(ABC4) – While he didn’t condone the behavior, Pope Francis responded to allegations of sexual wrongdoing by a Paris archbishop by saying, “sins of the flesh are not the most serious.”
The leader of the Catholic Church made his remarks while speaking to reporters abroad his papal aircraft while returning to Rome from a trip to Greece. His response was prompted by an inquiry regarding the resignation of Paris archbishop Michel Aupetit last week.
Aupetit has denied a sexual relationship with an unnamed woman, but reports from around the globe suggest he has acknowledged his connection to her as ambiguous. Members of the clergy in the Catholic faith are bound by a vow of celibacy.
According to the Pope, the accusation against Aupetit was based on a ‘small caress, massage given to his secretary,’ and not a ‘total’ failing against the commandment against committing adultery.
“There is a sin there, but not the worst kind,” the Pope stated on Monday.
Francis continued by saying he had accepted Aupetit’s resignation not because of any confirmed commandment-breaking, but rather due to the impact the allegations had on his reputation.
“He (the bishop) was condemned but by whom? By public opinion, by gossip…he could no longer govern.”
Francis also stated he considered sins of the flesh, such as adultery, to be transgressions but that other sins, such as hatred and pride, were far more serious.
The allegations against Aupetit came just two months after a major French investigation found that over 200,000 children had been sexually abused by clergy in the country for a span of 70 years. These abuses were largely known and swept under the rug by the Church, the report charged.
“Faced with this scourge, for a very long time the Catholic Church’s immediate reaction was to protect itself as an institution and it has shown complete, even cruel, indifference to those having suffered abuse,” the report said.
Dealing with a reckoning of revelations of sexual abuse, particularly against children, by clergy all around the globe has been a hallmark of Francis’ time as Pope, who rose to the top spot in the Vatican in 2013.
Reporting from the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.