Cardinal Gérald Lacroix. CNS photo/Lola Gomez

Pope tasks judge to investigate Cardinal Lacroix

By  François Gloutnay, OSV News
  • March 14, 2024

Pope Francis has asked a retired Quebec judge to conduct an investigation “into the facts, circumstances and imputability of (an) alleged offense” targeting Quebec Cardinal Gérald Lacroix.

In a letter he personally signed, the Pope indicated to Judge André Denis that he was appointing him to investigate acts of a sexual nature allegedly committed by the Archbishop of Quebec before he was ordained a priest.

The letter is dated Feb. 8, two days after the meeting of the Council of Cardinals in which Lacroix participated in Rome even though, a few days earlier, he announced he was “temporarily withdrawing” from his archdiocese’s functions.

Lacroix stepped aside after allegations were made against him on Jan. 25. He was named in court documents in connection with a sweeping class-action sex assault lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Quebec. 

According to court documents, two incidents allegedly involving Lacroix reportedly occurred in 1987 and 1988 in Québec City, when he was still a religious brother. The lawsuit claims he inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl on two occasions. The woman has not been identified.

Lacroix has categorically denied the allegations made against him. No criminal charges have been filed in the matter.

Présence, a French-language news agency in Quebec, was able to consult the papal letter to Denis.

“In order to follow up on this report made in the specific context of a class action (civil suit) in Quebec, and considering the need to conduct an investigation into the facts, circumstances and imputability of the alleged offense, I appoint you as investigator in order to conduct the investigation,” the Pope told the retired judge of the Superior Court of Quebec.

Pope Francis’ letter specified that Denis’ investigative mandate is directly linked to the provisions of the 2019 law titled “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the Light of the World”). This apostolic letter sets out several rules that the sovereign pontiff promulgated to fight against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and later renewed in 2023.

Although retired, Denis has received several investigative mandates from dioceses in Quebec since 2020. Previously, he had examined the personal files of all priests linked to nine dioceses in order to discover “any possible indication of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable people.”

In June 2022, after examining the files — including the secret elements contained in them — of some 6,809 priests, deacons and staff members, the judge confirmed that between 1940 and 2021, 87 sexual abusers had victimized children, adolescents and vulnerable people.

The Archdiocese of Quebec has never undertaken such research in its archives.

At the Superior Court of Quebec, Denis is recognized as the first judge in Canada to preside over a trial under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. In 2009, he sentenced Rwandan refugee Désiré Munyaneza to life imprisonment for his active participation in the 1994 genocide.

Pope Francis does not mention in his letter a final date for the submission of the investigative report into Lacroix. Denis understands, however, that “the investigation must be concluded as soon as possible.”

“I set about the task upon my appointment (on Feb. 8) and I wish to present my conclusions to the Pope as quickly as possible,” Denis told Présence. “I will not make any further comments on my investigation.”

In a video made public Jan. 30, Lacroix indicated that an investigation had been launched. 

“The step of reporting to the Holy Father has been completed and we will await the outcome of the ongoing process,” confirmed the Archdiocese of Quebec.

(With Catholic Register files)

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