Controversial French Influencer Priest Leaves TikTok, Passing 1.2M Followers to Apologetics Association

Father Matthieu Jasseron is now focusing on avoiding ‘guru’ status.

Father Matthieu Jasseron, priest of Saint Jean-Baptiste de Joigny parish, poses at his home in Joigny, central France, on Feb. 24, 2023.
Father Matthieu Jasseron, priest of Saint Jean-Baptiste de Joigny parish, poses at his home in Joigny, central France, on Feb. 24, 2023. (photo: ARNAUD FINISTRE / AFP via Getty Images)

He was France’s most popular priest on social networks, with no fewer than 1.2 million subscribers on his TikTok account. During his three years of activity, he had attracted international attention mostly for content that was considered provocative or in direct contradiction with Catholic Church doctrine. 

On Dec. 13, however, Father Matthieu Jasseron announced his withdrawal from all internet platforms to devote himself fully to his mission as parish priest in Joigny, in the Diocese of Sens-Auxerre in Burgundy in east-central France. 

But this communications expert, a bona fide internet star known online as “Père Matthieu,” wanted to ensure that his evangelizing work will survive him and continue to bear fruit in the long term.

This led him to sell his TikTok account, which had accumulated more than 30 million likes, to the association 1000 Raisons de Croire (“1000 Reasons to Believe”), which specializes in apologetics.


‘Aligned With Church Doctrine’

For the new team of young e-missionaries, already well known to the French Catholic public and well-versed in the art of short, punchy videos, taking over this account represents a godsend for their online evangelization efforts. 

Although heterogeneous and often far removed from the faith, Father Matthieu’s audience is in most cases looking for answers to the big questions surrounding the mysteries of life and death and metaphysical questions in general. 

Among the five influencers selected to take up the torch is Matthieu Lavagna, who in recent years has specialized in promoting the faith through rational and logical arguments, notably through his near-encyclopedic 2022 work Soyez Rationnel, Devenez Catholique! (“Be Rational, Become Catholic!”). 

His mission will consist in making his knowledge accessible through short educational videos designed above all to answer questions that young internet users may have. 

“The aim is to provide young people with an education and a knowledge of the Catholic faith,” Lavagna told the Register, adding that while the French-speaking world is their main target for the time being, their videos could be translated into English in the future if they prove successful.

This young author, in fact, said he owed an intellectual debt to several American scholars — including Christopher Kaczor, Scott Hahn, Stephanie Gray-Connors, Trent Horn, Jimmy Akin and Francis Beckwith — from whom he often draws inspiration, including for his forthcoming work La Raison Est Pro-Vie (“Reason Is Pro-Life”), a philosophical and scientific plea against abortion following its constitutionalization in France

Alongside him are other young talents whose YouTube channels have grown rapidly over the past year, such as Victor de Montreynaud, known as “Le Catho de service,” Benoît Plaut from the Ignis channel, and Paul (who chose to keep his last name private), who is behind the Tiktok Javloo account. 

“Our aim is to produce content that is at once accessible, didactic and modern, without ever compromising Church doctrine in an attempt to please the world,” Lavagna concluded. 


Father Matthieu’s Legacy

This doctrinal commitment expressed by the team of influencers is probably due to the fact that Father Matthieu’s videos have sometimes caused a stir in Catholic circles, earning him correctives from his diocese, most notably when he said in a 2021 video on his TikTok channel (which quickly exceeded 1 million views) that homosexual acts were not sinful (the Church teaches otherwise). 

In another video, he staged himself getting drunk on communion wine with a provocatively dressed nun.

These incidents have not prevented Father Matthieu — who was ordained a priest in 2019 at the age of 34, after a career in asset management — from being praised for his talents as a communicator and his entrepreneurial spirit, which he has further put at the service of the faith by creating the “Theostream” platform in early 2023. This aggregator of quality content, designed as a “Christian Netflix,” has already gained a following in the French-speaking world.

It was ultimately for fear of becoming a “kind of guru” that Father Matthieu said he decided last December to withdraw from these platforms, citing in a short video a “media position that sometimes flatters him with a pride that’s not always very adjusted.”

Some media outlets have suggested that this announcement might also be linked to the publication of his book Histoires de Cœur d’un Jeune Curé (“Stories of the Heart of a Young Parish Priest”), which, for his bishop, indirectly violated the seal of confession. But at present there is no evidence to support this suggestion, or that indicates the choice of groups to whom his accounts were sold was influenced by the diocesan hierarchy.

Nevertheless, in giving up his activities, Father Matthieu took care to offer a second life to all of his online platforms. Along with turning over the TikTok account to the apologetics association, he entrusted Theostream to the Emmanuel Community, while his Instagram account (which has some 65,000 subscribers) was entrusted to the team of Lueurs, a podcast sponsored by the Diocese of Paris that promotes a refocusing of personal development on a solid spiritual quest.