Quebec woman alleging sexual misconduct by prominent cardinal reveals identity

MONTREAL — A woman alleging sexual misconduct by a prominent Quebec cardinal has revealed her identity and is accusing the Roman Catholic Church of trying to silence her through “threats and intimidation.”

Paméla Groleau had been identified only as “F” in court documents as part of a class-action lawsuit filed in August against the Quebec City archdiocese.

But in a written statement released Friday, she said she wants to be known by her true name. Groleau said she initially kept her identity secret to protect her family, her job and her mental health.

“I am leading this fight to regain my dignity, which was torn from me, but also and above all because I am a member and representative of this church, and I still believe in its relevance,” she said in the statement. She was working as a lay pastoral agent in the Quebec City archdiocese at the time of the alleged assaults and now has a similar role in a different diocese.

Groleau said the process for reporting abuse by clergy must be changed so people like her do not have to resort to the civil courts. Church authorities, she said, need to "confront abuses rather than deny them" and welcome victims who come forward with mechanisms that are "neutral, impartial, independent, rigorous and professional."

In the lawsuit, Groleau accused Cardinal Marc Ouellet of several incidents of sexual assault between 2008 — when she was 23 — and 2010, including sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks at an event in Quebec City.

“I am doing this fight for myself but also for all the victims of the clergy who for decades have sought to be heard and recognized,” she said in her statement.

The allegations have not been tested in court, and Ouellet last month countersued Groleau in Quebec Superior Court for defamation, denying the allegations and seeking $100,000 in damages. In a short statement distributed by his lawyer Friday, Ouellet reiterated that he never committed the acts alleged by Groleau.

In his countersuit, Ouellet said he has no recollection of ever meeting Groleau. "He does not know her," the lawsuit says. In a statement on the Vatican News website in December, he said he was suing her "in order to prove the falsity of the allegations” and to restore his reputation and honour.”

Justin Wee, one of the lawyers representing Groleau and the other 140 complainants in the class action, said it is the first time he has heard of a priest suing an alleged victim for defamation. “We’ve heard that some priests in Quebec are not happy about this lawsuit," Wee said in an email. "And it’s certainly not the message the Pope was trying to make when he asked that the church should listen to the victims of abuses.”

In an emailed statement, the Quebec archdiocese said it has confidence in the independent and confidential process set up to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct.

Groleau declined an interview request Friday. In her statement, she invited other citizens to press for changes, "to demand that the Vatican and the dioceses modify their process and collaborate openly and transparently with the victims and their representatives."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Marisela Amador, The Canadian Press