Pope asks retired Canadian judge to investigate sexual assault charges

Tue, 5 Mar 2024 8:11 GMT
Archbishop of Quebec faces sex abuse allegations.
Pope asks retired Canadian judge to investigate sexual assault charges

Retired Canadian judge Andre Denis has been asked by Pope Francis to look into sexual assault allegations against the Archbishop of Quebec, according to media reports Monday.

The allegations against Cardinal Gerald Lacroix stem from two incidents allegedly involving him that reportedly occurred in 1987 and 1988 in Quebec City in which he is accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl.

The charges are part of a class-action lawsuit that was filed against the Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec. While Lacroix, 66, refutes the charges that became public in January, he stepped aside from his churchly duties at the time until the matter is cleared up.

In a letter dated Feb. 8, Pope Francis said there is a “necessity of conducting an investigation based on facts, circumstance and imputability (church responsibility) of the alleged offence.”

Denis has already studied nearly 10,000 files of sexual abuse allegations against the Quebec church from 1940 to 2021, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). He reported that 87 employees were confirmed to have sexual abuse charges involving minors or vulnerable adults, the CBC reported.

The pope also asked Denis to investigate the possible sexual abuse of Inuit children in Canada’s far north.

Denis said it is not up to him to determine if Lacroix is guilty or innocent but to see if there is enough evidence to warrant a canonical trial, which is done within the church.

But lawyer Alain Arsenault, who has experience in representing clients in church trials, told the CBC there is “little credibility” in such circumstances.

Arsenault, who also represents the teen who made the allegations against Lacroix, said the previous trials brought his clients “nothing positive. Trust is non-existent at this time.”

“It’s through the civil process that victims have the highest chance of getting reparations, not through the Catholic Church.”

No timeline was given to complete the investigation, but Denis said he would try to finish it as soon as possible.


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