nunavut, there is always a trail of evidence — such as comments during interviews, or letters from people formerly associated with the accused — but nothing surfaced in the Lacroix case.

"In my experience, in the cases I’ve seen, we’d find a little something about someone somewhere," he said, describing the cardinal’s record as "impeccable."

"I am unable to say whether or not the alleged act took place," Denis said. "I'm even unable to identify a place, an event, a precise date or any other circumstance. The plaintiff's refusal to co-operate in any way with my investigation has left me at a loss."

The Vatican says Denis' report does not "permit to identify any actions that amount to misconduct or abuse" and "no further canonical procedure" is expected.

Despite his conclusions, Denis says that if the complainant chooses to speak with him, he would ask the Vatican to extend his mandate and resume the investigation.

"It's never too late," Denis said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

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