Former Archbishop of Paris under investigation for sexual assault

PARIS: A preliminary investigation was opened in early December for sexual assault on a vulnerable person after a report from the diocese of Paris on the former archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, while the Catholic Church has been shaken for several years by cases of sexual violence .

The investigations were entrusted to the Brigade for the repression of delinquency against persons (BRDP), said the Paris prosecutor’s office on Tuesday, confirming information from BFMTV.

According to the television channel, the former archbishop had an affair with a vulnerable person subject to a judicial protection measure.

It is, according to a source familiar with the matter, “exchanges of emails” between the religious and this woman, whose apparent consent will have to be confirmed with regard to her mental health.

“We have absolutely no knowledge of a complaint, so we cannot give any indication on this subject”, declared to AFP Me Jean Reinhart, lawyer for Michel Aupetit.

In a press release received on Tuesday evening, the diocese of Paris “confirms having sent a report and specifies – as it indicated to the Paris prosecutor’s office – that it is not in a position to verify whether the facts in question are proven, nor whether they constitute an offence”.

“The report – which did not include the qualification of sexual assault – was carried out” so that “all the necessary verifications could be carried out by the courts, in accordance with the protocol signed in 2019 between the diocese and the Paris prosecutor’s office” , adds the diocese.

Highly contested

At the end of November 2021, Archbishop Aupetit presented his resignation to Pope Francis, who immediately accepted it, after several newspapers attributed to him a romantic relationship with another woman, which he categorically denied.

The man, at the head of the archdiocese of Paris since December 2017, was also highly contested for his management of human resources in the diocese.

Entering the priesthood late – he was ordained at the age of 44 after having practiced medicine for eleven years – Michel Aupetit, 71, exercised various ministries before being appointed bishop: first auxiliary bishop of Paris in 2013, before inheriting a full diocese, that of Nanterre for a little over three years.

The archbishop, who had to manage the fire of Notre-Dame de Paris in 2019, is known for his strict positions on the family and bioethics: he notably supported the “marches for life” hostile to the interruption voluntary pregnancy.

He also had trouble with homosexuals in 2012 during the debates on “marriage for all”.

Some have also criticized him for his relative silence on the issue of pedocrime, after the shock wave created by the publication in early October 2021 of the report of the commission chaired by Jean-Marc Sauvé which showed the extent of the phenomenon in the Catholic Church of France since the 1950s.

Eight former bishops

Still considered a bishop (emeritus) by the Vatican, Mgr Aupetit settled, after his resignation, in a former abbey in Toulouse.

Several retired bishops have been the subject of reports in recent months.

The former bishop of Créteil, Michel Santier, was sanctioned by the Vatican for acts of voyeurism committed during the confession, on two adults in the 90s within the framework of a spiritual formation, facts that he recognised.

Since then, new victims have come forward and a preliminary investigation by the Church has been entrusted to the Bishop of Arras.

And at the beginning of November, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, ex-archbishop of Bordeaux, had caused astonishment by admitting, via a message read by the president of the episcopate, to have had, when he was parish priest in Marseilles thirty -five years, “reprehensible conduct with a 14-year-old girl”.

The Vatican and the Marseille prosecutor’s office have opened a preliminary investigation.

A total of eight former bishops have or have had to deal with civil justice or Church justice “for sexual abuse” (including Bishop Ricard and Bishop Santier), Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the episcopate.

Former Archbishop of Paris under investigation for sexual assault