The Vatican has said it will not probe accusations of sexual misconduct against one of its top cardinals due to insufficient evidence.
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet was named in a class-action lawsuit accusing 80 clergy members of sexual assault in his home province of Quebec.
A former diocesan intern alleged the Cardinal inappropriately touched her at public events between 2008 and 2010.
Cardinal Ouellet has not commented on the accusations.
The Cardinal is not facing criminal accusations and the allegations have not been tested in court.
The allegations surfaced in a statement of claim filed on Tuesday in Canada against the Quebec Catholic diocese.
The woman, who is identified by the initial F in the lawsuit, accused Cardinal Ouellet of inappropriately rubbing her shoulders, hugging her, kissing her on the cheek and slipping his hand down her back, close to her buttocks, all without her consent.
Her complaint was also filed directly to the Vatican in January 2021, with a priest assigned to look into it, according to the filing.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Vatican said there are not enough grounds to issue a canonical investigation – which looks at whether Catholic Church law has been violated – into Cardinal Ouellet.
The woman’s lawyer said her client is “very disappointed” with the Vatican’s refusal to look into the accusations.
“The next step will be to prove it in a civil court instead of a canon law trial,” lawyer Justin Wee told the BBC in a statement.
He added the Vatican did not contact his client to inform her of its decision regarding Cardinal Ouellet prior to Thursday’s announcement.
The civil lawsuit represents more than 101 people in total who allege they were sexually assaulted by members of the clergy in Quebec.
The earliest of the claims date back to 1940. Some plaintiffs allege they were minors when the assaults took place.
Cardinal Ouellet is the most prominent Roman Catholic Church member named in the lawsuit.
He is one of the most powerful cardinals in the Vatican and was a contender for pontiff during the last papal election.
Since 2010, he has served as head of the Congregation for Bishops, which advises the Pope in appointing bishops globally.