Pope Francis recently accepted the resignation of Paris archbishop Michel Aupetit, following the revelation that Archbishop Aupetit had an ambiguous, (supposedly) nonsexual relationship with a woman in 2012.
Aupetit "handed over [his] office to the pope to preserve the diocese" when the allegations came to light. The pontiff ultimately decided to accept the resignation, but his comments on the matter left some with more questions than answers about the archbishop's conduct:
“It was a failing against the sixth commandment (You shall not commit adultery) but not a total one, one of small caresses, massage given to his secretary — that is what the accusation is. There is a sin there but not the worst kind.”
Beyond the strange touching of one's secretary, it was his apparent handwaving away of the sin of lust, one that notoriously plagued the Catholic Church, that caught people's attention.
Lust Not So Bad, Apparently
“Sins of the flesh are not the most serious” declared Pope Francis when pressed by reporters – seemingly in defense of Archbishop Aupetit. He also reminded the crowd that everyone sins.
But the exchange got even more controversial. Pope Francis said that while he accepted Aupetit’s resignation, it wasn’t on the grounds of his sin; It was because the media was gossiping about him too much.
“A man has lost his reputation… when the gossip grows and grows and removes someone's good name, he cannot govern,” Pope Francis said. “That’s why I accepted the resignation of Aupetit: not an altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy.”
The Pope’s comments were met with anger and confusion in some Catholic circles. While most accept that no faith leader is perfect, the Pope’s blame-shifting didn’t go down well.
“Many Catholics [were left] wondering what exactly [Pope Francis] was trying to say, and what had guided his decision,” read one analysis of the situation.
Victims Might Disagree
Pope Francis’ comments on lust not being the “most serious” sin were also a shocker to many, considering the Catholic Church’s recent reputation. Seemingly every year new child sex abuse allegations rock some diocese or another, with inquiries revealing up to hundreds of thousands of abuse cases at a time.
Critics felt the Pope’s perceived dismissive attitude towards lust was in rather poor taste considering the thousands upon thousands of child sex abuse cases that the church is only now seriously reckoning with. Diocese in the United States alone have paid out more than $3 billion to abuse victims.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Pope’s comments weren’t part of a statement. They were off-the-cuff comments reporters aboard the papal plane. All of us have certainly misspoken… we just aren’t being recorded by international press.
Still, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t a bit tone deaf, to say the least.
What do you think? Were the Pope’s comments justified? Where exactly does lust fall in the sin hierarchy?
And is it so wrong for us to expect Christian leaders to live like Christ?