Pope Francis answered questions concerning the resignation of Michel Aupetit, the former Archbishop of Paris while travelling back to the Vatican from Greece.
“I accepted Aupetit’s resignation not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy,” Pope Francis said on the plane returning to Rome after his trip to Cyprus and Greece on December 6, 2021. The head of the Catholic Church said he considers the archbishop of Paris a victim of “rumors” that destroyed his reputation and prevented him from governing. “It is an injustice,” he said.
Without giving any explanation, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit from the post of archbishop of Paris on December 2. The 70-year-old prelate had handed over his office after the publication on November 22 of an article in the weekly magazine Le Point reporting that the prelate had an affair with a woman in 2012. The article also took issue with the archbishop’s governing style.
Questioned inflight by journalists about his decision, Pope Francis took the time to express his indignation about the way things have unfolded.
The Holy Father began by saying he didn’t know exactly what “Aupetit did that was so serious” that Aupetit came to resign. “If we do not know the cause, we cannot condemn. What was the cause? Who knows?” he asked journalists, asking them to investigate.
Then he affirmed that it was “public opinion” and “rumor” that had condemned the Archbishop of Paris.
For his part, Aupetit denied having had an affair. He said he had handled “the situation badly with one person.” And admitted that his “behavior towards her could be ambiguous, thus implying the existence between us of an intimate relationship and sexual relations, which I refute with force. (…) I decided not to see her again and I informed her of this.”
“Aupetit is a sinner. I am… as was Peter.”
Pope Francis noted the accusations leveled against Archbishop Aupetit are “a fault against the 6th commandment, not in a total way, but small caresses, massages that he gave to his secretary. That is the accusation.”
“It is a sin,” the Pope said of these presumed actions, though he added that sins of the flesh “are not the most serious.”
“Aupetit is a sinner. I am… as was Peter, the bishop on whom Jesus Christ founded the Church,” the 266th Pope said.
And again he asked: “How could the community of that day have accepted a sinful bishop [Peter]?”
For the Pope, “a normal Church” must be accustomed to always feel sinful. The Church of Peter’s day, the early Church, was “a humble Church.” He denounced today’s often superficial attitude toward bishops saying, “we pretend to say: ‘my bishop is a saint.'” But, in fact, “we are all sinners.”
“The altar of hypocrisy”
To conclude his response, the Pope summarized his position. “When rumors grow, grow… they destroy the reputation of a person [who] can no longer govern.” For him, such a situation is “an injustice,” “because his reputation is destroyed, not because of his sin […] but because of the rumor.”
Pope Francis concluded with this pithy formula: “This is why I accepted Aupetit’s resignation, not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy.”
Gossip is one of the sins that Pope Francis speaks against most often and most strongly. He has compared it to a type of terrorism – like when a bomb is launched anonymously, destroying all those in the area.
Pope Francis’ full response on the resignation of Archbishop Aupetit :
Pope Francis: On the Aupetit case. I ask myself: What did Aupetit do that was so serious that he had to resign? What did he do? (I don’t know) If we don’t know the cause, we can’t condemn. What was the cause? Who knows? It’s ugly, isn’t it?
Reporter: “Were there problems of governance or other things?”
Pope Francis: Before I answer, I will say: Investigate. Investigate. Because there is the danger of telling us, “He was condemned.” Who condemned him? It’s public opinion, it’s rumor. But what did he do? We don’t know…something? If you know why, say so. If not, I can’t answer. You will find out why.
Because there was a fault on his part, a fault against the 6th commandment, not in a total way, but little caresses, massages that he gave to his secretary. That’s the accusation. It is a sin.
But it is not one of the most serious sins, because the sins of the flesh are not the most serious. The most serious sins are those that have the most angelic nature. Arrogance, hatred… these are the most serious.
Aupetit is a sinner. I am… as was Peter, the bishop on whom Jesus Christ founded the Church. How could the community of that day accept a sinful bishop? And this one had committed sins without any angelic nature, the sin of denying Christ.
But this was a normal Church, they were used to always feeling sinful, all of them. It was a humble Church. You can see that our Church is not used to having a sinful bishop, we pretend to say “my bishop is a saint.” Not this red hat. We are all sinners.
When the rumor grows, grows… it destroys the reputation of a person, he will not be able to govern anymore. Because his reputation is destroyed, not because of his sin – which is sin, like Peter’s, like mine, like yours, it’s a sin – but because of the rumors of the people responsible for saying such things.
The man whose reputation has been publicly destroyed in this way cannot govern. And this is an injustice. That is why I accepted Aupetit’s resignation, not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy.