Ngô Đình Thục

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Ngô Đình Thục
Archbishop of Huế
Archbishop Thuc.jpg
Native name
Phêrô Máctinô Ngô Đình Thục
Appointed24 November 1960
Term ended17 February 1968
PredecessorJean-Baptiste Urrutia as Vicar Apostolic of Huế
SuccessorPhilippe Nguyên-Kim-Diên
Other post(s)
Ordination20 December 1925
by Eugène-Marie-Joseph Allys, M.E.P.
Consecration4 May 1938
by Antonin Drapier
Personal details
Born6 October 1897
Died13 December 1984 (aged 87)
Carthage, Missouri, U.S.
BuriedSpringfield, Missouri, U.S.
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsNgô Đình Khả
EducationPhilosophy, Theology, Canon law
Alma materPontifical Gregorian University
MottoMiles Christi (Soldier of Christ)
SignatureNgô Đình Thục's signature
Coat of armsNgô Đình Thục's coat of arms
Ordination history of
Ngô Đình Thục
Priestly ordination
Ordained byEugène-Marie-Joseph Allys, M.E.P.
Date20 December 1925
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorAntonin Drapier
Co-consecratorsIsidore-Marie-Joseph Dumortier, M.E.P.,
Dominique Maria Hồ Ngọc Cẩn
Date4 May 1938
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Ngô Đình Thục as principal consecrator
Simon Hoa Nguyên-van Hien30 November 1955
Paul Nguyên Van Binh30 November 1955
Philippe Nguyên-Kim-Diên22 January 1961
Michel Nguyên Khác Ngu22 January 1961
Antoine Nguyên Van Thien22 January 1961
Joseph Trãn-Vãn-Thiên22 January 1961
Clemente Domínguez y Gómez11 January 1976
Manuel Corral11 January 1976
Camilo Estevez11 January 1976
Michael Donnelly11 January 1976
Francis Sandler11 January 1976
Michel-Louis Guérard des Lauriers7 May 1981
Moisés Carmona17 October 1981
Adolfo Zamora17 October 1981
Styles of
Ngô Đình Thục
Coat of arms of Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục.svg
Reference style
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleYour Excellency

Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục (Vietnamese pronunciation: [ŋo ɗîŋ̟ tʰùkp]) (6 October 1897 – 13 December 1984) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Huế, Vietnam, and later a sedevacantist bishop who was excommunicated by the Vatican and allegedly reconciled with the Vatican before his death in 1984.[1] He was a member of the Ngô family who ruled South Vietnam in the years leading up to the Vietnam War. He was the founder of the Dalat University. Today, various Independent Catholic and sedevacantist groups claim to have derived their apostolic succession from Thục.

While Thục was in Rome attending the second session of the Second Vatican Council, the 1963 South Vietnamese coup overthrew and assassinated his younger brother, Ngô Đình Diệm, who was president of South Vietnam. Thục was unable to return to Vietnam and lived the rest of his life exiled in Italy, France, and the United States. During his exile, he was involved with Traditionalist Catholic movements and consecrated a number of bishops without the Vatican's approval for the Palmarian and Sedevacantist movements. As a result, he was excommunicated by the Holy See, but allegedly reconciled with the Vatican.


Early life and family[edit]

Ngô Đình Thục was born on 6 October 1897, in Huế, French Indochina, to an affluent Roman Catholic family as the second of the six surviving sons born to Ngô Đình Khả, a mandarin of the Nguyễn dynasty who served Emperor Thành Thái during the French occupation of Vietnam.

Thục's elder brother, Khôi, served as a governor and mandarin of the French-controlled Emperor Bảo Đại's administration. At the end of World War Two, both Khôi and Thục's younger brother Diệm were arrested for having collaborated with the Japanese.[2] Diệm was released, but Khôi was subsequently shot by the Việt Minh as part of the August Revolution of 1945 (and not buried alive as is sometimes stated).[3] Thục's brothers Diệm, Nhu and Cẩn, were politically active. Cardinal François Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận (1928–2002) was Thục's nephew.

Priesthood and early episcopacy[edit]

At age twelve, Thục entered the minor seminary in An Ninh. He spent eight years there before going on to study philosophy at the major seminary in Huế. Following his ordination as a priest on 20 December 1925, he was selected to study theology in Rome, and is often said to have earned three doctorates from the Pontifical Gregorian University in philosophy, theology, and Canon law; this is not substantiated by the university's archives however.[4] He briefly lectured at the Sorbonne and gained teaching qualifications before returning to Vietnam in 1927.[4]

On 8 January 1938, Pope Pius XI created the Apostolic Vicariate of Vĩnh Long in Vietnam, and personally chose Thục (now aged 41) to be it its first Vicar Apostolic. On 4 May of the same year, with his family in attendance, Thục was consecrated a bishop by Archbishop Antonin Drapier, Apostolic Delegate to Indochina, and co-consecrators Bishop Isidore-Marie-Joseph Dumortier, M.E.P., Vicar Apostolic of Saigon, and Bishop Dominique Maria Hồ Ngọc Cẩn, Vicar Apostolic of Bùi Chu.[1]

In 1950 Diệm and Thục applied for permission to travel to Rome for the Holy Year celebrations at the Vatican but went instead to Japan to lobby Prince Cường Để to enlist support to seize power. They met Wesley Fishel, an American academic consultant for the U.S. government. Fishel was a proponent of the anti-colonial, anti-communist third force doctrine in Asia and was impressed by Diệm. He helped the brothers organise contacts and meetings in the United States to enlist support.[5]

With the outbreak of the Korean War and McCarthyism in the early 1950s, Vietnamese anti-communists were a sought-after commodity in the United States. Diệm and Thục were given a reception at the State Department with the Acting Secretary of State James Webb, where Thục did much of the talking. Diệm and Thục also forged links with Cardinal Francis Spellman, the most politically influential cleric of his time, and Spellman became one of Diệm's most powerful advocates. Diệm then managed an audience with Pope Pius XII in Rome with his brother's help, and then settled in the US as a guest of the Maryknoll Fathers.[6] Spellman helped Diệm to garner support among right-wing and Catholic circles. Thục was widely seen as more genial, loquacious, and diplomatic than his brother, and it was acknowledged that Thục would be highly influential in the future regime.[7] As French power in Vietnam declined, Diệm’s support in America, which Thục helped to nurture, made his stock rise. Bảo Đại made Diệm the Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam because he thought Diệm's connections would secure foreign financial aid.[8]

Diệm's rule[edit]

In October 1955, Diệm deposed Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by Nhu and declared himself President of the newly proclaimed Republic of Vietnam, which then concentrated power in the Ngô family, who were dedicated Roman Catholics in a Buddhist majority country.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Power was enforced through secret police and the imprisonment and torture of political and religious opponents. The Ngôs' policies and conduct inflamed religious tensions. The government was biased towards Catholics in public service and military promotions, as well as the allocation of land, business favors and tax concessions.[16] Thục, the most powerful religious leader in the country, was allowed to solicit "voluntary contributions to the Church" from Saigon businessmen, which was likened to "tax notices".[17] Thục also used his position to acquire farms, businesses, urban real estate, rental property and rubber plantations for the Catholic Church. He also used Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel to work on his timber and construction projects.[18]

On 24 November 1960, Thục was appointed Archbishop of Huế[1] by John XXIII.

Buddhist unrest and downfall of Diệm[edit]

In May 1963, in the central city of Huế, Buddhists were prohibited from displaying the Buddhist flag during Vesak celebrations commemorating the birth of Gautama Buddha, when the government cited a regulation prohibiting the display of non-government flags at Thục's request.[19] A few days earlier, Catholics were encouraged to fly flags to celebrate Thục's 25th anniversary as bishop, but were ordered by Diem's government to fly Vietnamese flags as more important. Government funds were used to pay for Thục's anniversary celebrations, and the residents of Huế—a Buddhist stronghold—were also forced to contribute. These perceived double standards led to a Buddhist protest against the government. Buddhist leader Thích Trí Quang proclaimed a five-point "manifesto of the monks" that demanded freedom to fly the Buddhist flag, religious equality between Buddhists and Catholics, compensation for the victims' families, an end to arbitrary arrests, and punishment of the officials responsible.[20] The protest was ended when nine civilians were killed because of a bomb, said to have been placed by the Việt Cộng. American journalists, who supported American intervention in Vietnam and opposed Diem for opposing it, blamed the military and even Archbishop Thuc for the deaths,[21][22] [23] Later, the Ngôs' forces entered the Buddhist pagodas across the country. The synchronized military operations, the speed at which banners were erected declaring the ARVN resolve to defeat communism, and doctored propaganda photos purporting to show Việt Cộng infiltration of the Buddhists suggested that the actions were long premeditated.[24] In an attempt to maintain secrecy, special printing presses had produced propaganda materials only hours before the raids.[25]

Diệm was overthrown and assassinated together with Nhu on 2 November 1963. Ngô Đình Cẩn was sentenced to death and executed in 1964. Of the six brothers, only Thục and Luyện survived the political upheavals in Vietnam. Luyện, the youngest, was serving as ambassador in London, and Thục had been summoned to Rome for the Second Vatican Council. Because of the coup, Thục remained in Rome during the Council years (1962–65). He was among the bishops who were against the statements of the Council.[26]

Beginning of exile[edit]

After the closing of the Second Vatican Council, none of the relevant governments – American, Vietnamese or the Vatican – consented to Thục returning to Vietnam.[27]

According to Thục, the Americans forced the South Vietnamese government to refuse him permission to return,[28] and that Paul VI used this inability to return to force him to resign and appoint Bishop Philippe Nguyễn Kim Điền, one of Paul VI's favorites, as his replacement.[29]

He began his exile in Rome.[30]

Consecrations of bishops and declaration of sedevacantism[edit]

A Swiss priest Thục formerly knew in Écône, Switzerland,[31] Father Maurice Revaz, former Chancellor of the Swiss Diocese of Sion and professor of canon law in Ecône at the International Seminary of Saint Pius X of the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), came to Thục and invited him to go to Spain, saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary wanted him to render her a service.[31] On the recommendation of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (Thuc, like Lefebvre, was against the statements of the Second Vatican Council[26]), on 1 January 1976, in El Palmar de Troya, Spain, Thục ordained Clemente Domínguez y Gómez — who claimed to have repeatedly witnessed apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary — and others as priests, and on 11 January 1976, consecrated Dominguez and four others as bishops.[32][33] Thục stated that he had gone to Palmar de Troya on the spur of the moment, though contemporary sources show him to have been a regular visitor since 1968.[34]

On 7 May 1981, Thục consecrated the independent priest Michel-Louis Guérard des Lauriers as a bishop.[32] Des Lauriers was a Dominican theologian, an expert on the dogma of the Assumption, and an advisor to Pope Pius XII.[35] On 17 October, Thục consecrated the two Mexican sedevacantist priests and former seminary professors Moisés Carmona and Adolfo Zamora as bishops.[citation needed] Carmona and Zamora were among the priests who formed the Unión Católica Trento (Tridentine Catholic Union).[26]

On 21 March, Laetare Sunday, he publicly proclaimed this declaration during a Pontifical High Mass in Sankt Michael Church in Munich.[36]

In response to his episcopal consecrations for the sedevacantists in Toulon in 1981 and to his declaration of sedevacantism, the Vatican again declared him ipso facto excommunicated.[37]

His newly consecrated bishops did not form a united structure and organization, but became a fragmented group, many limiting themselves essentially to sacramental ministry and only consecrated a few other bishops[38] for various sedevacantist priests or groups.

In 1982, Thuc declared:

in so far as I am a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, I judge that the Chair of the Roman Catholic Church is vacant; and it behooves me, as bishop, to do all that is needed so that the Roman Catholic Church will endure in its mission for the salvation of souls.[36][37]

In 1983, Thục departed for the United States at the invitation of Bishop Louis Vezelis, an American Franciscan former missionary priest who later became a sedevacantist bishop. Vezelis was consecrated a bishop by the American sedevacantist Bishop George J. Musey (consecrated in 1982 by Carmona) and by co-consecrators Carmona and Zamora (the two Mexican sedevacantist bishops Thục consecrated on 17 October 1981). Thục collaborated with Vezelis in the operation of a seminary in Rochester, New York,[39] United States.

Reconciliation and death[edit]

Thục began to be increasingly sought-out by the expatriate and refugee Vietnamese community, including old friends and contacts from Huế and Saigon.[40] They facilitated his extraction from sedevacantism and Thục returned to the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church definitively in 1984.[1][41]

Des Lauriers wrote that:

The document spelling out his [Thục's] submission to JP-2 [John Paul II], and said to be signed freely by Mgr. Thuc in July of 1984, was followed by an "exhortation." This exhortation was addressed to the three bishops (of which I am one) consecrated in 1981 by Mgr. Thuc urging the three bishops to follow in the footsteps of Mgr. Thuc and submit to JP-2. Now if Mgr. Thuc really had such sentiments and was not under pressure, he would have told me so himself. But, the fact is that Mgr. Thuc did not respond to the letter which I sent to him at this time and I still don't know if he received it. Let me add that Mgr. Thuc, even if less than candid, was sufficiently perspicacious to be capable of knowing that an exhortation coming directly from him would impress me, while one coming from the mediation of official Rome could not in my eyes appear other than ridiculous! This exhortation "via Wojtyla [John Paul II]" (who Mgr. Thuc abhorred even more than Paul VI if such is possible!) was a joke! The production of Ratzinger, this exhortation smells of cosmic falsity - and this because it emanates from hell. It is signed "pseudo- Thuc" or by the "ectoplasm of Thuc" - every aspect of Thuc but the real Thuc.[42]

That his retraction was false is affirmed by some sedevacantists,[43] and so is the belief that he was kidnapped or abducted[42][43] by the Vietnamese clergy when he left Bishop Vezelis' Franciscan monastery and was taken to Missouri, where he died.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Ðình Thục [Catholic-Hierarchy]".
  2. ^ Jarvis, pp. 39-40
  3. ^ Jarvis, p. 40
  4. ^ a b Jarvis, p. 27
  5. ^ "University Project Cloaked C.I.A. Role In Saigon, 1955–59", New York Times, 14 April 1966
  6. ^ "The Beleaguered Man", Time, 4 April 1955; accessed 27 March 2008. "For the best part of two years (1951–53) he made his home at the Maryknoll Junior Seminary in Lakewood, N.J.. often going down to Washington to buttonhole State Department men and Congressmen and urge them not to support French colonialism."
  7. ^ Jarvis, pp. 41-42
  8. ^ Jacobs, pp. 25–34
  9. ^ The 1966 Buddhist Crisis in South Vietnam Archived 2008-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, HistoryNet
  10. ^ Gettleman, pp. 275–76, 366
  11. ^ Moyar, pp. 215–16
  12. ^ "South Viet Nam: The Religious Crisis". Time. 14 June 1963. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  13. ^ Tucker, pp. 49, 291, 293.
  14. ^ Maclear, p. 63.
  15. ^ SNIE 53-2-63, "The Situation in South Vietnam", 10 July 1963
  16. ^ Tucker, p. 291
  17. ^ Jacobs, p. 89.
  18. ^ Olson, p. 98.
  19. ^ Topmiller, p. 2
  20. ^ Jones, p. 143.
  21. ^ Karnow, p. 295
  22. ^ Moyar, pp. 212–13
  23. ^ Hammer, pp. 114–16.
  24. ^ Jones, p. 300.
  25. ^ Jones, p. 305.
  26. ^ a b c Gary L. Ward, Bertil Persson, and Alain Bain, eds., Independent Bishops: An International Directory [Detroit, MI: Apogee Books, 1990].
  27. ^ Jarvis, pp. 72-73
  28. ^ Most Rev. Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục. Autobiography (Part 4). "[T]he Americans forced the South Vietnamese into refusing my return visa."
  29. ^ Most Rev. Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục. Autobiography (Part 4). "[B]ut he [Paul VI] used the situation that I could not return to my diocese in Hué, to force me into abdication and appoint his favourite, Mgr. Dién, in my place."
  30. ^ Jarvis, p. 73
  31. ^ a b Most Rev. Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục. Autobiography (Part 4). "Then a priest came to me, one I had met before in Ecône, Switzerland. He told me outright: 'Excellency, the Holy Virgin sends me in order for me to send you to central Spain immediately to render her a service. My car is ready for you at the parsonage's door and we will depart immediately depart in order to be there for Christmas.'"
  32. ^ a b Cuneo, Michael W. The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism, JHU Press, 1999,p. 99.
  33. ^ Rev. Terence R. Fulham I.H.M., Corona Spinarum - A Biography and defense of Archbishop Pierre-Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc.
  34. ^ Jarvis, p. 83
  35. ^ M.L. Guérard des Lauriers, Dimensions de la Foi, Paris: Cerf, 1952.
  36. ^ a b Einsicht, Sondernummer (April 1998). Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  37. ^ a b Vatican. "Notification". In L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 18 April 1983, Page 12.
  38. ^ "Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo": Autobiography by Mgr. Ngô Đình Thục, written ca. 1978–1980. Einsicht – röm.-kath. Zeitschrift: Munich
  39. ^ Franciscan Fathers. "Bishop Ngo Dinh-Thuc" (photographs of Thục with Vezelis and seminarians).
  40. ^ Jarvis, p. 120-121
  41. ^ Jarvis, p. 121-123
  42. ^ a b Most Rev. Michel-Louis Guérard des Lauriers, OP. IN MEMORIAM MONSIGNEUR PETER MARTIN NGO-DINH-THUC. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  43. ^ a b Staff of The Reign of Mary. The Legacy of a Humble Man: Reflections on the Life of Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô dinh Thuc. In No. 134, Spring 2009.


Further reading[edit]