La Croix International [France]
January 6, 2023
By Christophe Henning
French police have opened a preliminary investigation into Archbishop Michel Aupetit following a report that was filed by the Archdiocese of Paris
The Archdiocese of Paris has filed a report concerning its former archbishop, Michel Aupetit, with the French capital’s Public Prosecutor’s Office. An email correspondence that was discovered between the archbishop and an unidentified woman – the circumstances of which have not been specified – led to the belief that there may have been a relationship of a sexual nature between the two.
A preliminary investigation for sexual assault was then opened because the woman was under guardianship as a vulnerable adult at the time. The investigation will have to determine whether she possessed the capacity to freely consent to a possible sexual relationship.
In a press release published Tuesday evening, the archdiocese confirmed that it had made the report at the end of November. But it also specified that “it is not in a position to verify whether or not the facts in question are true, nor whether they constitute an offense”.
Moreover, it said the report it filed “did not include the qualification of sexual assault”.
In what context is this taking place?
A French television network on Tuesday first revealed that a preliminary investigation had been initiated. This was confirmed by the prosecutor’s office. The unnamed woman who is the possible victim is the same who appeared in a previous case involving Archbishop Aupetit. The French press revealed in November 2021 that the 71-year-old archbishop had had “an intimate relationship” with a woman in 2012 when he was still just a priest.
The archbishop has always denied the sexual nature of their relationship, admitting only to “an ambiguous behavior implying the existence of an intimate relationship”.
Those revelations pushed him to resign. Pope Francis said he accepted the archbishop’s resignation, “not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy”. The pope denounced “the gossip” that had prevented Aupetit from governing the archdiocese from then onward.
How is the investigation going?
The preliminary investigation should allow the prosecutor’s office to determine whether there is reason to launch a criminal procedure, although no complaint has been filed to date.
“Neither he nor I have been informed, either by the archdiocese or by the public prosecutor,” said Jean Reinhart, Archbishop Aupetit’s lawyer. “Up till now, nothing has been said to us about these possible events, and Archbishop Aupetit has no recollection of any gesture or attitude that could constitute sexual abuse,” he told La Croix.
Reinhart said the archbishop “is absolutely serene”. He added that no protective measures have been taken against Aupetit, and “he intends to continue evangelizing among the poor”.