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Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit

PARIS, France (LifeSiteNews) — Michel Aupetit, the archbishop of Paris since 2017, tendered his resignation to Pope Francis on Friday, shortly after having been accused by the French weekly Le Point of having had an intimate relationship with an adult woman in 2012.  

News of the offer to resign was leaked by Le Figaro; Archbishop Aupetit did not deny his offer but said he had wanted to keep the move a secret in order to allow the Pope to decide whether to accept it or not “in total freedom.” He did repeat that he rejected the accusations. 

Aupetit is deeply disliked by the left for having abruptly shut down the very progressive pastoral center of Saint-Merry parish in the heart of Paris earlier this year, which he replaced with another progressive group, the Community of Sant’Egidio. But his attitude towards traditional Catholics, his harshness towards a priest accused of not respecting COVID restrictions during France’s second confinement, and his disgusted finger-pointing at those who continued to receive Holy Communion on the tongue despite the “sanitary crisis” show Aupetit as an aggressively ideological anti-traditionalist.  

What is the truth behind the accusation? It came at the end of a lengthy story by Marie Bordet and Violaine de Montclos, in which the two journalists listed the many grievances of Aupetit’s clergy against their hierarchical superior – few seem to have found a father in this man whose “authoritarian” and “condescending” style – “a giver of lessons,” as the French put it – has visibly created much bitterness on all sides. 

It appears that this bitterness, or at any rate concern, about seeing a man who showed so little support for so many of his priests continue as the head of one of France’s most important dioceses must have played a role in the leaking of his alleged history of disregard for the rule of celibacy. 

It took over nine years for the information about Archbishop Aupetit’s possible affair with a woman to whom he was giving spiritual direction to hit the media. The accusation was founded on an email to her that Aupetit is said to have accidentally transferred to his ex-secretary in 2012, according to Le Point. The email purportedly suggested the intimate relationship between Aupetit, who was the time vicar-general of the diocese of Paris, and the letter’s original addressee. 

The ex-secretary carefully kept the email. At what point was it revealed to members of the Parisian clergy? Le Point asserts, and according to sources consulted by LifeSiteNews the episode did in fact take place, that Aupetit’s team of close collaborators were made aware of the piece of evidence in the spring of 2020. 

If there was indeed a liaison between the vicar-general and a consenting adult, a woman who came to him for spiritual direction, this would not constitute a penal offense, but it would have gravely contravened the priest’s vow of celibacy. As Le Point points out, faced with a priest in such a situation, Aupetit would have had to suspend him – while being securely in place as a bishop with a similar transgression to his discredit. 

Which is why Aupetit was confronted with the email by a small group of collaborators – the fewer than ten people who had actually read it – asking for explanations and seeking to manage the looming storm. Aupetit became entangled in unsatisfactory explanations, first saying he would step down, and then going back on his word. 

By May 2020, in a climate of broken trust, the email was brought to the attention of the Apostolic Nuncio to France, Mgr. Celestino Migliore. Migliore did not confirm nor deny to Le Point that an internal investigation was then initiated. The weekly states, however, that the case was entrusted to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, a former Archbishop of Paris, by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for the Bishops in Rome. 

“It seems that since then the investigation has been mired somewhere between Paris and Rome,” wrote the journalists. This would not be a good mark for Cardinal Ouellet, who is charged with keeping an eye on the proper functioning and reputation of the men in charge of the Church’s dioceses — successors of the Apostles, to boot. 

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Was this the first that Cardinals Ouellet and Vingt-Trois (who was Archbishop of Paris in 2012 when Aupetit’s affair is said to have taken place) had ever heard of the business? Whatever the answer to that question, certainly no action was taken until November 22nd of this year, when the story became headline news. In between, two vicars general resigned from their position, some say as a sign of protest against the duplicity of the situation. 

Aupetit’s strange defense is also quite revealing. He stated: “I admit that I mishandled the situation with a person who repeatedly sought me out. I confided this mistake to my spiritual guide.” Was this a form of harassment? And if so, would it be necessary to obtain advice from a spiritual director, when the only response – especially if the situation leads to temptation – is to run? 

He also claimed that he had been the recipient of the email, adding: “I recognize, however, that my attitude may have been ambiguous, implying that there was an intimate relationship between us, including sexual relations, something that I forcefully refute.” 

His words did not convince the French press, and the word in Paris, on Friday evening, was that the woman in the affair has been identified by several media, and that more is forthcoming. 

Meanwhile, Catholics in Paris cannot help mulling over the many affronts that they have suffered at the hands of their Archbishop. 

Aupetit, formerly a medical doctor with a “belated vocation” – he was ordained at age 44, was among those who diligently applied government measures during France’s first lockdown from March to May 2020, going so far as to forbid priests from offering private Masses in homes for those who wished to continue practicing their faith. 

The second lockdown in November led to multiple demonstrations of Catholics in France asking for the reopening of churches for worship. Instead of supporting these demands, Archbishop Aupetit gave an interview on the official Paris radio station of the Catholic Church, Radio Notre Dame, in which he attacked Catholics who wanted to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and even priests, accusing them of “conducting their personal business” to obtain Mass to the detriment of their “brother” Catholics. 

Many listeners were shocked by his words: 

I’d like to take this opportunity to say that all the people who want to do as they please under the pretext that… And they’re the ones who screwed things up for us, eh? … That is to say that the Ministry of the Interior on the day of the audience at the Council of State had brought videos that showed that in some parishes, probably including some in Paris — yes, in Paris, I know this is happening in Paris. Well, people were receiving Communion on the tongue because that’s how you have to receive Communion in the “Mass of All Time.” We see that these people don’t know history because it’s in the sixth century that we began to receive Communion on the tongue. And then they weren’t wearing masks and so on. So, they told us, “Look, you’re incapable of holding your troops. So, now you need to get serious.” In addition, priests who promised obedience at their ordination should also remember that. That is to say, it is not good enough to say, “I promise obedience to you and your successors” and then do whatever you want. So, if you want Mass to really resume on December 1… Those who conduct their personal little business in their private corner prevent all their brothers from being able to attend Mass. 

The French government had never mentioned having a problem with the distribution of Communion on the tongue, over which, in any case, it has no competence. Aupetit went over and beyond official requirements, making Communion in the hand mandatory. 

In April of this year, the parish of Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile in Paris was under fire for a Mass where “social distancing” was not observed according to a non-Catholic witness. The informant warned the media that priests had touched the forehead of people being baptized with their hands and that faithful were not wearing masks during the Easter vigil. 

Canon Marc Guelfucci, the parish priest, did not get the least support from the archbishop: instead, the communication office of the diocese slammed him for not having observed the “sanitary measures.” Aupetit published a communiqué three days later saying that a canonical process had been opened against the priest. No support was given either when Canon Guelfucci was taken into police custody – where he was met with “exceptional courtesy” by officers who seemed “embarrassed” and “indignant” at having to interrogate priests in what was clearly a political affair. 

Quick to sanction and punish, Michel Aupetit also created a scandal in 2020 when he ousted a traditionally-minded director of a major Catholic secondary school in Paris, Saint-Jean-de-Passy. François-Xavier Clément was accused of having used hard-handed discipline and moral harassment techniques on his staff. Following a hostile investigation by an audit firm mandated by the archdiocese, Clément was suspended without warning and later fired, while also being “reported” to the Public Prosecutor. 

Clément and his collaborator, Jean Ducret, were both cleared of all accusations when the case against them was dismissed last January after a judiciary investigation. 

In his latest anti-tradition move, Archbishop Aupetit published a letter in September implementing Traditionis Custodes, in which he severely reduced the number of Parisian churches where the traditional Mass can be offered from ten to five. Only priests with “written permission” from the archbishop may now offer the Tridentine Mass in Paris – even those who regularly celebrated it. 

When called upon by a group of Catholics to explain what was happening, after a parish mass in Paris on October 10, Aupetit responded: “I never suppressed Masses.” When a young father said this would make it difficult for his family to go to the parishes where the traditional Mass is authorized because of transportation problems, Archbishop Aupetit said he would just have to make do with the situation. 

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