(ZENIT News / Paris, 09.17.2023).- On December 2, 2021, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit from the pastoral leadership of one of the world’s most significant dioceses, that of the French capital.
Weeks before, the French media outlet Point published a somewhat unclear story accusing him of harassment against a vulnerable adult, in an alleged incident dating back to 2012. Even the newspaper Paris Match published some photos that led to legal action against them.
Later, in December 2022, French authorities initiated an investigation into sexual assault against a vulnerable person involving Monsignor Michel Aupetit, following a report from the Paris diocese. The investigation was conducted by the Brigade for the Suppression of Personal Offenses (BRDP).
On June 9, 2023, the retired archbishop had a hearing in which he maintained that he had “never had a romantic or sexual relationship with the woman in question.” The woman involved also stated that there was no crime and did not file a complaint. Consequently, the prosecution closed the case. Specifically, on August 23, 2023, the case against Monsignor Aupetit was dismissed due to a lack of evidence of any crime.
During the return flight after his apostolic visit to Cyprus, a journalist from Le Monde (Cécile Chambraud) asked the Pope, “On Thursday, when we arrived in Nicosia, we learned that you had accepted the resignation of the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Aupetit. Can you explain to us why, and why you did it so quickly?” The Pope responded:
“I wonder, what has Aupetit done so seriously that he had to resign? What has he done? Can anyone tell me?
If we don’t know the accusation, we cannot condemn. What was the accusation? Who knows it?
Before I respond, I will say: conduct the investigation. Conduct the investigation. Because there is a danger in saying, ‘He has been convicted.’ But who has convicted him? ‘Public opinion, gossip.’ But what has he done? ‘We don’t know, something.’ If you know why, then say it. Otherwise, I cannot respond. (…) Aupetit is a sinner, just like I am. I don’t know if he feels that way, but perhaps, like Peter, the bishop upon whom Christ founded the Church. (…) We are all sinners. But when gossip grows and grows and takes away a person’s good reputation, that man cannot lead because he has lost his reputation, not because of his sin—which is a sin, like Peter’s, like mine, like yours, it is a sin!—but because of the gossip from those responsible for spreading such things. A man whose reputation has been taken away in this way, publicly, cannot lead. And this is the injustice. That is why I accepted Aupetit’s resignation not on the altar of truth but on the altar of hypocrisy. This is what I mean. Thank you.”