Homosexuality "is not a sin", how to "condemn" abortion?, a trans person "remains a child of God"... Matthieu Jasseron, an iconoclastic French country priest, invaded social networks with a " mission": to answer "without judging all the questions", even if it means passing for "heretic".
His parish of Joigny (center), in deep Burgundy, has only 18.000 inhabitants, but "faithful", he has 1,2 million on the TikTok network, where his thousands of videos have been "liked" 31,5 million times.
The priest 2.0 shakes up the Christian doctrine there, answering without taboo the questions of his most lost sheep.
To a transgender who says he is ostracized in his parish, he replies: "rejecting someone for their orientation should not exist. You will always be the child of God".
To this woman who asks him if abortion is "direct hell", he replies: "Are we here to condemn?".
And to the question "Is being gay, are we still Christian?", he affirms: "nowhere is it marked that it is a sin", opposing "all the repressed homos who hide behind religion" a quote from Pope Francis: "if a gay person seeks God and shows goodwill, who am I to judge him?".
The reaction is not long in coming: the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) says it "disapproves of some of these videos which distort the message of the Church".
"I understand that I could have offended: it is the strength of my speech", declares to AFP the scratchy priest of the Church, in his presbytery of the large sleepy town of Joigny.
It is here, in a sober office where pious icons rub shoulders with a Jewish candelabra and a Buddha, that the digital priest sets up his artisanal studio - a spotlight and a tripod to hold his telephone - and films himself shaking up the catechism.
"We taught our 70, 80 year olds a binary tradition: yes, no, we can't".
"But we have evolved", justifies the fiery priest, whose 38 years contrasts with the average age of his peers (67). Ordained less than four years ago, the priest does not have a classic background either: "I was nourished by Christian values even if we only went to mass once a year", he says. with a smirk more devilish than devilish.
"Netflix of Faith"
After business school, the Parisian suburbanite joined a wealth management company. "It was a comfortable job but I was not happy".
He then left to recharge his batteries in the countryside, in the Yonne, and met the brothers of Saint-Jean, who responded to his "quest for meaning".
At 24, he entered the seminary and then became a priest. He will not put on the cassock, however, preferring to keep his jeans-sneakers and his well-hung tongue, which had already almost got him expelled from the seminary.
When confinement occurs, he sees in TikTok a way to keep in touch with his parishioners.
In the first videos, in the spring of 2020, the "priest of TikTok" multiplies funny and willingly provocative films, like the one where he plays the DJ with a chalice on the altar of his church.
The most conservative treat him as a "heretic" but the "likes" multiply like hotcakes with each "tikthomelia", just like the questions that torment many believers.
"I wanted to answer it but without judging, and to extract myself from the logic of the forbidden-permit", he pleads with AFP.
On February 21, the cleric launched theostream.com, which he calls the “Netflix of faith.”
The platform wants to bring together Christian videos broadcast on YouTube (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant). Fifty themes were selected, including "sexuality" which includes homosexuality, contraception, gender identity...
"We no longer learn from books. Today, it's YouTube and TikTok. I'm taking it," explains Father Matthieu.
Nice revenge: Theostream received the imprimatur of the Bishops' Conference, which had in the past lectured the priest for his videos on homosexuality.
"The Church is trying to take digital into flight. Even 65-year-old priests are getting on TikTok, it's super cool," he says, without resentment.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)