Pope Francis has ruled out a formal church investigation into a sexual assault claim against Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet after preliminary inquiries found no basis for one, the Vatican said Thursday.
Ouellet, once considered a strong candidate to be pope, was named in court documents this week relating to a class action suit targeting more than 80 members of the clergy in the archdiocese of Quebec.
The 78-year-old is accused of abusing a female intern identified only as "F" from 2008 to 2010, when he was archbishop of Quebec.
In its first response to the case, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement that a "preliminary investigation" already ordered by Pope Francis had found there were "no elements to initiate a trial".
The pontiff went back to the author of that probe, a Father Jacques Servais, and was told again that there were no grounds for opening a formal investigation.
"Following further relevant consultations, Pope Francis declares that there are insufficient elements to open a canonical investigation for sexual assault by Cardinal Ouellet against person F," the statement said.
Ouellet is a prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, one of the most important functions within the Curia, the government of the Vatican.