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World March 1, 2019

French nuncio accused of sexual misconduct during time in Canada

By CNA / EWTN News

French president Emmanuel Macron (L) greets Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to France, in Paris, Jan. 4, 2018. Credit: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images.

OTTAWA (CNA)—Archbishop Luigi Ventura, apostolic nuncio to France, has been accused of sexual misconduct against an adult male while he was nuncio in Canada. The Vatican diplomat is already under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Paris.

Christian Vachon emailed the nunciature to France Feb. 22 to file a complaint against Archbishop Ventura. Vachon says that during a banquet held July 26, 2008 at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, about 20 miles northest of Quebec, Archbishop Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice. At the time, Vachon was 32.

“I believe that the 'modus operandi' of Archbishop Ventura has left a doubt in the conscience of the victim as to whether he was truly a victim of touch,” Vachon's email to the nunciature read, according to Présence, a French Canadian religious news service.

Archbishop Ventura, 74, was apostolic nuncio to Canada from 2001 to 2009.

In 2008, Vachon part of the pastoral team at the basilica, and was discerning religious life. He told  Présence he was asked to be a server at the head table: “The people could not see, because it was in the back of the room. We were thus facing the guests. No one could witness it.”

He said Archbishop Ventura touched his buttocks while he was serving him, and he thought at first it might have been inadvertent, but a second time he felt the nuncio's hands “grazing my buttocks.”

Vachon said Archbishop Ventura tried to speak with him during the meal, but he was too shocked and scandalized to engage with him. He says he told a colleague what had happened, without identifying the nuncio. He has also, in recent years, told his wife.

In the wake of the new wave of clergy sex abuse scandal, he shared his experience, again without identifying Archbishop Ventura, on an online forum in December 2018.

“Has a crime been commited? I am not able to say yes. It is immoral, out of place, undignified for his function,” Vachon told  Présence.

Vachon informed both the Canadian nunciature and Bishop Serge Poitras of Timmins, a former secretary to Archbishop Ventura, of his claims about the nuncio. Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the present apostolic nuncio to Canada, phoned Vachon the same day to discuss his claims.

Vachon said he did not inform the nunciature earlier because “it was the equivalent of complaining directly to [his] aggressor,” and he didn't inform the police because it is a “he said-he said” situation.

Bonazzi told Présence that Vachon's allegations are the only ones the Canadian nunciature has received against Archbishop Ventura.

French daily Le Monde reported Feb. 15 that Archbishop Ventura is being investigated by Parisian authorities after he was accused late last month of having inappropriately touched a young male staffer of Paris City Hall.

The alleged assault is said to have taken place in Paris’ City Hall Jan. 17, during a reception for the annual New Year address of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Archbishop Ventura was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brescia in 1969. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1978 and was stationed in Brazil, Bolivia, and the UK. From 1984 to 1995 he was appointed to serve at the Secretariat of State in the Section for Relations with States.

After his episcopal consecration in 1995, Archbishop Ventura served as nuncio to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chile, and Canada. He was appointed apostolic nuncio to France in September 2009.