PARIS (AP) — The archbishop of Paris has offered to step down after admitting to having had an “ambiguous” relationship with a woman in 2012, the archdiocese said.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit, who has led the Paris church since 2018, sent a letter to Pope Francis offering to resign following a report in Le Point magazine.
There was no indication if or when Francis might act on it; he has refused to accept similar offers from other prelates caught up in scandal.
In an article published this week, Le Point said Aupetit had a consensual, intimate relationship with a woman. The report relied on several anonymous sources who said they had seen a 2012 e-mail Aupetit sent by mistake to his secretary.
Aupetit denied being the author of the email and told Le Point that he didn’t have intimate and sexual relations with the woman.
Roman Catholic prelates take vows of chastity. At the time of the alleged relationship, Aupetit was a priest in the archdiocese of Paris; he was made an auxiliary bishop of Paris in 2013 and was installed as Paris archbishop in January 2018.
In an interview Friday with Catholic radio Notre Dame, Aupetit denounced the “virulent” Le Point article.
“Those who knew me at the time and who shared my daily life would certainly tell that I was not living a double life, as the article suggests,” he said. “I recognize, as I have said before, that I poorly handled the situation with a person who was in contact many times with me.”
Calling it a “mistake,” he said he decided not to see the woman any more after speaking with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the then-Paris archbishop, at the beginning of 2012.
In comments to La Croix newspaper published Friday, Aupetit said that he did not use the word “resignation” in his letter to Francis, which he said would mean that he was “abandoning” his function. He said he instead put the decision in the hands of the pope.
He is the latest Catholic bishop to do so. The former archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, offered to resign in 2019 after a French court convicted him of failing to report a pedophile priest. Francis refused to accept the resignation pending the outcome of Barbarin’s appeal, though he accepted it the following year, by which time Barbarin had been acquitted.
More recently, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, offered to resign over the Catholic Church’s “catastrophic” mishandling of clergy sexual abuse cases.
Francis refused to accept it and Marx remains in office.
Only the pope can hire or fire bishops, or accept their resignations. At 70, Aupetit is five years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.