(LifeSiteNews) — Less than a week after Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit offered to step down, Pope Francis accepted his resignation with unusual haste.
The Pope was traveling to Cyprus and Greece for a five-day trip when the Holy See confirmed the resignation in its official Bollettino.
Archbishop Aupetit will be replaced by the Archbishop Emeritus Georges Pontier of Marseille, who has been named apostolic administrator for as long as Rome sees fit.
Aupetit’s decision to place his fate in the Pope’s hands closely followed media reports criticizing his “governance” of the diocese and also an accusation of having a consensual affair with a woman under his spiritual direction in 2012 while he was vicar general. The accusation stems from an email suggesting an intimate relationship existed between Aupetit and the woman. The email appeared to have been mistakenly forwarded to his secretary at the time.
Aupetit reacted with a statement titled “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Referring to his past comments on the “painful events of last week,” he stated that he “placed his mission within the hands of the Pope in order to preserve the diocese from division such as is always the result of suspicion and the losing of confidence.”
The Archbishop previously said he did not have a physical affair with the woman but acknowledged that he may have had “an ambiguous attitude” that suggested “the existence” of an “intimate relationship and sexual acts.”
Aupetit has also claimed that the compromising email was not in fact written by him but received by him at an address he shared with his secretary of the time.
He added that his heart was “profoundly at peace” even though he had been “deeply troubled by the attacks” against him. He gave “thanks to God, who has always given (him) the gift of a benevolent gaze” on his fellow men and of “love of people” that also led him to choose to become a doctor before answering his late vocation that led to ordination at age 44. “Taking care is something that is profoundly anchored in my being and relational difficulties among people do not undermine that,” he said.
That statement appeared to be a direct retort to many accusations regarding the archbishop’s rugged approach to his clergy, of which LifeSite received confirmation from several sources.
The fact that the Pope so quickly accepted the bishop’s resignation would seem to lend credence to the accusation that came so many years after the purported liaison with a consenting (or even, according to Aupetit, insistent) woman.
According to “La Croix” – the unofficial daily of the Catholic episcopate in France – in the customary absence of explanations from the Holy See, this interpretation is “quite unlikely.” The daily quoted a Roman source as saying:
“A complaint about an alleged affair in the past, with a consenting woman, with so few elements and of which the Vatican was already aware, well before the article in ‘Le Point’ … this is not what can make an archbishop be tossed out.”
The interesting thing is the apparent confirmation that the Holy See had been informed of the Archbishop’s unseemly conduct, as “Le Point” itself suggested. The article had made clear that the email was revealed to Aupetit’s close collaborators at the beginning of last year and that Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the Congregation for the Bishops passed the file on to Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the former Archbishop of Paris of whom Aupetit happens to be a protégé.
“La Croix” suggested that the resignation was in fact accepted so speedily because of the obvious problems Aupetit had with his diocesan clergy that culminated in two vicar generals stepping down during the past few months. Such haste is not characteristic of Pope Francis, insisted “La Croix,” recalling the months that passed between German Cardinal Rainer Woelki’s offer to step down after canonical proceedings were opened against him and the Pope’s decision merely to suspend him for a limited period of six months.
Many questions remain unanswered regarding the Archbishop of Paris. One thing is certain: He is not particularly favorable to Catholics attached to the Traditional Rite, going out of his way to sanction and condemn priests who were not in line with diocese and his requirements regarding COVID measures and Communion on the tongue.
Aupetit also mishandled false accusations against a too-traditional high school director, firing him during the spring lockdown in 2020 for authoritarianism and harassment. François-Xavier Clément was cleared of these accusations in a civil trial.
Aupetit also complied with Pope Francis’s Traditionis Custodes by scrapping most of the diocese’s authorized traditional Masses and severely restricting access to the celebration of the Tridentine rite for his diocesan priests.
Other sources suggest that Aupetit had lost the confidence and the sympathy of the leading bishops because he was part of the 30 percent minority of French bishops who strongly objected to making the church responsible as an institution for sexual abuse cases of minors by clerics over the last 50 years. The Sauvé report recently accused the church of France – that does not exist as an entity – of collectively bearing the guilt of some 330,000 cases of abuse. These numbers appear to have been wildly exaggerated on the basis of manipulated internet polls.
“La Croix,” which has been campaigning for the “synodal” renovation of the Catholic Church in line with Pope Francis’s agenda, published an editorial Thursday saying “this episode shows how urgently a renovation of the churches governance is needed, as well as that of the process of the naming of bishops. The current synodal approach comes at the right moment.”
Whatever the true reason behind Aupetit’s demise, his replacement by Archbishop Pontier is not a sign of hope for Paris. Pontier, former head of the French Bishops Conference, is a known progressive who actually took part in the semi-clandestine “Day of Reflection” in anticipation of the 2015 Synod on the Family, where it was said that the Catholic Church needs “developments on sexuality” and a new “theology of love.” LifeSite reported on the meeting at the time under the title: “Bishops plot Revolution on Church teaching at secret Rome meeting.”