Pope Francis said on Monday the resignation of Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, following reports of an alleged romantic relationship with a woman, was “unfair.”
The archbishop did not feel forced to resign because of his relationship with a woman, but due to the public’s rush to judgement, Francis said during his return flight from Greece.
The pontiff accepted a resignation request from the archbishop last week after reports of the alleged love affair.
“When gossip grows, grows, grows, it takes away a person’s reputation,” the pope said. The archbishop could then no longer remain in a position of responsibility.
“This is unfair. I accepted Aupetit’s resignation not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy.”
A local newspaper reported that the archbishop had a romantic relationship with a woman in 2012. Aupetit confirmed a relationship with the woman during his time as vicar general, but said it had not been romantic or sexual.
A romantic relationship would be a violation of celibacy, a vow made by all Catholic clergymen.
“I ask myself: What has Aupetit done that is so bad that he has to resign? What did he do?” Francis asked journalists on the plane.
He said Aupetit violated the sixth commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”), but “not totally. He lightly caressed and massaged his secretary.” That was a sin, “but not one of the most serious,” the pontiff said.
The “sins of the flesh” are less serious than others, such as hatred, he said.
Criminally, the case is irrelevant. Aupetit had been archbishop of Paris since 2017 and was thus a high-ranking representative of the Catholic Church in France.