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Vatican protesting French court judgment against Quebec cardinal Marc Ouellet

Pope Francis, left, listens to Cardinal Marc Ouellet's opening address as he attends the opening of a 3-day Symposium on Vocations in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Gregorio Borgia, The Associated Press) Pope Francis, left, listens to Cardinal Marc Ouellet's opening address as he attends the opening of a 3-day Symposium on Vocations in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Gregorio Borgia, The Associated Press)
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The Holy See has officially protested against a French court judgment, which ruled against Cardinal Marc Ouellet for the "without cause" dismissal of a nun from his congregation.

According to French media, a court in Lorient, Brittany, ruled in favour of nun Sabine de la Valette, then known as Mother Marie Ferréol, who was forced to resign from the Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit, after an investigation by the Vatican authorities.

In a news release issued on Saturday, the Vatican said it learned of the court's decision only through the press.

It stressed that it could "give rise to a serious violation of the fundamental rights to religious freedom and freedom of association of the Catholic faithful."

The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis commissioned Cardinal Marc Ouellet, then prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to lead an investigation.

Following the Quebec cardinal's visit, canonical measures were taken against de la Valette, including her expulsion from the religious order which had recruited her 34 years ago.

The statement says that the verdict also raises important questions about the immunity that Ouellet would benefit from as the representative of a sovereign state.

French media reported that the Lorient court ruled that the nun's dismissal was without cause. It ordered Ouellet, the religious order and two other defendants to pay more than 200,000 euros (more than $293,000 CAN) for material and moral damages.

The French daily Le Figaro reported "divergences regarding the governance of this religious congregation, then expressed by Sister Marie Ferréol, which were heightened by personality factors" which could have led to its exclusion.

The accused are appealing the case.

The Vatican often investigates religious communities and dioceses following complaints of sexual misconduct, financial wrongdoing or other types of abuse.

It considers the measures adopted part of the internal management of the Catholic Church.

This report by The Associated Press was first published in French on April 13, 2024. 

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