Fr. Janvier Gbénou versus Pope Francis part one

Fr. Janvier has publicly repeatedly accused Pope Francis of grave error and heresy, and of being a “fake pope”, and he has refused to accept correction from his religious order, Opus Dei, and from the Apostolic See.

According to LifeSiteNews, Abbé Janvier Gbénou (pen name: Father Jesusmary Missigbètò) is “a 41-year-old African priest born in Benin and living in Côte d’Ivoire (West Africa).” He was ordained a priest “in Rome in 2012” and “holds a master’s degree in Computer Science Applied to Business Management and a Doctorate in Philosophy.” Father Janvier, “a member of Opus Dei, was suspended as a priest in March of this year [2021] after last November criticizing Pope Francis’ support of civil unions of homosexual couples and asking him to correct his position or resign.” The statements in question by Pope Francis are found in the documentary Francesco by Evgeny Afineevsky, released in October 2020. [LifeSiteNews article here]

On 2 February 2022, Fr. Janvier was expelled from Opus Dei [LifeSiteNews]. More recently, Fr. Janvier, in a public letter (1 July 2022) addressed to Pope Francis, states the following: “I have just received the Decree of the Congregation for Bishops, signed by you [Pope Francis] and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, in which you validate the sanctions imposed on me by the Prelature of Opus Dei because, according to the Decree, I lacked ‘ respect and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff ‘ (Code of Canon Law 273). In short, I am forbidden to preach, confess and celebrate Mass in public and private.”

Fr. Janvier has given interviews with LifeSiteNews about Pope Francis, has posted against the Roman Pontiff on Twitter, and has published public letters accusing the Roman Pontiff of grave errors. Let’s review some of Fr. Janvier’s posts on Twitter first. My commentary on the Twitter quotes begins with a tilde ~.

Twitter Statements by Fr. Janvier:

July 1, 2022: “Arrival at Opus Dei headquarters in Abidjan (8:15 a.m.) I never thought that my spiritual family would be so afraid of Pope Francis that it would not defend the truth, despite its two great universities (Rome & Pamplona) and its many expert professors of morals.”

June 30, 2022: “- Why aren’t you afraid of Pope Francis?
“- If you use your mind carefully, you’ll see that many signs seem to show that he’s a ‘fake pope’: ‘fake’ means ‘well-elected but heretical’ or ‘badly-elected and heretical’.”

~ Fr. Janvier assumes that his own understanding is truth itself, and, whenever those he expects to agree with him do not do so, he considers the reason must be fear of the Pope. Fr. Janvier does not admit that he himself could be the one who is wrong, who has misunderstood, who is in error. Attributing fear of the Pope to anyone who disagrees is uncharitable. The leaders of Opus Dei rebuked their member, Fr. Janvier, for his many public claims that the Pope is in grave error, to the extent of heresy, and that he is a “fake pope”.

~ Fr. Janvier considers that perhaps Pope Francis was not validly elected, or if he was validly elected, in any case he thinks the Pope to be a heretic. This idea that a Pope can fall into heresy has been refuted by many different Catholic authors over many centuries. And this behavior by Fr. Janvier is the very same as many other papal accusers. They all rail against the supposedly heretical Popes, while assuming that they themselves cannot possibly be the ones who are heretics. If the Pope is not protected from heresy, then why would Fr. Janvier be so protected? But the protection of the Pope from heresy is proven by many teachings given throughout the centuries.

June 30, 2022: “Dear friend, please pray for me. May God give me strength for tomorrow’s meeting (July 1, 2022). Will Pope Francis have the humility to acknowledge that his magisterium isn’t true? Or will he give me a sanction for my boldness to publicly defend the truth of the Catholic Church?”

~ Fr. Janvier rejects the magisterium of the Roman Pontiff Pope Francis itself, saying that his magisterium is not true. It is the height of pride for this priest to assume that his own positions, on the multiple controversies that led him to reject Pope Francis, are “the truth of the Catholic Church”, while the teaching of the Vicar of Christ, who is one Head of the Catholic Church with Christ [Pope Pius XII, Mystical Body of Christ, 40], who has the charism of truth and never-failing faith [Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, 4, 7], upon whom the Church is founded [Mt16:18-19], must be not only in error, but heretical. Then he expects the Roman Pontiff to accept correction from him, a priest, while he does not accept correction from his own order, from Cardinal Napier (who tried to correct him via Twitter), and from the Holy See acting with the approval of the Pope.

June 18, 2022: “Please let me repeat it endlessly: Am I against Pope Francis? No! The more you love, the more your courage pushes you to tell the truth to the one who’s in grave error.”

June 15th, 2022: “I tell you again: don’t look at me, look at the truth, dare to think, study and analyse. Papal infallibility has its limits. Do you remember that all the evangelists reported Peter’s errors? What’s the reason for this? Humility!”

~ Again, this priest assumes that he is adhering to truth, and that the Roman Pontiff has erred gravely. But it was solely to Peter, and not to any of the other disciples or Apostles that Jesus said “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” [Mt 16:18]. Moreover, it was to Peter alone that Jesus made the promise and prayer of never-failing faith: “But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.” [Lk 22:32]. Therefore, we must be corrected by Peter and his successors, and none of us, not even the Cardinals and Bishops, have the role to correct the Roman Pontiff.

~ As for the claim that the evangelists reported Peter’s errors, the First Council of Lyons taught that the Pontificate of Pope Francis began with the Ascension; this is also taught by Pope Pius XII in Mystical Body of Christ, n. 33 and 40. So these errors of Peter, such as when Peter did not want to accept that Jesus would have to suffer and die [Mt 16:21-23], or when Peter betrayed Christ [Mt 26:75], or when Peter struck a servant with the sword [Jn 18:10], were not errors of a Roman Pontiff, as Peter was not yet the Vicar of Christ — not while Christ still walked this earth, teaching and leading the nascent Church.

June 15th, 2022: “A pope can err outside the dogma of infallibility. Church history has had heretical popes.”

~ Fr. Janvier’s claim that the Church has had heretical Popes has been disproven many times. See my article here. And while the non-infallible teaching of a Roman Pontiff can err, outside of infallibility, such errors cannot be grave, since the Apostolic See is kept always unblemished by the divine promise of Jesus Christ, just as Vatican I taught:

“Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [Lk 22:32]. This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See….” Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4, n. 6-7.

~ Fr. Janvier denies this divine promise of the Lord Jesus, as taught by Sacred Scripture, by Vatican I, and by the ordinary universal Magisterium (which has always interpreted Luke 22:32 in this way).

June 15th, 2022: “What’s a pity is the lack of humility of Pope Francis to listen to all the experts who have proved to him since 2016 that he has made serious errors. Why does he refuse to rectify them? Ecclesiastical masonry?”

June 14th, 2022: “Loyalty to a heretic who has failed in his loyalty to the Church and God since 2016? Let’s pray for his conversion and that of his supporters.”

~ Fr. Janvier is the one who lacks the humility to admit that he himself is the one who is in error. Jesus did not found His Church on “experts”, nor on any priest who uses social media to proclaim the Pope wrong. Then, too, the body of Bishops continues to support Pope Francis; they do not accuse Pope Francis of heresy or grave error. From this we must conclude that Pope Francis is the valid Roman Pontiff, and that the Holy Spirit is teaching through him. Calling the Roman Pontiff a heretic is the sin of schism, as no one gives the submission required of all the faithful to the Pope, if he thinks that Pope to be a heretic. Calling the Pope a heretic also implies a rejection of multiple dogmas on the Roman Pontiff and the indefectibility of the Church.

June 14th, 2022: “– Can’t we say that you’re too hard on Pope Francis?
“– No, because since 2016 he refuses rectification. St. John was very hard on the heretics in order to help them become aware and rectify.”

~ Fr. Janvier is the one who refuses to be corrected. The Pope is the principle of unity in the Church:

Pope Saint Paul VI: “Take away the sovereign Pontiff and the Catholic Church would no longer be catholic. Moreover, without the supreme, effective, and authoritative pastoral office of Peter the unity of Christ’s Church would collapse. It would be vain to look for other principles of unity in place of the true one established by Christ Himself.”

Pope Leo XIII: “Union with the Roman See of Peter is to him [St. Jerome] always the public criterion of a Catholic. ‘I acknowledge everyone who is united with the See of Peter’ (Ep. xvi., ad Damasum, n. 2).”

“And for a like reason St. Augustine publicly attests that, ‘the primacy of the Apostolic chair always existed in the Roman Church’ (Ep. xliii., n. 7); and he denies that anyone who dissents from the Roman faith can be a Catholic. ‘You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held’ (Sermo cxx., n. 13). So, too, St. Cyprian: ‘To be in communion with [Pope] Cornelius is to be in communion with the Catholic Church’ (Ep. lv., n. 1).”

“In the same way Maximus the Abbot teaches that obedience to the Roman Pontiff is the proof of the true faith and of legitimate communion. ‘Therefore if a man does not want to be, or to be called, a heretic, let him not strive to please this or that man…but let him hasten before all things to be in communion with the Roman See. If he be in communion with it, he should be acknowledged by all and everywhere as faithful and orthodox. He speaks in vain who tries to persuade me of the orthodoxy of those who, like himself, refuse obedience to his Holiness the Pope of the most holy Church of Rome: that is to the Apostolic See.’ … (Defloratio ex Epistola ad Petrum illustrem).”

~ Notice, in the teachings above, that “obedience to the Roman Pontiff” proves who has the true faith, and that no one can claim to be orthodox, if he is not in communion with the Roman Pontiff. Also, “you are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith” if you reject the faith taught by the Roman See, that is, by the Pope in his exercise of the Keys of Saint Peter, who founded the Apostolic See with his blood.

Then the Ecumenical Councils teach the same:

Lyons I: “this privilege which our Lord Jesus Christ handed to Peter and in him to his successors, namely, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, in which assuredly consists the authority and power of the Roman church….”

The Second Council of Lyons: “If questions will have arisen on faith, they ought to be decided by his [i.e. the Roman Pontiff’s] judgment”.

The Council of Florence, 1438: “the most illustrious profession of the Roman Church about the truth of the faith, which has always been pure from all stain of error.”

~ The Roman Church or Apostolic See is the decider of any and all questions on faith, and more generally on doctrine and discipline. It is the Roman Pontiff’s judgment, not the judgment of any priest who happens to proclaim himself to be a guardian of truth, which decides these questions. Then the truth of the faith in the Apostolic See has “always been pure from all stain of error”. So it is certain that Pope Francis is free from all grave error in his teachings, and cannot be teaching heresy.

~ On Twitter, Cardinal Napier (@CardinalNapier) graciously attempted to correct Fr. Janvier (@fatherjesusmary) on several occasions, but the priest rejected the Cardinal’s mild corrections. A couple examples follow, but note that the Cardinal make multiple attempts to correct this priest.

Cardinal Napier @CardinalNapier
May 21
“Father, please spell out the “errors” you accuse Pope Francis of committing, or those of his coworkers. That’s the one issue! The other is your rather presumptuous claim to be on a par with St Paul! That’s just not possible! Unless you too encountered Jesus as Paul did!”

Cardinal Napier (@CardinalNapier)
Jun 15
Replying to Fr. Janvier (@fatherjesusmary)
“Isn’t Pope Francis simply applying what Jesus taught about love and mercy on several occasions but in particular when he was asked to judge (condemn) the woman caught in the act of adultery? A careful reading of Amoris Laetitia Chapter 8 is advised!”

But Fr. Janvier replied with obstinacy:
May 21: “But it’s undeniable that Pope Francis has made very serious errors and no rectification since 2016…”

Then on June 15th, Fr. Janvier responded to what Cardinal Napier said by speaking to another person, not to the Cardinal directly:
“You’re right! I had some hope that he’d go beyond adulation but I finally see that he’s afraid of the truth. So why is he a cardinal? Let’s pray for him that Jesus and Mary will help him to be courageous. I keep hope in prayer, ‘for nothing will be impossible for God.’ –Lk.1:37”

~ Fr. Janvier’s assumption that anyone who supports the Roman Pontiff must be afraid of the Pope or afraid of the truth is contrary to reason and is merely an excuse for Fr. Janvier not to accept correction. If only more Catholics had a true fear of the Lord that led them to be humble in disagreeing, mildly, with the Roman Pontiff!

Again, Fr. Janvier responded to the Cardinal:
“Isn’t Pope Francis also called to holiness? You call me to humility when I publicly denounce Pope Francis’ grave errors. Why don’t you see that the one who lacks humility to rectify his errors is Pope Francis (since 2016)? Do you recognise that he made serious errors, yes or no?”

~ The reason that I am giving such a lengthy reply to the errors of Fr. Javier Gbénou is that many other Catholic Christians have fallen into the very same errors. They assume that they themselves cannot possibly have erred gravely (or at all!). They tacitly attribute to themselves indefectibility and a never-failing faith. They speak as if they even have infallibility, for they never consider for a moment that they might be wrong. And then they proclaim to the Church, via the internet, that the Pope has erred gravely, has taught or committed heresy, and is leading the Church astray — three accusations which are each and all contrary to dogma.

Fr. Janvier Gbénou refused to be corrected by his own religious order, to which he owes his vow of obedience (Opus Dei), refused to be corrected by Cardinal Napier in personal communications online, and finally refused correction from Cardinal Ouellet and Pope Francis. During the same period of time, he repeatedly made accusations against the Roman Pontiff, published these in open letters, and sent letters of alleged correction to Pope Francis.

Now let’s review the Open Letters of Fr. Janvier

** Fr. Janvier’s First Open Letter, October 21, 2021

This letter was also published by Edward Pentin here. Pentin is not known for his support of Pope Francis. His blog promotes the writings of those who attack the Pope.

Fr. Janvier calls this letter: “First call for Pope Francis’ rectification.” He takes the role upon himself to judge and correct the Roman Pontiff. But he knows well that the body of Bishops, successors to the Apostles, have not judged or corrected Pope Francis, the successor to the Apostle Peter. No priest, deacon, religious, or lay person has such a role, to judge and correct the Vicar of Christ, and as a matter of well-established doctrine, even the body of Bishops has no role to judge the Roman Pontiff (Canon 1404; Old Code 1556), and has no authority apart from the Roman Pontiff (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 22), and cannot judge or correct the current Roman Pontiff even by means of an Ecumenical Council [one lacking the Pope] (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, ch. 3, n. 8).

Fr. Janvier: “Should I be afraid to speak the truth to Pope Francis, the cardinals and bishops?”

The question is not fear or courage to speak the truth. Rather, the question is whether it is Fr. Janvier, or is it instead the Roman Pontiff with the body of Bishops, who is teaching the truth? And we know that the Magisterium is the sole authoritative interpreter of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture (Divine Revelation), and that only the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him can exercise the Magisterium. So the assumption by Fr. Janvier that he is speaking truth to the successors of the Apostles who are in error is an act of great pride and is contrary to dogma.

Fr. Janvier: “Pope Francis and many bishops are used to calling for Church unity. They are right because our Church has no visible unity, which hinders her mission to evangelise the world.”

The Pope is the principle of unity in the Church, see the references above (beginning with Pope Saint Paul VI: “Take away the sovereign Pontiff and the Catholic Church would no longer be catholic.”).

The body of Bishops, teaching with the Roman Pontiff, unify the Church in truth through the Magisterium teaching from Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, which is the divine deposit of revealed truth. An individual priest, who has rejected the teaching of the Roman Pontiff, who has refused correction from his own religious order, to which he owes his vow of obedience, and refused correction from the Holy See, does not have the role to decide what is and is not truth, nor the role to correct the Pope and Bishops. The pride of Fr. Janvier in rejecting the teaching of the Roman Pontiff, and in assuming that his own understanding is truth itself, stands in opposition to the unity of the Church founded by Christ upon Peter and his successors, with the successors to the other Apostles, the Bishops, who are confirmed in truth by the successor of Peter (Lk 22:32).

Fr. Janvier objects to the words of Pope Francis, quoted in a documentary: “What we have to do is a civil coexistence law; they have the right to be covered legally. I defended this.” Fr. Janvier then asks: “Where is the truth about homosexual civil cohabitation laws?”

The explanation for the position of the Pope is simple. It pertains to secular society and civil law. Homosexual persons have the same fundamental human rights as others, and so the secular government should have laws which protect those rights. In addition, they have the right to follow their conscience, even if they have chosen a path that is contrary to Church teaching. The Church cannot demand that all human persons, especially non-Catholics, be forced by the laws of civil society to live according to Catholic teaching. So the Pope is arguing for allowing secular society to permit these persons to live as they see fit, even though their choices involve objectively grave sin according to Catholic doctrine. The alternative would be not to respect the free will and conscience of these persons, when we know that God always respects our free will and conscience.

Canon Law:
“Can. 748 n. 1. All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and his Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know.

“n. 2. No one is ever permitted to coerce persons to embrace the Catholic faith against their conscience.”

People have a right and obligation to seek religious and moral truth, and have the right to adhere to what they believe to be the truth which they have come to know. This last expression “the truth which they have come to know,” makes it clear that this right is not possessed solely when their conclusions on truth agree with Catholic teaching. But notice that this is a right to human persons in general, that is, in society as a whole, while Catholics certainly have an obligation to believe what the Church teaches. But the Church and Her members cannot “coerce persons to embrace the Catholic faith”; we must respect the consciences of those who disagree. And this applies to Fr. Janvier, who should not be treated harshly by anyone, but should be corrected, as he has been, by his order and by the Holy See. I argue that his conscience is in error, based on the teachings of the Church to which he belongs and the faith which he claims to profess. But he must not be coerced, nor should gay persons be coerced to live according to Catholic teaching.

Fr. Janvier cites the position of Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on homosexual unions. There is a necessary distinction here between the teaching of the Church against grave sexual sins and near occasion of those sins, and the judgment of different Roman Pontiffs on how to respond to a secularized society that is not willing, in its vast majority, to live according to Catholic teaching. Pope Francis does not err by taking the position that secular society can provide legal recognition to these unions, though they are not approved by Church teaching. When Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI wrote, these unions had much less support in secular society (with even the liberal presidential candidates Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton saying in 2008 that “marriage is between one man and one woman”), and so it was tenable at that time (and earlier) to encourage society to move in the direction of Church teaching.

But by the time that Pope Francis was speaking, and presently, we cannot expect secular society will accept Church teaching on same-sex marriage, now that it is widely accepted and legalized. And we recognize, in any case, that human persons have a right to exercise their free will and live according to conscience. There is no grave error in the words of Pope Francis on this topic, only a different judgment about the Church’s response to changing laws and ideas in secular society. We must allow democratic society to treat everyone with respect and permit them to guide their own lives. And if society widely rejects Catholic teaching, we must seek the general repentance and conversion of sinners, as every type of grave sin moves society further away from Catholic truth, which is the Gospel of Christ.

Fr. Janvier objects, saying: “Sometimes Pope Francis, as well as Cardinal Blase Cupich and others, answer that marriage is a Sacrament between man and woman and that we could allow homosexual laws for civil but not ecclesial society. But this answer confuses ecclesial and civil law with the real nature of marriage. Marriage is not only a Christian Sacrament; it is first of all a natural sacrament instituted by the Creator God. So if someone refuses homosexual laws in the ecclesial realm because it is a Sacrament, it is absolutely necessary for that person to refuse homosexual laws in civil society because it is a natural sacrament given by God.”

This set of claims is in error. The seven Sacraments were all instituted by Christ. Natural marriage is not a formal Sacrament. The Old Testament rites and mysteries, as well as marriage under natural law can be referred to as “sacraments” [e.g. “the sacraments of the Old Law”]. But this does not make merely natural marriage one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

And we know, in any case, that legal same-sex marriage is not natural marriage, nor the Sacrament of holy Matrimony. This type of marriage is a legal union, which is not made into natural marriage by human law. Fr. Janvier is confusing legal unions with natural marriage and with the Sacrament of Marriage. Also, the Church cannot control the decisions of secular society, and is not to blame for these decisions.

Before Pope Francis became Pope, when he was a Bishop in Argentina, the legislature of that nation was considering approving of either same-sex civil unions or same-sex marriage. The Bishops of Argentina generally opposed both. But since it was clear that one or the other would pass, Pope Francis (Cardinal Bergoglio) thought that the Bishops ought to support civil unions, thereby giving legal protections to these persons, while keeping legal marriage to one man and one woman.

Fr. Janvier says: “Pope Francis’ error in [the documentary] ‘Francesco’ is very serious….” and then he goes on to compare his correction of Pope Francis to Saint Paul the Apostle’s correction of Saint Peter, the first Roman Pontiff. Such a comparison is absurd. Saint Paul’s correction is in Sacred Scripture, and therefore it is given to us by the Holy Spirit as the truth. But Fr. Janvier only assumes that his position is truth; to arrive at this assumption, he relies on his own use of reason, which in fallen sinners can easily err. So when we read St. Paul’s correction in Scripture, we rely on faith, but when a priest or layperson tries to correct Pope Francis, they are putting their own reasoning above faith in the teaching of Christ on the Roman Pontiff, on the indefectibility of the Church, and on the never-failing faith of Peter and his successors (Mt 16:18; Lk 22:32).

Saint Irenaeus: “Those who have the succession from the apostles have received a sure gift [charisma] of truth, according to the will of the Father.”

Saint Irenaeus: “Where the gifts [charismata] of the Lord are placed, there we must learn the truth, namely, from those who have the succession of the Church from the apostles…. These preserve our faith.”

Tertullian, 155-220: “But if Peter was reproved because, after having lived with the Gentiles, he separated himself from their company out of respect for persons, surely this was a fault in his conversation, not in his preaching.”

Origen, 184-253: “It is manifest, even if it were not expressed, because the gates of Hell can prevail against neither Peter, nor the Church, for if they prevailed against the rock on which the Church was founded, they would prevail against the Church.” [Mt 16:18]

Origen, 184-253: “neither against the rock upon which Christ builds His Church, nor against the Church, shall the gates of Hell prevail.” [Sources]

As we see from the above quotes, we must not follow our own reasonings, but rather truth in the Church, the Roman Pontiffs, and the body of Bishops to teach us the truth. Peter’s error, corrected by Paul, was only in his own behavior, and not in his preaching, teaching, or decisions for the Church on discipline. And note that the above quote from Origen are taken from Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, and so the truth of those expressions can be attributed to the Pope who quotes Origen approvingly on those points.

Fr. Janvier: “the real problem of our Church today is situation ethics, a very serious and important issue.”

There is no trace of situational ethics (which bases ethics on circumstances only) in the teachings of Pope Francis. The teaching of the Church on ethics (the three fonts of morality in Veritatis Splendor and the CCC) is upheld by the Pope. He condemns intrinsically evil acts such as abortion. His position on how the Church should respond to the spread of same-sex marriage in secular society is a matter of prudential judgment. Pope Francis has not approved of same-sex marriage, and he has in fact rebuked the German priests and Bishops who gave blessings to same-sex relationships.

Fr. Janvier has no right to stand in judgment over the Roman Pontiff, and it is apparent that his understanding of Catholic teaching is very simplistic. Then, at the same time, Fr. Janvier has dogmatized his own understanding, and so he accuses the Pope of heresy and grave error merely for speaking or acting contrary to the judgment of one particular priest.

** Fr. Janvier’s Second Open Letter, December 8, 2021

Here is a copy of the letter on the blog of Edward Pentin.

Fr. Janvier calls this letter: “Second call for Pope Francis’ rectification” and he claims that “this text was read, approved, and recommended by an eminent theologian.” That type of claim is meaningless. I’ve read many “messages” from claimed private revelations, messages that teach heresy and promote schism, which also make the same claim, that some holy priest or eminent theologian read and approved of those messages.

In this letter, Fr. Janvier speaks about the cases considered in Amoris Laetitia on divorce and remarriage. Fr. Janvier gives his own understanding of doctrine and discipline on this subject, calling his understanding “Tradition”, and in no way acknowledging that this is only his own theological opinion or interpretation. This is the same error that he consistently makes, assuming that his own understanding is truth itself or Tradition itself.

At one point, Fr. Janvier comments on persons in a second union, with a living spouse from a prior valid marriage, who live in continence, remaining together for the sake of the children. He claims: “Concretely, this means that the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist are received in private and not in public, otherwise “the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage” (Familiaris Consortio 84).” However, a read of FC 84 show that this quote is not on the same point that Fr. Janvier is trying to make; he is misrepresenting what FC 84 says. Pope Saint John Paul II in FC does not say that Penance and the Eucharist must be received in private, not in public. What does that even mean? Penance is always private, and the Eucharist is generally received at Mass, which is (in a sense, I guess) public. There is no such requirement in magisterial teaching, as Fr. Janvier falsely claims by wrongly attributing this idea of his to Pope Saint John Paul II and FC 84.

Notice how Fr. Janvier can err, and yet he presents this error and all of his own opinions and interpretations as nothing other than the truths of Tradition which cannot err. Fundamentalist Protestants make the same error with Sacred Scripture. They point to passages in the Bible to make their points and reach certain conclusions, then they do not admit that what they present is an interpretation and a theological argument, which can err. They claim to be merely presenting the inerrant truths of Scripture. Fr. Janvier similarly errs, but with Tradition and magisterial teaching.

Now here is a point that Fr. Janvier, in my opinion, understands correctly — but it is, he does not realize, the same point that Pope Francis is making in Amoris Laetitia:

Fr. Janvier: “What to do when, despite a commitment to live as brothers and sisters, remarried divorcees people frequently fall into a lapse against the virtue of continence? On March 22, 1996, Pope St. John Paul II recalled a second mercy granted by the Catholic Church: “it is indeed possible that, even in the loyalty of the resolution not to sin any more, the experience of the past and the consciousness of present weakness give rise to the fear of further falls; but this does not impair the genuineness of the resolution, when that fear is joined to the will, supported by prayer, to do what is possible to avoid sin” (Letter to Cardinal William Baum 5). The Church is thus a Mother full of closeness, compassion and tenderness. To receive the Sacrament of Penance, she does not ask for a promise of victory, but a promise of struggle. However, after so much mercy of the Catholic Tradition towards the remarried divorcees, is it possible to do more?”

Well, the above paragraph is nothing but a good explanation of what Pope Francis also teaches. For in the supposedly controversial section of Amoris Laetitia, he merely states that some of these couples in irregular situations might be able to receive Penance and Communion: Footnote 351 “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.” The same footnote then continues on, discussing first Penance and next Communion. This mercy is not extended to every Catholic in every situation, but only in certain cases. And Pope Francis asks priests in the Confessional to make this “an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.”

Fr. Janvier complains about a response that Pope Francis gave to a Press question: “Are there new concrete possibilities that did not exist before the publication of the Exhortation, or not?” Pope Francis’ answer: “Yes”.”

What is new is the discipline put forward by Pope Francis for dealing with persons in irregular situations. The Church can choose a more lenient and merciful discipline, or She can choose a more strict and just discipline. And it is entirely within the authority of each Roman Pontiff to make this decision. Pope Francis is not bound by the previous decisions of other Roman Pontiff on the discipline of Communion.

I should also point out that Fr. Janvier is in an objective situation of schism, having called the Roman Pontiff a “fake pope” and “heretical”. He is also objectively in contradiction to his vow of obedience. So he should consider whether he himself is a person who should not receive holy Communion. And the same can be said for all those Catholics who accuse Pope Francis or other Roman Pontiffs or Ecumenical Councils of grave error or heresy, and of all those who refuse to accept the authority of Pope Francis. When they argue that certain persons, admitted to holy Communion by the authority of the Vicar of Christ, ought not to be admitted, they should examine their own consciences in regard to heresy, schism, and disobedience.

Fr. Janvier goes on to argue against Amoris Laetitia, largely based on a letter of the Bishops of Buenos Aires, arguing from his own interpretation of Catholic teaching. He concludes that Pope Francis’ teaching contradicts Catholic doctrine and morals. The same issue arises here also, as before. Fr. Janvier’s interpretation of Sacred Tradition and past magisterial teaching is presented as absolute truth, and the position of Pope Francis is not only misrepresented — especially in claiming that it is situational ethics — but also is judged and condemned by this priest.

Many persons have already defended Amoris Laetitia extensively. My position is that we need not review every word and deed of every Roman Pontiff, that we need not review every decision of doctrine and discipline, because we know the teachings of the Church that the Church is indefectible, that the Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and never-failing faith, and that the Apostolic See is always unblemished by any grave error. Then the controversial parts of Amoris Laetitia are merely a decision of discipline by the Roman Pontiff, which is well within his authority.

Fr. Janvier makes a mountain out of a mole hill in citing this portion of a letter from the Bishops of Buenos Aires: “the commitment to live in continence can be proposed. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option”. He claims that the words “proposed” and “option” indicate approval for sex outside of a valid marriage (in the second illicit union). But living in continence is one option; the other is to separate. So these are in fact options which the Church proposes. The letter also takes account of persons who do not fully realize the grave immorality of their choices, and therefore might not have the full culpability of actual mortal sin. Such persons might be permitted to receive Communion by their Confessor, under the lenient discipline chosen by Pope Francis.

The Church has the authority to permit a Catholic Christian who is believed to be in the state of grace and has received Confession, to receive holy Communion. It is for the Church to decide the discipline of holy Communion, and Pope Francis, as the head of the Church, has made his decision. It is valid and binding. A Catholic might prefer a different discipline, but no one should say that Pope Francis has departed from Catholic doctrine and morals, as Fr. Janvier claims.

** Fr. Janvier’s First Letter to the Reigning Roman Pontiff, February 28, 2022

This letter is not numbered as the third open letter, but is a letter to Pope Francis published between the second and third “rectification” type of open letters. This is the first of three public letters “to the Reigning Roman Pontiff”. Note that a Twitter remark from Fr. Janvier states that he wrote two earlier private letters to Pope Francis, which he stated he will never release.

In this letter, Fr. Janvier quotes a message from the apparitions of Anguera, which he notes are not approved by the Church. Here is the entirety of what Fr. Janvier presents from that message: “Shall not enter His Eternal Sanctuary those who sow the half-truth causing spiritual blindness in many of My poor children… Love and defend the truth. Welcome the Gospel of My Jesus and listen to the teachings of the true Magisterium of His Church.” Fr. Janvier claims that he is “fighting against the half-truths of Pope Francis’ magisterium”.

The message cited encourage the faithful to “listen to the teachings of the true Magisterium of His Church”. Clearly, those who are sowing half-truths cannot be the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops with him, not only because the Church is indefectible and the Roman Pontiff has a never-failing faith, but also because the message clearly tells us to listen to the magisterium. And yet Fr. Janvier substitutes his own judgment for that of the Papal Magisterium, condemns the teachings of the Apostolic See as half-truths — something not justified at all by that message — and then repeatedly attempt to correct the Church based on his own misunderstandings.

It seems quite clear that it is Fr. Janvier who is sowing half-truths, by his failing descriptions of magisterial teachings. The message cited by this priest ask the faithful to accept the Magisterium as the source of truth in the Church, in opposition to those outside the Magisterium who sow half-truths. That is a rather fitting description of the situation today in the Church, and Fr. Janvier should have read it as a correction of himself.

Instead, Fr. Janvier claims that he is following Sacred Scripture by attempting to correct the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops with him. Fr. Javier says that he “obeys the steps foreseen by Jesus Our Lord in fraternal and filial correction: ‘go and tell him his fault between you and him alone… take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses’. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church’ (Matthew 18:15-17).” But what else does this passage from the Gospel say?

{18:17} And if he will not listen to them, tell the Church. But if he will not listen to the Church, let him be to you like the pagan and the tax collector.
{18:18} Amen I say to you, whatever you will have bound on earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you will have released on earth, shall be released also in heaven.

Fr. Janvier refuses to listen to his own order, refuses to listen to Cardinal Napier, and refuses to listen to Cardinal Ouellet and to Pope Francis. Therefore, Fr. Janvier is the one who is refusing to “listen to the Church”, and so has become like the pagan and the tax collector. And it was the judgment of the Roman Pontiff, the head of the Church, to discipline this priest for his disobedience and his rejection of the teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff. The passage quoted by Fr. Janvier goes on to mention again the power of the Church to bind on earth and in heaven, and to release on earth and in heaven. Yet Fr. Janvier acts as if he himself has this biding authority, rather than the Pope and the body of Bishops exercising authority over doctrine and discipline.

In this letter, Fr. Janvier admits that he has called for the resignation of Pope Francis. Later, he retracted this call for resignation, but not his accusations of grave error against the Pope. Next, in the letter, Fr. Janvier claims that he is “following the example of St. Catherine of Siena” and that “Pope Francis does not want to rectify real errors”. Recall that Cardinal Napier objected when Fr. Janvier compared himself to Saint Paul the Apostle. This priest is so convinced of his own tacit infallibility, that he cannot consider even the possibility that he is the one who is wrong, and the Pope and Bishops are correct. For it is not as if Pope Francis teaches, and the rest of the Bishops correct him; rather, the body of Bishops has accepted his teaching. And while some points of discipline might be changed under a subsequent Roman Pontiff, the Bishops as a body are not accusing the Pope of any grave errors on doctrine or discipline.

St. Catherine did not accuse the Roman Pontiff of her time of heresy, as Fr. Janvier and many others so accuse Pope Francis. Her letters to the Roman Pontiff were very much in the vein of sisterly advice, and of full support of his authority as Roman Pontiff. Such is not the case today with those who accuse Pope Francis. She was humble, and they instead are filled with pride.

Fr. Janvier: “everything I did in relation to the errors of the magisterium of Pope Francis is not motivated by hatred or disobedience or lack of unity, but, on the contrary, by love of God and of the Pope’s soul, by obedience to the eternal law of God, by the unity of the Church around the truth and not around the half-truth and error that distance us from God and bring us closer to the Devil.”

There is very little theology, good or bad, in these many writings by Fr. Janvier. Instead, he simply keeps repeating that his understanding is truth, and Pope Francis has erred gravely in his Magisterium. The explanations he gives are long and convoluted, and based mainly on the assumption that his own conclusions cannot err. Here is the summary of his position that he presents in his first letter “to the reigning Roman Pontiff”, numbered as 5 questions to the Pope from Fr. Janvier, who signs his letters as follows:

“Abbé Janvier Gbénou (pen name: Father Jesusmary Missigbètò)”

“1. Is it normal for a pope to contradict Christian Tradition by asking for the adoption of homosexual civil cohabitation laws through a documentary intended for the whole world and directed by an active homosexual (cf. my 1st open letter)?

“2. Is it normal for a pope to contradict Christian Tradition by allowing access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist to the remarried divorcees and by telling them that the struggle against sexual cohabitation is an option (cf. my 2nd open letter)?

“3. Is it normal for a pope to contradict Christian Tradition by authorising direct sterilisation, which is hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) with the agreement of medical experts and without a medical emergency for the health of the mother (cf. my future 3rd open letter)?

“4. Is it normal for a pope to contradict Christian Tradition by keeping silent about the introduction of abortion laws (Ireland, Argentina, Matic Report) and allowing politicians who are publicly in favour of abortion to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist (cf. my future 4th open letter)?

“5. Is it normal for a pope to contradict Christian Tradition by presiding over a pagan ceremony (Pachamama) in the Vatican (cf. my future 5th open letter)?”

My replies:
1. It does not matter who directs the documentary. We are all fallen sinners, and we must treat others with love, mercy, forbearance, and forgiveness. The statements of Pope Francis on this matter pertain to civil laws, not to Church teaching, as already explained above.
2. It is wrong for a priest (or anyone else) to judge the Roman Pontiff. The First See is judged by no one but God. And in any case, words and deeds are not to be evaluated based on what seems to be normal, as we live in a fallen and broken world. Then the Roman Pontiff has the authority to bind and to loose, and so he can decide what discipline the Church will use for holy Communion. Then the last part of this second question by Fr. Janvier is not an accurate account of what was said (see my earlier remarks).
3. This will be covered below in the section on the Third Open Letter. The Pope did not authorize direct sterilization. The case considered was when the uterus is incapable of carrying a prenatal to term, and so removal of the uterus does not directly sterilize the woman, but instead removes a uterus so diseased or damaged that it cannot fulfil its natural function.
4. Pope Francis has spoken very clearly against abortion. The Church is not obligated to provide a running commentary on the events of the political world. Having already clearly spoken against abortion, the Pope need not speak on the topic every time it is in the news or every time a change occurs in one nation or another. Then the discipline for holy Communion is under his judgment, which is not subject to the judgment, condemnation, revision, or appeal of anyone on earth.
5. The Pope did not preside over a pagan ceremony. This point has already been explained on this blog in other articles. Briefly, the Pachamama is merely a symbol and can be views as a symbol of nature, without any idolatrous intent. The tree planting ceremony in the Vatican garden was intended by the Pope to be nothing other than that. When some persons at that ceremony began to behave badly, the Pope cut the ceremony short, omitted a significant portion of what had been planned, said an “our Father” prayer, and then left. He certainly did not preside over the bad behavior of some who seemed to be worshipping a tree.

Finally, in his first letter to Pope Francis, Fr. Janvier asks that he be reinstated by Opus Dei, for a few reasons. First, he says he has never preached against Pope Francis. Okay, but he speaks against the Roman Pontiff repeatedly on social media and in at least six open letters so far. Second, he says that “there are currently many priests and bishops in the Church who preach half-truths and errors, contrary to the traditional teaching of the Church, and who have not received any prohibition of preaching, confessions and public Masses.” Well, this second point is just an accusation by Fr. Janvier against anyone who speaks contrary to his own under of “traditional teaching”, and so this just illustrates the problem of this priest assuming that his own ideas are Catholic truth, and anyone who thinks otherwise — even the Pope or the Bishops — must have fallen into grave error. *** Really, this is the crux of the problem for most of those who oppose Pope Francis. They cannot get past their own self-confidence and self-judgment that they are essentially infallible. And if even the Pope, the Bishops, or an Ecumenical Council disagrees, they must all be wrong. ***

Fr. Janvier then goes on to accuse a Bishop of grave errors, just as he has accused the Roman Pontiff, and on much the same points. So in his list of reasons why Opus Dei should reinstate him, he just continues expressing the very same errors for which he has been disciplined.

Finally, Fr. Janvier says that Opus Dei should accept “the diversity of opinions on problematic issues in the Church” and “not seek to impose a single vision” — which is exactly what Fr. Janvier is trying to do. He wishes to impose on the Church his own single vision or rather singular misunderstanding of controversial issues on the Church. There is no willingness from this priest to admit that the Magisterium is right and he is wrong, and no willingness to be silent while reconsidering his own position. He is obstinate and he insists on repeatedly publicizing his errors to the world.

— To Be Continued —

There is still a third open letter and two more letters “to the reigning Roman Pontiff” to consider and review. Those points will be covered, hopefully, in a second post.

by Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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1 Response to Fr. Janvier Gbénou versus Pope Francis part one

  1. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Ron,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to investigate the case of Fr. Janvier so thoroughly. It’s very important for people to know the complete story..God bless you.

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