ROME – After being named in a class-action sex abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec, Cardinal Gérald Lacroix has denied the allegations against him but has announced his decision to step aside until the matter is clarified.

On Jan. 25, Lacroix was named in a class action lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Quebec in 2022, with court documents alleging that he inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl on two occasions, in 1987 and 1988.

In a Jan. 26 statement, the Archdiocese of Quebec said that Lacroix “categorically denies the allegations against him” and considers the allegations “unfounded.”

However, they said the cardinal had decided to temporarily withdraw from leadership of the archdiocese and that they accepted the decision “with sadness.” In coming days, the statement said, Lacroix would “send a personal communication” to the archdiocese “which will be relayed to the media.”

With the charges, Lacroix was added to a growing list of alleged perpetrators in the lawsuit, which covers anyone who was sexually assaulted by archdiocesan personnel since 1940.

A former missionary in Colombia, Lacroix, 66, played a leading role in Pope Francis’s 2022 visit to Canada. Last March, he was named by Francis to his Council of Cardinal Advisors, making him one of the pope’s most important advisors on matters of Church reform.

During the Synod of Bishops on Synodality in October 2023, Lacroix defended the exercise in comments to reporters, saying Pope Francis was attempting to promote a more “listening” Church. He was among seven participants elected by the synod to oversee its concluding document, and he is expected to travel to Rome again in October of this year for the second session of the synod.

Ordained a priest in 1988, Lacroix from 1982-1987 served as secretary general of the Pius X secular institute in Quebec City, and from 1985-1987, he also served as director of the Maison du Renouveau du Québec, or House of Renewal, prayer center.

Lacroix is now the second Canadian cardinal to be named in the same class-action abuse lawsuit, after allegations were lodged against Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, in 2022 over alleged inappropriate touching said to have occurred in 2008.

A Vatican investigation later found “no grounds” for any action against Ouellet, who filed a countersuit against his accuser for defamation in December 2022. Ouellet’s accuser later claimed that two other women have come forward with abuse allegations against him, which Ouellet likewise has denied.

Some 147 victims have joined the lawsuit against Quebec. Fifteen people associated with the archdiocese have been named in court documents, however, the woman whom Lacroix allegedly assaulted has not been identified.

In their statement, the Archdiocese of Quebec said, “everything will be done” to keep things running while Lacroix is away, and that diocesan authorities will continue to “move forward in the process of collective action, with respect for the truth and with a concern to offer reparation to survivors of sexual abuse.”

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