A former nun dismissed without stated reason from a French traditionalist community has filed a civil case for damages against Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who signed her expulsion order while he was prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops.
Marie Ferréol, 57, said she was never told why Cardinal Ouellet issued the document in 2020 following an apostolic visit to the mother house of the Dominicans of the Holy Spirit, near Vannes in Brittany.
The case is the third currently facing the Canadian cardinal, two others being accusations that he acted inappropriately with women while Archbishop of Québec in 2003-2010.
Ouellet, who retired in January aged 78, denies the first two accusations and has filed a suit for defamation of character in Québec. He has said nothing so far about the third.
Reports in France say the latest case apparently arises from a dispute within the small traditionalist community and has no link to the sexual abuse scandals confronting the Church.
Ferréol belonged to the community for 34 years and wants to return. She has said that the dismissal decree accused her of having an “evil spirit” but gave no concrete reasons.
“I repeatedly demanded proof, precise and detailed facts. They have been systematically refused,” she said. Vatican officials first told her to examine her conscience, and then said the whole matter was confidential.
Ferréol now has no right to any income from the community or the state.
“Neither those responsible for her dismissal nor her community were concerned about how she could live,” her lawyer Adeline le Gouvello said.
The former nun appealed to the Vatican against the cardinal's initial decision in 2021 but was rebuffed.
Her case names two other religious involved in the dispute, the Dominican abbot who conducted the apostolic visit and the mother superior of the community. Both are said to be close to Ouellet.
Pope Francis wrote to the Dominicans of the Holy Spirit personally in 2021 to apologise for the Vatican’s failure to deal sooner with disruptions in the community linked to disputed abuse claims and exorcisms.
He put Cardinal Ouellet in charge of the apostolic visit. The community was under the Ecclesia Dei Commission until that body, set up to deal with the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was terminated in 2019.
The community, which runs five schools in France and follows pre-Vatican II rites, was founded by an abbot close to SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.