Archbishop Aupetit Prepares to Sue French Magazine for Defamation

“If you can no longer eat with a friend without a paparazzo taking pictures of you, what kind of world do we live in?” the archbishop asked.

Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris.
Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris. (photo: Ibex73 / (CC BY-SA 4.0))

PARIS, France — Archbishop Michel Aupetit said this week that he is preparing to sue a French magazine for defamation.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien published on Dec. 13, the archbishop said that his lawyer was preparing to take action against Paris Match after it published images of the archbishop taken with a telephoto lens.

The former archbishop of Paris also suggested in the interview that he was the victim of a “cabal,” but said he couldn’t provide proof. 

The Paris Match report, headlined “Mgr. Aupetit, lost for love” and published Dec. 8, showed Archbishop Aupetit walking through a forest near Paris with the Belgian theologian Laetitia Calmeyn.

The 70-year-old archbishop said that he had lunch with the 46-year-old consecrated virgin at a small bistro, followed by a walk in Meudon forest in France’s Hauts-de-Seine department.

“If you can no longer eat with a friend without a paparazzo taking pictures of you, what kind of world do we live in?” the archbishop asked.

Calmeyn told the French Catholic daily La Croix that she was also considering legal action.

Archbishop Aupetit served as archbishop of Paris from 2018 to Dec. 2, when Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

He asked the Pope to decide his future after the magazine Le Point published a report portraying the archbishop as a divisive and authoritarian figure. 

The report raised concerns about Archbishop Aupetit’s contacts with a woman dating back to 2012, when he was vicar general of the Archdiocese of Paris. 

Archbishop Aupetit, who had a late vocation to the priesthood after working as a doctor, 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.” 

Pope Francis indicated to journalists during an in-flight press conference on Dec. 6 that he had accepted Archbishop Aupetit’s resignation because the archbishop had “lost his reputation so publicly.”

The Pope said that the allegations against Archbishop Aupetit concerned “small caresses and massages that he gave to the secretary.”

But the Vatican’s official transcript of the press conference omitted the word “secretary,” referring simply to “small caresses and massages that he did.”

Archbishop Aupetit said: “There was no affair. Once, this person had a backache. I gave her a massage to alleviate her condition. I recall that I am a doctor.”

He added: “I believe that he [the pope] has mixed up the elements of the story. My poor secretary has nothing to do with this. I know her husband and family well. I baptized her grandchildren.”

Archbishop Aupetit celebrated a farewell Mass in Paris on Dec. 10 in which directly addressed the claim that he was “lost for love.”

“A journalist wrote ‘the archbishop of Paris lost himself for love,’”  he said. “It’s true, it’s true. But she forgot the end of the sentence. The complete sentence is ‘the archbishop of Paris lost himself for love of Christ.’”

Asked by Le Parisien if he was the victim of a cabal, Archbishop Aupetit replied “yes.”

“I have been pointed to people, to networks that have a grudge against me and that have acted. But I have no proof,” he said. 

“I have prayed to God not to put bitterness in my heart and I have prayed for those who wish me ill.”