ROME – A Canadian cardinal and key ally of Pope Francis has been named in a class action sexual abuse lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec, with the specific charge being that he inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl on two occasions in 1987 and 1988.
Cardinal Gérald Lacroix’s name was added to a list of alleged perpetrators in the class action suit in court filings Thursday. The lawsuit was authorized in 2022, and covers anyone who was sexually assaulted by personnel of the Archdiocese of Quebec since 1940.
Lacroix becomes the second Canadian cardinal to be named in the lawsuit, after allegations were lodged against Cardinal Marc Ouellet 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 counter-suit 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.
A spokesperson for Lacroix expressed “shock” over the new charge in comments Thursday.
“Different versions are circulating regarding the allegations against Cardinal Lacroix. We are trying to understand, and we will be able to comment later,” said Valérie Roberge-Dion, a spokesperson for Lacroix.
The class action suit is a civil action seeking monetary damages, and so far neither Ouellet nor Lacroix have been charged with any crime.
Lacroix, 66, a former missionary in Colombia, played a lead 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 that Pope Francis was attempting to promote a more “listening” church. He was among seven participants elected by the synod to oversee its concluding document.
According to attorney Alain Arsenault, who’s leading the class action lawsuit, Lacroix’s alleged victim, who has not been identified, is now in her 50s. She did not come forward previously, he said, out of concern for the reaction of her devout Catholic parents.
Arsenault said there were two alleged assaults, both of which are said to have occurred when the alleged victim accompanied her parents to a Bible study in Quebec. According to Arsenault, the woman charges that Lacroix, who would have been in his early 30s at the time, pulled her into a separate room and groped her, then instructed her not to tell her mother because it would “kill her” to learn what had happened.
Arsenault told reporters that the woman contacted the law firm only after her mother had died in order to join the class action suit.
Overall, the law firm says that 147 people have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse and assault against more than 100 priests and lay personnel of the archdiocese, some of whom are alleged to have multiple victims.
Arsenault said he doesn’t expect the case to go to trial in 2024. Instead, he said, attorneys will spend the year requesting and evaluating documents and also interviewing witnesses, presumably including Lacroix.
A member of the Pius X Secular Institute, which was founded in New Hampshire in 1939, Lacroix was ordained in 1988 and has played several leadership roles inside the community, including serving in Colombia from 1990 to 2000 opening new houses of the institute.
Lacroix was named the Archbishop of Quebec in 2011, replacing Ouellet. Pope Francis designated him as cardinal in January 2014. In addition to serving on the Council of Cardinals, Lacroix is also a member of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.