[Views expressed in ‘mailbag’ those of writers]
By Professor Daniel O’Connor (Countdown to the Kingdom)
On July 13, 2020, Dr. Mark Miravalle published an article in which he expresses his own negative judgment regarding the authenticity of Fr. Michel Rodrigue. As a contributor to Countdown to the Kingdom (which has posted several of Fr. Michel’s talks), a member of Dr. Miravalle’s International Marian Association, and an author who has quoted Fr. Michel approvingly, I feel a duty to respond.
As any reader of my books knows, I deeply respect Dr. Miravalle and generally highly regard his discernment. My respect for him remains, and I write this post in a spirit of fraternal charity. At this point, it would be helpful to repeat the first point in the Disclaimer on Countdown to the Kingdom regarding any of the seers published on our website: “We are not the final arbiters of what constitutes an authentic revelation—the Church is—and we will always submit to whatever she definitively decides. It is with the Church, then, that we “test” prophecy: ‘Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 67) In that regard, we at CTTK welcome Dr. Miravalle’s discernment, though we wish that he would have shared his concerns with us prior in a truth-seeking spirit, for we believe Dr. Miravalle has reached a mistaken conclusion and has employed a number of serious methodological fallacies in arriving at it.
I have never met Fr. Michel nor have I had the opportunity to study all his talks (though others on our team at CTTK have, of course, scrutinized all his material before publishing it), but I would add that we have received countless letters and comments from all over the world, from clergy and laity alike who have been deeply moved by Fr. Michel’s presentations. Many have said that these teachings have filled them with hope and joy, that they have returned to their faith as a result or that they have begun anew in more earnestness regarding their prayer lives, the Sacraments, conversion and even consideration of religious vocations. These fruits are but one factor we consider noteworthy to which Dr. Miravalle was not privy. Indeed, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considers such fruits relevant. It specifically refers to the importance that such a phenomenon of locutions, visions, etc., which Fr. Michel claims,…
…bear fruits by which the Church herself might later discern the true nature of the facts…”
—Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations” n. 2, vatican.va
But if Fr. Michel does, at some point, wind up being condemned or objectively proven false, then I will lose no sleep: I have never claimed (nor do I now) certainty in his authenticity, and CountdownToTheKingdom.com does not exist for the sake of presenting this or that seer as one who “has it all figured out”: it exists to heed the call of Heaven to the whole Church. Fr. Michel is just one of countless seers alive today (or who have recently passed) giving essentially the same message — that is, part of the “prophetic consensus” (although any more specific details Fr. Michel provides can only be considered as “wait and see”.) It is for the sake of announcing the prophetic consensus that CountdownToTheKingdom.com exists, and this consensus neither rises nor falls on the authenticity of one or two seers.
I would also like to note that Christine Watkins’ book, The Warning: Testimonies and Prophecies of the Illumination of Conscience — containing within its pages many of Fr. Michel’s prophetic messages (including some of those which Miravalle considers problematic) — now bears the Imprimatur of the Church, and will soon be published with this support.
Now, on to the response to Dr. Miravalle’s theological evaluation.
Dr. Miravalle has stated that Fr. Michel’s bishop has rendered a “negative discernment and decision” regarding the supernatural authenticity of Fr. Michel’s messages. This is misleading. In fact, no formal decision whatsoever has been rendered, and the bishop has merely informally stated his own lack of personal support for Fr. Michel’s messages. This quite simply indicates that Fr. Michel is not an officially approved seer; thus he has an “unapproved” status shared by many seers that Miravalle himself (rightly, I believe) promotes.
There has been no diocesan commission initiated to render judgment on Fr. Michel, nor has there been even so much as an investigation undertaken. Indeed, Bishop Lemay informally wrote, “I did not and I do not approve [Fr. Michel’s] teaching with regard to his locutions and visions,” which is reasonable to say if one has not yet studied them. This is neither a formal condemnation nor a canonical decree of any sort. Miravalle admits that he did not have access to the actual letter from Bishop Lemay. Unfortunately, Dr. Miravalle did not contact either myself or any of the CTTK contributors to attain a copy of this letter.
It is also worth noting that Bishop Lemay has phrased his lack of support for Fr. Michel’s messages as concomitant with his general lack of support for the Warning, the Era of Peace, and other teachings that are fully supported by countless authentic seers—even approved ones. It should not be surprising, therefore, that this bishop “does not support” Fr. Michel’s prophecies.
Dr. Miravalle issues what can only fairly be called a quibble regarding the mystical phenomena Fr. Michel experienced in youth, taking issue with the allegedly “unusual nature and degree of these alleged diabolical attacks [against Fr. Michel].” The truth, however, is that the only unusual thing would be if such attacks were lacking in the life story of an extraordinary mystic — which Fr. Michel certainly is, if indeed he is authentic. This second objection of Miravalle’s, therefore, is little more than a question-begging conclusion; assuming that Fr. Michel is inauthentic in an effort to prove precisely that.
Anyone will quickly realize that the demonic attacks undertaken against Fr. Michel (along with the latter’s efforts to thwart them) are anything but “unusual,” if one simply takes a few minutes to read what transpired in the demonic attacks against St. Padre Pio, St. Gemma, St. Faustina, the Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta, Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, Venerable Marthe Robin, or so many others. In fact, Fr. Michel’s mortifications undertaken as an element of his spiritual combat look mild compared to what one will come across while reading the lives of many saints, blessed, and venerables.
Dr. Miravalle cites an instance from Fr. Michel’s childhood where the family felt forced to burn their home down, which was demonically infested, as grounds to merit “theological and psychological concern.” I would note here the “rest of the story”: clergy, including the bishop, were either too frightened or simply ineffective in providing deliverance for the family. What admittedly sounds radical to us was evidently liberating and forward-moving for the Michel family.
Dr. Miravalle raises a phrase where Fr. Michel says of God the Father: “He and I are one.” This objection appears to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. Fr. Michel did not say that he [Fr. Michel] and the Father are one. Fr. Michel received a message from God the Father Who said that He [capital “H,” that is, Jesus] and the Father are one. Dr. Miravalle’s statement that Fr. Michel Rodrigue says that the Father does whatever he, Fr. Michel, asks of the Father, is therefore, also false and untenable. The message states that the Father does what the Son, Jesus, asks of him. Fr. Michel is an official exorcist in the Church, with proven spiritual gifts not unlike the great saints, a seminary professor, a pastor, and priest in good standing. He would not have been able to operate in the Church with such an abundance of God’s grace and power, if he had such outlandish beliefs and vocal statements.
Dr. Miravalle implies that Fr. Michel’s teaching that the Antichrist is somewhere in the hierarchy of the Church is at odds with “the patristic, mystical, and prophetic traditions of the Church.” Miravalle provides no details to support this argument other than linking to an old Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Antichrist. This article does not support Miravalle’s position, but does in fact support Fr. Michel’s—for example, the article cites St. Bernard’s teaching that the Antichrist will also be an antipope. It is also worth noting that there is hardly a consensus as to the lineage, background, etc. of the Antichrist among the sources Miravalle cites.
Dr. Miravalle even goes so far as to imply that Fr. Michel’s position is similar to the Papal-Antichrist theory of the Protestant reformers who identified the legitimate Papacy itself with the Antichrist — an entirely unjust association which is light years away from anything Fr. Michel has ever asserted. Fr. Michel is a faithful Catholic and a faithful son of the Pope — including whoever happens to truly hold that office at a given time, an office which Fr. Michel unabashedly asserts is presently held by Pope Francis.
Fr. Michel’s teaching that the Antichrist is somewhere within the Ecclesial hierarchy right now may be proven inaccurate — only time will tell — but it is certainly not a reason to reach a negative discernment on Fr. Michel at present. (Note: the first “son of perdition”, Judas, was one of the “hierarchy” of the Twelve Apostles.)
Dr. Miravalle claims that it is a “substantial theological error” to assert that Benedict XVI may in the future convene a new council to elect a Pope after Pope Francis dies.
This fifth argument falls victim to the general logical fallacy of judging the superior by the inferior; in this case, seeking to judge a theological reality by the standard of canonical minutiae. How exactly a conclave is convoked in order to elect a new pope is not a “substantial theological” question at all, therefore even if one were to fall into error regarding it, it could not possibly amount to a “substantial theological error.” Throughout the history of the Church, there has been a a great number of ways in which the details of Papal Election have transpired. Even if it is not the canonically ordinary way to convoke a new conclave, we are not exactly living in canonically ordinary times, and entertaining the possibility that a genuine prophecy could speak of a Pope Emeritus being the one to even informally call the Cardinals together to elect a new Pope should not even be considered such a stumbling block, much less considered as heretical.
Furthermore, Miravalle seems to be neglecting the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote, in Universi Dominici Gregis, “…theologians and canonists of all times agree that this institution [viz., the Conclave] is not of its nature necessary for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff…” If even a conclave itself is not of its nature a theological necessity, then how can Miravalle be justified in claiming that one particular way of calling a conclave together (by a Pope Emeritus, no less!) can amount to a “substantial theological error”?
Unfortunately, Dr. Miravalle’s sixth objection is itself subject to grave errors. First, Miravalle refers to “the concept that devils exist permanently in Purgatory.” This is an intrinsically contradictory statement, as Purgatory is essentially temporary (it is Church dogma that Purgatory ceases to exist upon the General Judgment), and therefore referring to anything having a “permanent” position in Purgatory is meaningless. More problematic, however, is Dr. Miravalle’s implicit assertion that it is heresy to refer to demons having a role to play in Purgatory; as such an assertion condemns no less an authority than St. Faustina herself as a heretic.
In §412 of her fully approved revelations, St. Faustina writes of one of her own visions of Purgatory, saying:
I saw the souls who were doing penance in purgatory. They appeared like shadows, and among them I saw many demons.
Shortly after, in §426, Faustina describes the Purgatory of a certain soul who had been particularly mired in sin, and goes on to say, “I can find no words or comparisons to express such terrible things. And although it seems to me that this soul is not damned, nevertheless its torments are in no way different from the torments of hell; there is only this difference: that they will someday come to an end.” Obviously, if the only difference between Purgatory and Hell for a given poor soul is the merely temporary nature of the former, then one can conclude that the demons do have some role to play in at least some levels of Purgatory.
Indeed, in Purgatory there is Faith, Hope, and Charity. There is even great joy, I would argue—as all souls there are dearly beloved to God and know they are saved! Furthermore, there is no more sin and no more temptation in Purgatory. But there is little Church Dogma on the nature of the details of the experience in Purgatory, and there certainly are no theological grounds to rule out the possibility that, at least in Purgatory’s lower levels, the demons themselves could be allowed to carry out a purifying—not a tempting—role. Fr. Michel clearly said that the demons were only allowed this purifying role in Purgatory—not the tempting role they so often play on earth.
Dr. Miravalle’s willingness to condemn Fr. Michel as a heretic (claiming that Fr. Michel’s teaching here is “substantially incompatible with authentic Catholic doctrine” is tantamount to an accusation of heresy) for asserting the exact same thing that St. Faustina asserted, and to encourage his readers to trust this condemnation on account of his own subjective take on the “overall tone and tenor of the Church’s Mystical Tradition,” is a serious overstep. Indeed, throughout his article, Miravalle cites no actual Church Teachings to bolster his claims that Fr. Michel’s messages allegedly violate them, but only requests his readers to trust his own subjective take on the “general mystical tradition.”
Here, Dr. Miravalle claims that Fr. Michel must be regarded as unreliable due to a personal story he shared about an encounter with Pope John Paul II allegedly being impossible to have transpired. But Miravalle’s entire seventh point is based on the notion that anyone who is “familiar with the daily Vatican protocol of Pope St. John Paul II” can be absolutely certain that John Paul II never had any room anywhere in St. Peter’s Basilica (the largest Church in the world) that he could have possibly used as an office and that John Paul II could not possibly have ever done anything in the Vatican that was not directly observed by his private secretaries or Swiss guards, and that, consequently, Fr. Michel’s story about an encounter with John Paul II “could not have been based in reality.”
The strangeness of Miravalle’s point here, I think, refutes itself. The idea of a pope finding refuge in obscure places within the Vatican to be in solitude does not require much imagination. Moreover, to suggest that Fr. Michel invented this story puts into question this priest’s integrity and constitutes an accusation with grounds not proportional to its evidence and gravity. There are an infinite number of potential scenarios under which Fr. Michel’s account is perfectly plausible, so I will not bother to enumerate them here.
As with his third point, this point, too, is based on a misunderstanding. Note: Fr. Michel’s English is rather broken and, as such, he sometimes uses the wrong words in his self-translation. Furthermore, he has written little about his prophecy, but primarily has spoken about it, adding to the difficulties.
Dr. Miravalle writes, “The irrationality of this claim, i.e., that Pope St. John Paul II used another person as an imposter to impersonate him during public audiences… requires no commentary.” Indeed, it requires no commentary, as such a claim would be absurd; but it is evidently not what Fr. Michel said.
Christine Watkins, who has met privately with Fr. Michel and interviewed him, explains:
Yes, that would be completely irrational, but that is not what Fr. Michel said. I wrote this down down from memory based on Fr. Michel sharing this story with a few of us at a dinner table…. I would like to clarify Fr. Michel’s words: ‘Yes, I am here because I’m too short to get close to see you. But how is it you’re here when you pope vehicle [your car] is pulling up right now where all the crowds are?’ Here Fr. Michel did not mean the popemobile, where the pope is clearly visible, as that would be ridiculous. During public audiences, obviously it was he, the pope, who spoke to the audiences. Dr. Miravalle seems to have read this to suggest that an imposter was standing in place of the pope during his public audiences. This is not what Fr. Michel was saying. Fr. Michel was surprised to learn that in order for the pope to arrive in a car for his public appearance and not be trapped or delayed by crowds, a similar “pope” car pulls up [most likely with dark windows], so that John Paul II could come and go. This would be wise and understandable.”
I would add that it is not uncommon among dignitaries, as a matter of security, that decoy cars, etc. are used.
The assumptions guiding Dr. Miravalle’s ninth assertion are radically at odds with Fr. Michel’s entire message. Here, Miravalle objects to Fr. Michel’s teaching that the Warning will cause all to “recognize Christ” and will remove the ability to say that “God does not exist.” Miravalle writes: “This assertion seems to deny the possibility of a free act of the free will by over seven billion people, whereby some of whom … could immediately deny the proposed grace [of the Warning].”
Fr. Michel is well aware that many will deny the grace of the Warning. His entire message is that, after the Warning, a Great Apostasy will commence with many joining sides with it and with the Antichrist who initiates it! Obviously, any statement from Fr. Michel that might seem (wrongly) to dispute the reality of free will allowing many to deny the grace of the Warning must be understood in the light of Fr. Michel’s own clear and repeated teachings on what will come after the Warning and which contradict such a mistaken interpretation.
Indeed, these are Fr. Michel’s words in black and white on this website that clearly indicate that not all will accept this grace:
“After the illumination of conscience, humanity will be granted an unparalleled gift: a period of repentance lasting about six and a half weeks when the devil will not have the power to act. This means all human beings will have their complete free will to make a decision for or against the Lord. The devil will not bind our will and fight against us. The first two and a half weeks, in particular, will be extremely important, for the devil will not return at that time, but our habits will, and people will be harder to convert. And all who have received the desire for him, the sense that they need His salvation, will be marked on their forehead with a luminous cross by their guardian angel.”
Fr. Michel is simply teaching that the Warning will foist itself, without invitation and without seeking permission, upon all souls on the face of the planet, showing them that God exists, that Christ exists, and revealing to them the state of their souls. How souls respond, after the Warning, will be up to them.
Dr. Miravalle’s final objection takes issue with Fr. Michel’s assertion that there will be about a six or six and a half-week reprieve after the Warning and that sometime after this point, faithful souls will be lead by their Guardian Angels to refuges where they will be protected during the reign of the Antichrist. Now, whether or not these prophecies from Fr. Michel are true or wind up being fulfilled, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with them and they constitute no grounds for rejecting his authenticity.
Miravalle writes “…the alleged directive for families to immediately leave their homes, properties, possessions, etc. after the Illumination of Conscience has absolutely no precedent within Church approved private revelation.” But this objection is a straw man, for Fr. Michel never said that we are simply to abandon our lives after the Warning on account of his own admonitions. Rather, Fr. Michel teaches that we are to follow our Guardian Angel, who will miraculously appear to some in the form of a flame, and lead them to temporary or permanent refuges. It is particularly strange to take issue with a simple admonition to follow one’s Guardian Angel if the latter miraculously appears. I would like to know what exactly Dr. Miravalle would advise his readers to do if their Guardian Angel appears to them telling them to do something. Furthermore, Fr. Michel’s account—as he explains here—of the Guardian Angel appearing miraculously as a flame is not unprecedented.
Dr. Miravalle writes that some of Fr. Michel’s prophecies have “... absolutely no precedent within Church approved private revelation.” We would note that another credible seer on Countdown to the Kingdom, Jennifer, has been given similar messages from Jesus:
My people, My angels will come and guide you to your places of refuge where you will be sheltered from the storms and the forces of the antichrist and this one world government. —July 14th, 2004
Take heed to My words, for as the time begins to close in, the attacks that will be unleashed by Satan will be at unprecedented proportions. Diseases will come forth and culminate, My people, and your homes will be a safe haven until My angels guide you to your place of refuge. —February 23rd, 2007
But even if no such similar messages existed, engaging in an a priori rejection of any prophetic increase in specificity (which, far from being ruled out, should be affirmatively expected the closer we get to the long-prophesied events) is essentially tantamount to a categorical rejection of prophecy itself. Prophecy is never mere repetition, while the unstated premise in Miravalle’s tenth objection here is precisely that prophecy may only be mere repetition. The fact that prophecy must stand in harmony with and never contradict Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium—as well, I would add, the general prophetic consensus—mustn’t be erroneously conflated with the patently false notion that prophecy may not be new (so long as it does not correct or change Sacred Tradition).
Dr. Miravalle begins his concluding remarks by stating “the alleged messages of Fr. Rodrigue contain significant and repeated examples of theological and factor error.” As I hope I have made clear in this post, no such errors exist—at least, not in what Miravalle has here presented—a reality testified to by the fact that there are no Magisterial texts cited in Miravalle’s article (beyond one brief mention of the CDF’s 1978 norms for discernment; norms which, in fact, seem to strongly favor Fr. Michel’s authenticity).
I am grateful, on the one hand, for the opportunity to clarify several clear misunderstandings and theological misconstructions regarding Fr. Michel. On the other hand, I hope this public response is an invitation to others in such positions as Dr. Miravalle to engage us in dialogue before making public declarations that ultimately serve to only further confuse and divide the Body of Christ at a time when we need each other most.
Please remember that I am not at all claiming certainty in the authenticity of Fr. Michel’s messages, thus I continue to welcome further information relevant to proper Church-sanctioned norms of discernment. I am simply saying that I do think they are authentic, and I still have seen no worthy reason to doubt their authenticity. Fr. Michel seems to be a good, holy, orthodox, and learned priest, not to mention a good Catholic and a psychologically stable individual (a conclusion I have arrived at even based on my own correspondence with him). This does not mean he is infallible, of course, but it does mean that we should take what he says seriously.
If Fr. Michel is actually hearing from God, carrying messages to be announced to the faithful, then he is an important voice that should not go unheeded. Now is a critical time in the Church and the world when things are rapidly changing, and people need direction and assurance.
And what is Fr. Michel saying? He’s not saying store up years of food (he only says to have a few months’ worth if possible—natural reason observing the state of the world today arrives at the same conclusion); he’s not saying go build a refuge (he’s saying that those are already built for the most part or that those who are to build them are only those clearly called by God to do so); he’s not saying be afraid; he’s not saying neglect the duties of your state in life.
His message is simple: go to Confession, pray the Rosary, consecrate yourself to the Holy Family. He’s saying repent. He’s saying be a good Catholic.
Even if you cannot bring yourself to regard Fr. Michel’s visions as authentic private revelation, I nevertheless conclude by asking: What, dear friends, is so wrong with that message?
[resources: The Warning]