Featured Image
Fr. Matthieu RaffrayScreenshot/YouTube

PARIS (LifeSiteNews) — Three weeks after having been threatened with criminal proceedings because of a video he posted on internet on the subject of self-control, Matthieu Raffray, a French priest who is a member of the traditional Institute of the Good Shepherd, has yet to hear from the judiciary authorities in France. The threat came from the French minister in charge of “equality between women and men and combating discrimination,” Aurore Bergé, following remarks by the Catholic priest regarding our “weaknesses,” among which he mentioned homosexuality. Fr. Raffray, who spoke with LifeSite on Sunday, said that he stood by his words and “fully assumed” them. 

The short video, in which Fr. Raffray speaks about resisting different kinds of temptation, was posted March 15 on Instagram. It speaks of man’s capacity to fight against personal weaknesses such as “gluttony,” “wrath” and “homosexual tendencies,” mentioning all the “vices” (tendencies to commit particular sins) and “sins” that “can find themselves in humankind,” following the moral categories of the Catholic Church. He said that the devil will always try to make the sinners believe they do not have the capacity to refrain from sinful acts, inciting them to give up the spiritual combat. 

The Instagram video had a clear religious theme that was underscored by Fr. Raffray wearing a cassock and clerical collar while speaking as a priest about a variety of sins. 

He only used the words “homosexual” and “tendencies towards homosexuality” incidentally while also describing other kinds of weaknesses, but that was enough to trigger a report on Instagram, possibly by a homosexual activist viewer. Interestingly, the video was not taken down by Instagram, so it must have been considered as not having violated the social media’s user code. 

However, the report must have been reported in some way to the French “discrimination minister,” Aurore Bergé, who immediately posted a message on X announcing that she had tasked the “Inter-ministerial delegation for the fight against racism, antisemitism and anti-LGBT hatred” (DILCRAH) with filing a report with the public prosecutor” on the basis of the article of the penal code obliging “any constituted authority, public officer, or civil servant who, in the exercise of his duties, acquires knowledge of a crime or offence is required to notify the public prosecutor without delay.” 

She did not mention Fr. Raffray, merely speaking of “intolerable remarks about homosexuality that I refuse to reproduce here.” However, the DILCRAH posted its own reaction a few minutes later, confirming that it had “notified the Procurator of the Republic with the homophobic remarks made by Mr. Raffray on his social media accounts.” It added: “So-called ‘conversion therapies’ have been illegal since 2022. Speaking about homosexuality as a weakness is a shame.” 

There was not a single reference in Fr. Raffray’s video to “conversion therapies.” Nor was there a trace of “hatred” or even anti-LGBT “defamation” which is the only possible penal qualification that could theoretically be used against him. 

The minister’s heavy-handed statement and the DILCRAH’s immediate and harsh response were clearly aimed at intimidating a Catholic priest and creating the impression that affirming Catholic teachings regarding homosexual activity and believers’ personal obligation to resist any kind of vice. It bears witness to an obvious desire to persecute a Catholic priest, even one who was merely recalling the Church’s recommendations to its faithful in the face of temptation. 

However, the chances that the proceedings will indeed lead to a full-blown trial are truly minuscule. And even if a trial were to take place, the French courts have established a very clear jurisprudence that refrains from condemning Catholics for “spreading the teaching of the Church” on the grounds of religious liberty and the liberty of expression and opinion. 

READ: Scotland’s gov’t threatened with lawsuit if politicians keep working to ban ‘conversion therapy’

Such was the case when a French Catholic lay group, Renaissance Catholique, was prosecuted in the criminal courts by an LGBT association, “Stop Homophobie,” for having published the Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time” by Cardinals Raymond Burke and Janis Pujats and Bishops Athanasius Schneider, Tomasz Peta and Jan Pavel Lenga; the work included a section on homosexual acts presented as “grave sin.” A Parisian penal court cleared Renaissance Catholique of any offense under the French “anti-racist” legislation which lists all possible discriminations and racist acts founded on race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, “sexual orientation,” and the like. 

The three judges said that for discrimination to exist, factors that must be taken into account include the nature of the audience, how it receives information, and the “context.” A violation of the law would consist of the authors having the “intention of exhorting the public to commit illegal discrimination.” This is clearly not the case in Fr. Raffray’s video that encourages Catholics to strive personally towards living according to the morals preached by the Church. 

Interestingly, the judges added that the contentious text should be under understood within the “lexical field” of “the moral duty” of the faithful to “bear witness to these truths” “in the eyes of the divine judge and their own conscience.” Therefore, the judges decided, the text “related to the idea of religious convictions and leads to no more, for the reader, than a personal examination of conscience.” 

A handful of similar prosecutions over the last ten years in France have led to the acquittal of Catholics on the grounds of religious liberty. However, these cases take time and money to fight and can be seen as a deliberate form of harassment on the part of private LGBT associations. 

In Fr. Raffray’s case, Aurore Bergé has asked for a public prosecution which the Procurator, who is tasked with the defense of the “public good,” can implement or not in regard to the existing legislation and case law. The Procurator’s most probable options in this case are to do nothing or to order an enquiry which would involve the verification of the priest’s words or possibly a hearing, and the affair could then be closed without further action. 

This would obviously be the best solution for Fr. Raffray. On the other hand, should a trial be ordered, it could help to confirm the existing jurisprudence in favor of Catholics’ religious freedoms. 

Nevertheless, it would be unwise to rule out completely a tightening of the persecution of Catholics through a broad interpretation of the law – although this would be in contradiction with the principles of the penal code that call for a restrictive interpretation of its dispositions, in the interest of the rights of the defendant. 

During his conversation with LifeSite, Fr. Raffray stressed that Instagram’s failure to take down the video is already a sign that his words were neither defamatory nor hateful. “On the other hand, I have received thousands of hateful messages” after minister Aurore Bergé’s public denunciation, he said. He published a “story” presenting the violent accusations of his detractors and in return received as many messages of support. 

“As things are going, I might as well have been threatened with legal action by professional groups of bakers and confectioners because I spoke of gluttony as a weakness,” he joked. On a more serious note, he added that encouraging fighting against one’s excesses and seeking moderation and virtue cannot possibly be presented as “hate speech”: Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and innumerable moralists since ancient times have done nothing else over the centuries. 

Fr. Raffray, who is very active on social media and reaches thousands of people, including many young people who were never baptized and are searching for their religious roots, also told LifeSite that he was targeted by LGBT activists on X in January when he jumped to the defense of Fr. Guilhem Le Coq of the Fraternity of Saint Peter who had been blasted for having suggested that a young man with “homophile tendencies” could follow a “spiritual retreat.” Fr. Le Coq was also accused of promoting illegal “conversion therapy.” 

Fr. Raffray commented on the hateful reactions with these words: “Any and every spiritual retreat is conversion therapy. Since the beginnings of Catholicism, Christians have withdrawn from the world to stand in the presence of the Lord and become better people. Crass ignorance and intentional misrepresentation: we have here a condensed example of how the LGBT lobby operates.” 

READ: So-called ‘conversion therapy’ actually reduces the risk of ‘gay suicide’: analysis