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Why did the Vatican act so quickly on Archbishop Aupetit?

Pope Francis accepted the Archbishop of Paris’s resignation with alacrity. It is reasonable to ask why.

Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris holds a monstrance while blessing the French capital from the Sacre-Coeur Basilica of Montmartre during the COVID-19 pandemic April 9, 2020. The archbishop offered to resign after a newspaper report criticized his management of the archdiocese and accused him of having an affair with a woman in 2012, an accusation he has denied. (CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters)

Well, the Holy Father turned that one around right quickly. “That” is the resignation of the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, which the Press Office of the Holy See on Thursday told the world Pope Francis has accepted. Francis had Aupetit’s letter late last month, just after Le Point published something between an exposé and an unflattering profile of the Parisian churchman, detailing his strongman governance of the French capital archdiocese and alleging an affair with a woman some years before he became a bishop.

Archbishop Aupetit denied his relationship with the woman was sexual, but called it a “mistake” in a statement and said he offered his resignation “to preserve the diocese from the division that suspicion and loss of trust are continuing to provoke.”

Other churchmen credibly accused of much worse wrongdoing have seen their offers of resignation languish for months and even years.

From Donald Cardinal Wuerl – who fudged egregiously à propos of what he knew about Uncle Ted McCarrick and when he knew it – to France’s own Primate, Philippe Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon – who admitted to gross mismanagement that amounted to coverup of gruesome serial abuse – and the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Ranier Maria Woelki, and several others in between, Francis has practiced Fabianism, employed double-speak, and complained when he’s had to do anything.

Pope Francis outright refused the resignation of Munich’s Reinhard Cardinal Marx. How Francis’s friendly management of the unfortunate Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta hasn’t been front-and-center since the story of it broke in 2019 simply defies explanation.

Pope Francis accepted Archbishop Aupetit’s resignation with alacrity. It is reasonable to ask why.

There’s an iota’s difference between a young vicar having a girlfriend back in the day – if that’s what she was – and a bishop assaulting his seminarians or a cardinal covering for priests who rape children, but Francis appears to be less tolerant of the first than he has shown himself to be with the latter two kinds of misbehavior. Perhaps it was the strongman style of governance alleged against Archbishop Aupetit that did him in?

Whatever the reason – the faithful may have a moral right to know the pope’s mind, but ought not hold their breath while waiting for an explanation – accepting Archbishop Aupetit’s resignation was so urgent a matter that the Vatican announced it on the day Pope Francis left on a trip to Cyprus and Greece.

News of the accepted resignation overtook papal press coverage in France and overshadowed coverage of the trip around the world. One wonders whether the comms geniuses in the Vatican didn’t think it would be the other way around: that the one line in the daily bulletin announcing Francis had accepted Aupetit’s letter should have got buried in news coverage of the papal trip?

Pope Francis is losing all legitimacy by this terrible lack of judgement,” said the founder of the Lyon-based La Parole Libérée advocacy group, Francois Devaux. “This gentleman should read the Gospel again.”

Also in France this week, members with leadership roles in a major Catholic academy published a critique of the recent independent commission (CIASE) report on abuse and coverup in the French Church over the last seventy years. The signatories complained that the CIASE reporters didn’t stay in their lane, and played fast and loose with methodology to come up with high numbers of victims.

The report put the numbers in a range running from 165,000 to 270,000 victims of clerics, 265,000 to 396,000 total victims between 1950 and 2020. The numbers of clerical abusers ran from 2,900 to 3,200 over the same period. Experts with whom this journalist has spoken, including sociologists and survivor-advocates, say the number of victims is plausible, but the number of abusers is quite possibly low.

The methodology of the CIASE study deserves scrutiny. The man who led the commission that produced the CIASE report welcomes it. “Criticism of our report is of course legitimate,” CIASE president Jean-Marc Sauvé told France’s La Croix. “I wrote about it in the foreword [to the report],” Sauvé also said, adding that he felt “sadness, and even grief,” at the criticism from the Academie Catholique, of which Sauvé is a member.

The president of the French bishops’ conference, Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, resigned from the Academie over the criticism. In a Nov. 29th op-ed in La Croix, Moulins-Beaufort pre-emptively cut through the quibbling over numbers to say that the French bishops understand the victims and the abusers are “too great a number for us to consider this as a marginal phenomenon.”

No French bishop is looking for other work as a result of the CIASE report. The Church in Paris is headless now, after an article in Le Point.

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About Christopher R. Altieri 190 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, editor and author of three books, including Reading the News Without Losing Your Faith (Catholic Truth Society, 2021). He is contributing editor to Catholic World Report.


  1. How can the situation in the French Church be called anything but catastrophic? The world-famous cathedral in its capital city on the razor’s-edge of being converted into a “politically correct Disneyland” after being saved only by a miracle from collapsing as a result of a fire caused by gross negligence or even arson. Successive Archbishops of Paris self-admittedly guilty of at best breath-taking errors of judgment and at worst horrendous crimes involving children. Cathedrals and churches throughout the rest of the country being routinely vandalized and burned down month after month by Muslim terrorists. And a laity composed of “Catholic” faithful where 98% do not even attend Mass on Sunday.

    What is even more head-spinning is that all of this is emblematic and even typical of the universal rot and corruption that affects the entire Western Church, starting from Rome and the very top of the Church.

    • Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Aupetit needs to be sent to the Kergulen Islands or some such wasteland and disappear. Sorry Padre that ypu feel such empathy for Aupetit and none for your many gay brothers and sisters who faithfully serve.

  2. It is a bit more complicated than that. Last week Msgr. Aupetit presented an aggiornomento of the interior of Notre Dame that got everyone worked up. He wants to get rid of Confession boxes with sound and light! That would not stress out too many French men but he also wanted to revamp side chapels. All that was untouched by the fire. The historical architects are up in arm. I think le Point had that story ready to go, and the announcement of the project was the incentive.

    Secondo, one cannot say that he was very conservative and that was why Pope Francis accepted his resignation . Msgr. Aupetit got rid of many Latin Mass Parishes, falling more in line again with the progressists.
    But he was pro life and outspoken against Macron….that got him in hot water with the socialists.
    As a French man commented: the Msgr managed to get everyone upset in Paris!
    As they say in France, Msgr. A had become a hot potato.
    For now, in Paris, they are enjoying a break. But not like they are not preparing for the worst.
    Pray for France!Pray for Paris!

  3. This story, as interpreted by Chris Altieri, is intriguing. Does it suggest that His Holiness is of a sudden gunshy of alleged wanton bishops because of Le Point? Perhaps, depending on what motivated the unusually quick dismissal.
    A recent CNA article addressed the dismissal; it appeared to this writer then to have more to do with affiliation than allegations of wantonness and brute force management. As catalogued by Altieri most of the refused resignations, except for Woelki [an attempt at appearing fair and balanced?] were of men with far more egregious baggage but were affiliated with His Holiness’ new paradigm religion. Whereas, Archbishop Aupetit, quite similar to Cardinal Sarah, whose resignation was greeted with similar alacrity were of the old time religion.
    Then there was Cardinal Raymond Burke, another religious old timer, former Apostolic Signatura, he was too young to be shown the door and was instead exiled to Malta Pope Francis quipping, “He likes to travel”.

    • A miconception that Archbishop Aupetit was a ‘progressive’, based on the interior renovation proposals for Notre Dame, a complex issue that involves a French Goverment owned building, Notre Dame, the influence of artists consulted by the government I submit the following:
      “Archbishop Aupetit, 66, was something of a late vocation [if you only count the priesthood as a vocation]. He was ordained at age 44, after a previous vocation as a medical doctor. He practiced medicine from 1979 to 1990 and taught bioethics until 2006. His book, L’Embryon, Quells Enjeux? [The Embryo: What Are the Stakes? Paris: Éditions Salvator, 2008] is a vigorous defense of the unborn child” (John Grondelski PhD Archbishop Michel Aupetit: Paris’ New Pro-Life Champion NCReg Jan 2018).

  4. Please continue to investigate this strange turn of events, Mr. Altieri. It is practically impossible to access balanced, well-researched commentary—yours is the only one so far that doesn’t parrot AP. This is a critical moment, and event, in French and European Catholicism and there is surely much more than meets the eye. Very grateful for insights and your dedication.

  5. Mr. Altieri touched a few issues regarding the papal character that others fear to go to in the Catholic press and which require much further probing. Go for it. Insightful and much appreciated.

  6. I’m not a theologian, but a secular manager, although he’s supposed to be something more than a secular manager, a bishop, including the bishop of Rome does have management responsibilities.

    Good managers have follow the triad of managerial effectiveness, firmness, fairness and consistency. All seem lacking with the present Pope, especially consistency

    Instead he seems arbitrary, capricious and erratic. In short, he’s the one who Perhaps it is he who indulges a strongman style of governance.

    The only thing I fear about his eventual departure is how much he he will have filled the College of Cardinals with ideological fellow travelers.

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