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QUEBEC CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - A potential papal successor, who has also been accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old intern, rebuffed a clergy rape victim while he was archbishop of Quebec.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who has been a possible papal candidate in recent conclaves, refused to accept responsibility for a priest in the archdiocese of Quebec who raped his 17-year-old maid in the rectory.
"Rape is a criminal act. And those who hide criminal acts and increase the sufferings of the victims are also criminals," the victim, France Bédard, said after Ouellet rebuffed her appeal for justice.
Bédard says she battled the Quebec archdiocese for decades after Fr. Armand Therrien raped her in 1965. The victim was working as a maid in the village of Saint-Marc-des-Carrières (a town near Quebec City known for its rock quarries) when the crime occurred.
According to court documents, Fr. Therrien grabbed the girl one evening and gagged her mouth with his hand, threatening her: "If you scream, the parish priest will know everything."
The devout Catholic maid pleaded with the priest: "No, no, I don't want to. Stop! I'm 17, and I'm a virgin. I've never slept with a man."
"Well, tonight is when you find out what a man is," the priest replied. Therrien then lifted her nightgown and raped her. Bédard says she was manipulated into having an affair with Therrien but denied having a "romantic relationship" with the priest.
"I was a young girl who had lost what was most precious to her. I was slipping because I lacked affection. I needed attention and affection. But I never liked Armand Therrien," she told a court in 2011.
Father Therrien told Bédard to have an abortion when she became pregnant the following year. When she refused, the cleric forced her to surrender the baby for adoption. The grieving mother finally reconnected with her son in 1996.
In 2005, Bédard contacted Ouellet and demanded that he take action against the priest. Archdiocesan officials refused to act despite two months of discussions with the victim. In desperation, Bédard filed a police complaint.
A year later, a court ordered Fr. Therrien to take a DNA test, which proved he was the father of Bédard's son. The priest was charged with rape and gross indecency, but he died in 2008 — two months before the case was set to go to trial.
"Bédard confirmed she received no attention or compassion from Cdl. Ouellet and [the] Quebec archdiocese," Vincent Doyle, founder of Coping International (an organization for marginalized children fathered by Catholic priests and religious), told Church Militant.
"At that time, in 20o8, when Pope Francis was Cdl. Bergoglio, he discussed the matter of priests' children in Quebec with Church officials at an international level. Ouellet's response to Bédard evokes an attitude that ignored best practice toward victims and children of priests, disregarding the Vatican guidelines written in 2009," Doyle noted.
"As a sexual assault victim and a mom, she deserves better, and Ouellet should apologize for not being there for her," stressed Doyle, who is himself the son of an Irish priest.
Bédard slammed Quebec's hierarchy for adding "to the suffering of the victims of the sexual crimes committed by their clergy." They claim to "preach compassion, love and generosity, but act with cold, calculated indifference."
Earlier in August, a female intern accused Ouellet in a class action lawsuit of inappropriately touching her, kissing her at an ordination party and sliding his hand down her back to touch her buttocks.
The abuse occurred when the victim was an intern with the archdiocesan chancery from 2008–2010.
The victim says that she complained to Pope Francis in January of 2021 and launched a lawsuit only after the pontiff failed to act.
Pope Francis appointed Jesuit priest Jacques Servais to investigate. However, in an apparent conflict of interest, the Belgian scholar (an expert on theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar) is also the director of a house of formation known as "Casa Balthasar," for which Ouellet sits on the board.
On Aug. 18, the Holy See Press Office issued a statement noting that "there are no elements to initiate a trial against Cdl. Ouellet for sexual assault."
Justin Wee, the attorney for the woman bringing the recent lawsuit, said that Fr. Servais met her only once. The meeting was held online.
"During the meeting, she thought he was not that ready to receive her complaint and that he wasn't that formed for that kind of investigation. She felt that he was looking more for the motives of our client instead of trying to understand what happened," Wee told The Pillar.
In his book The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates, Vaticanist Edward Pentin lists the 78-year-old Cdl. Ouellet as a potential successor to Pope Francis.
Since 2010, Ouellet has held the position of prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops — one of the most important and influential positions in the Vatican. The dicastery is primarily responsible for the appointment of bishops.
"I had extreme confidence in Marc Ouellet. I have been betrayed to no end," Bédard lamented. In 2008, Fr. Therrien's victim left the Catholic Church, saying, "It was urgent. It was the best gift I could give myself."