Pope Francis: ‘Sins of the Flesh’ Not the Most Serious

Pope Francis holds his weekly general audience at the Paul VI hall in the Vatican on August 25, 2021. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis declared that “sins of the flesh” are not as serious as spiritual sins like pride or hatred, arguing that the latter have far greater consequences.

Speaking with journalists on his flight between Greece and Cyprus on Monday, the Holy Father addressed the recent resignation of Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit after the French magazine Le Point alleged he had an intimate, consensual relationship with a secretary.

“I poorly handled the situation with a person who was in contact many times with me,” Aupetit said upon his resignation.

While Pope Francis acknowledged that the archbishop had failed “against the sixth commandment” (adultery), he believed the offense was not absolute, since the prelate was accused of  “small caresses” and massages.

“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,” Francis said. “There is a sin there but not the worst kind.”

“He (the bishop) was condemned but by whom? By public opinion, by gossip .. he could no longer govern,” Francis added. “I accepted the resignation of Aupetit not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy.”

Aupetit maintains that he did not violate his vow of celibacy.

Italian journalist Luigi Accattoli told The Times said that the pope’s comments show that “things have changed in the last 60 years.”

Sexual sins were once considered very serious in the Catholic church and priests would warn against non-married kissing and even tell parents not to let their children go out dancing, but things have changed in the last 60 years. Francis is the first pope to come out and say what has been clear to his predecessors since Pope Paul VI. They didn’t say so for fear of scandal and traditionalists may attack Francis now, but he is not afraid to say what he thinks.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines chastity as the liberation of self-control so that people would not be controlled by their passions.

“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom,” it says. “The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.”  

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