Following up on this week’s article by Emmett O’Regan discussing the enormously popular website Countdown to the Kingdom, which promotes the dubious apocalyptic messages of unapproved prophets and visionaries, there is breaking news regarding one of their featured visionaries, Fr. Michel Rodrigue. Fr. Rodrigue, as you might recall from D.W. Lafferty’s article about his claims, is touted by the managers of the site as the “Apostle of the End Times.” In his presentations, he gives predictions of the future, claiming to have received them directly from God the Father. He often discusses other tales of alleged visions, miracles, and exorcisms in his talks, offering up implausible-sounding (and certainly unconfirmed) biographical details. The idea of many people taking this sort of thing seriously might strike many of our readers as ridiculous or implausible, but if YouTube views, book sales, and web traffic (visitors to Emmett’s article on WPI are through the roof) are any indication of the notoriety of Fr. Rodrigue and those who promote his messages, then he is extremely popular.
In April, a letter about Fr. Rodrigue from his local bishop—Gilles Lemay of the Diocese of Amos, Québec—was sent out via email to a number of people who had inquired about his messages (Kevin Symonds reproduced the full text of the letter here). Prior to this, Fr. Rodrigue had publicly stated that he always shared his messages with his bishop and had his full approval. In this letter, however, Bishop Lemay asserts, contrary to Rodrigue’s claims:
“Fr Michel never submitted to me any of his locutions and visions for discernment or approval. Accordingly, I could not have supported the content of his talks which are not presented in my diocese nor elsewhere in the Province of Québec as far as I now, but mostly in the United States. Moreover, I learnt about his teaching while reading some reports on the website mentioned above. I did not and I do not approve his teaching with regard to his locutions and visions. Consequently, it is untrue that he “receives the full support of his bishop” as it is written in the Countdown to the Kingdom website and in the quoted book.”
Countdown to the Kingdom responded, saying that in obedience to the bishop, they would take down any mention of his support for Rodrigue from their website. But they continued to support the messages, saying:
“Although we now know that Bishop Lemay ‘does not support’ Fr. Michel’s messages, it remains true that the messages are nevertheless not condemned. … we are preserving [Rodrigue’s messages] here on Countdown to The Kingdom because our position regarding them remains unchanged … We will as always, however, fully submit to any formal declarations the Church may pronounce in the future.”
Fair enough, I suppose. At that point, while the bishop did assert that Fr. Rodrigue had been untruthful about sharing the messages with him and receiving his endorsement, he hadn’t outright condemned Rodrigue’s claims. While I can’t personally relate, I can imagine that since the folks at Countdown were in so deep with Rodrigue and had put him on such a pedestal that perhaps they might be forgiven for their poor discernment. It was a fairly mild rebuke, after all.
This month, however, Fr. Rodrigue and his messages were totally and explicitly denounced by Bishop Lemay, who also denied Rodrigue’s claim that he had ever been an exorcist (a role that can only be exercised with the permission of the bishop). Bishop Lemay relays in his letter what he wrote earlier to Fr. Rodrigue in response to Rodrigue’s earlier public (and later retracted) claim that he approved of Rodrigue’s messages and prophecies:
“I am extremely shocked and I feel betrayed by these remarks, since I never approved of them. … I want to make it clear that I absolutely disagree with the prophecies of you on the aforementioned site (Ex. Warning, days of darkness, Era of peace, punishment, World War III (nuclear war in 2020), construction of shelters, etc.). This is what I intend to answer to the people who have asked me.
The bishop continued:
To this total disavowal of Father Michel Rodrigue’s messages and prophecies, I add that I withdraw my support and that of the Diocese of Amos from the Studium Saint-Joseph, founded in 2015 by Fathers Michel Rodrigue and Simon Dufour. This Studium, of which Father Rodrigue is the rector, had as its goal to give theological training in Abitibi, a region far from the major centers.
Finally, I would like to inform you that, since June 30, 2020, Father Michel Rodrigue’s residence on our territory has become his only link with the Diocese of Amos. He has renounced his pastoral charge as pastor of the three parishes that I had entrusted to him. He also renounced his membership in the Presbyteral Council and the College of consultors. He also retired as an active priest in the diocese. He remains an incardinated priest in the Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee, Ontario. At this time, postal mail is our only means of communication with him.“
Fr. Rodrigue, while incardinated in the Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee, had resided in the Diocese of Amos with the permission of the bishop. This letter explains that the Diocese of Amos has withdrawn support of the Studium Saint-Joseph, where Fr. Rodrigue had been serving as rector for a the formation of priests for a religious order he founded. Fr. Rodrigue also retired from the active ministry of the priesthood. In other words, Rodrigue’s only connection to the diocese is the fact that he resides there.
At Countdown to the Kingdom—disappointingly, but perhaps not surprisingly—the response from contributor Daniel O’Connor was not humble submission to the bishop’s pronouncement. You see, since Bishop Lemay had withdrawn his diocesan support of Fr. Rodrigue, he was no longer his bishop at all! Of course Countdown to the Kingdom is obedient to Church authorities, but Lemay—due to his essentially kicking Fr Rodrigue out of his diocese—has no authority over him! O’Connor writes:
“As of the recent cessation of Fr. Michel’s public ministry within the Diocese of Amos, it is no longer accurate to refer to Bishop Lemay singularly as ‘Fr. Michel’s Bishop.’ Instead, the Bishop of the Diocese of Hearst-Moosonee — not Bishop Lemay — is currently to be considered the competent ecclesiastical authority in matters pertaining to Fr. Michel that are outside of the Diocese of Amos. And this bishop has certainly not, as of this writing, issued a formal condemnation of Fr. Michel’s messages.”
Well then. Regarding the the bishop’s assertion that Fr Rodrigue never served as an exorcist, he wrote:
“It seems clear that Fr. Michel has performed exorcisms with the blessing of the Church. We are not yet certain where the misunderstanding arose in the origin of the claim that he operates as an “official” exorcist of the Church, even though we now know he apparently was not designated to this position within the Diocese of Amos during the last decade. Perhaps he was appointed to this position before arriving in Amos.”
So they argued that the only person who could legitimately denounce Fr. Rodrigue or assert that he was not telling the truth about being an exorcist was the bishop of Hearst-Moosonee.
A week later, naturally, came the repudiation of Fr. Rodrigue by Bishop Robert Bourgon of the Hearst-Moosonee diocese, who wrote:
“In union with Bishop Lemay, I express total disavowal of the messages and prophecies presented by Father Michel Rodrigue. I also refute his claim to be ‘an official exorcist of the Church.'”
Countdown to the Kingdom wasn’t having it. In a post audaciously titled, “Fr. Michel’s Messages Are Not Condemned,” Daniel O’Connor writes, “No formal condemnation has been issued, and these statements remain the personal opinions of the prelates themselves.” It seems that nothing will convince Fr. Rodrigue’s true believers that his messages aren’t miraculous short of an explicit condemnation in writing from the pope himself (and likely a second one from the pope emeritus as well, just to be doubly sure).
In his own post about the matter, Kevin Symonds saw right through these tactics. He wrote that Countdown to the Kingdom “would likely prefer to think of this statement as something along the lines of a ‘friendly warning,’ but I beg to differ. It comes across more as a bully-tactic in that it serves the purpose of backing the two Bishops into a corner of continual doubt. Doing this provides a soft and cushy ‘grey area’ in which CTTK can then operate.”
In a way, I believe that by pursuing this approach, O’Connor and his fellow contributors could harm Fr. Rodrigue more than help him. In an August article defending Fr. Rodrigue, Christine Watkins, the Sacramento-based author of the book The Warning: Testimonies and Prophecies of the Illumination of Conscience, mentioned that Fr. Rodrigue has recently shut himself off from modern forms of communication (explaining the curious statement in Bishop Lemay’s letter that “postal mail is our only means of communication with him”). Watkins wrote:
“Fr. Michel said that the Father told him not to use email or his phone or technology, starting in August. He doesn’t not know why God asked this of him. He is simply being obedient to His Father in heaven, as He always tries to do. Fr. Michel is being led into deep prayer and intercession for the world at this time. He can still be reached by mail.”
At this point, Fr. Rodrigue has effectively been stripped of priestly faculties in the diocese where he resides. He’s been denounced by the bishop of the diocese where he is incardinated. He’s essentially locked himself away into self-imposed exile, perhaps because he was upset or ashamed about his pending denunciation, or maybe he sincerely believes God has requested this of him. It seems clear that for all practical purposes, the public ministry of Father Michel Rodrigue is over. No, he hasn’t been excommunicated or defrocked. He hasn’t been suspended from the priesthood by his home diocese. But the writing is on the wall that his ecclesial authorities have very little patience for his “apostle of the end times” act, and by perpetuating this charade, his acolytes are doing him no favors.
Image: Sainte-Thérèse-d’Avila Cathedral, Amos, Abitibi region, Quebec, rear view. By Guerinf – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61860218