The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, has offered his resignation to Pope Francis due to his “ambiguous behavior” with a woman, his diocese announced on Friday.
Archbishop Aupetit wrote to the pope last week offering to step down following an investigation by Le Point magazine earlier this month, a diocese spokeswoman said.
“He had ambiguous behavior with a person he was very close to,” the spokeswoman said, adding that it was “not a loving relationship,” nor sexual.
The offer to resign was “not a confession of guilt, but a humble gesture, an offer of dialogue,” she added.
Catholic priests are bound to celibacy under church doctrine and are meant to practice sexual abstinence.
The French church is still recovering from the publication in October of a devastating report by an independent commission which estimated that Catholic clergy had abused 216,000 children since 1950.
Dealing with the avalanche of revelations about sexual abuse by priests was one of the biggest challenges that Francis faced when he was elected pope in 2013.
A Catholic News Agency report, however, said the archbishop is not resigning.
The 70-year-old archbishop, who was installed in the French capital in 2018, told the Catholic daily La Croix that he had written to the pope out of a concern to preserve the unity of his archdiocese.
“The word ‘resignation’ is not the one I used,” he said. “Resignation would mean that I am abandoning my office. In reality, I am handing it over to the Holy Father because it is he who gave it to me.”
He added: “I did it to preserve the diocese, because as a bishop I must be at the service of unity.”
Archbishop Aupetit, who had a late vocation to the priesthood after working as a doctor, was speaking after the French weekly magazine Le Point published a report portraying him as an authoritarian and divisive figure.
The report also raised concerns about Archbishop Aupetit’s contacts with a woman dating back to 2012, when he was vicar general of Paris archdiocese.
Archbishop Aupetit told Le Point that he was not in a relationship with the woman.
He said: “My behavior towards her may have been ambiguous, thus suggesting the existence between us of an intimate relationship and sexual relations, which I strongly refute … I decided not to see her again and I informed her.”
Archbishop Aupetit told La Croix that he had spoken to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, about his situation, as well as to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio to France.
“This is not because of what I should or should not have done in the past — otherwise I would have left a long time ago — but to avoid division, if I myself am a source of division,” he said. – with a report from AFP and CNA