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In this Vietnamese name, the family name is Ngô, but is often simplified to Ngo in English-language text. According to Vietnamese custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Thục.
Archbishop Thục being interviewed by American and Vietnamese journalists during the course of the Second Vatican Council, c. 1963, inside Vatican City.

Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục (Vietnamese pronunciation: [ŋo ɗîɲ tʰùkp]) (October 6, 1897–December 13, 1984), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Huế, Vietnam, was born in Huế, on October 6, 1897, of affluent Roman Catholic parents. His younger brother, Ngô Đình Diệm, was the first president of South Vietnam. Cardinal François Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận (1928–2002) was Thục's nephew. Thục was the principal consecrator of Bishops Michel Nguyên Khác Ngu (1909-2009) and Antoine Nguyên Van Thien (born 1906), the last Roman Catholic bishop in Vietnam.[1]


Early Ecclesiastical Career

The coat of arms of Archbishop Thục.
His episcopal motto was: "Miles Christi", soldier of Christ.

Thục entered the minor seminary in An Ninh at the age of 12. He spent eight years there before going on to study philosophy at the major seminary in Huế. After his ordination to the priesthood on December 20, 1925, he taught at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. He was then selected to study theology in Rome and returned to Vietnam in 1927 after being awarded three doctorates from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in philosophy, theology, and Canon law.

He then became a professor at the College of Vietnamese Brothers in Huế, a professor at the major seminary in Huế, and Dean of the College of Providence.

In 1938, at the age of 41, Father Thục was chosen by Rome to direct the Apostolic Vicariate at Vinh Long. He was consecrated bishop on May 4, 1938, being the third Vietnamese priest raised to the rank of bishop. In 1957, Bishop Thục founded the Dalat University. On November 24, 1960, Pope John XXIII named Bishop Thục Archbishop of Huế.

Thục's brother, Ngô Ðình Khôi, was buried alive by the Viet Minh right after the Viet-Minh-led August Revolution in August 1945 because he had been a mandarin of the French-controlled Emperor Bao Dai's administration. Thục worked with his three brothers, Ngô Đình Diệm, Ngô Đình Nhu and Ngô Đình Cẩn, who were later all killed, to gain political power.

Diem had been Interior Minister under Bao Dai in the 1930s for a brief period, and sought power in the late 1940s and 1950s under a Catholic anti-communist platform as various groups tried to establish their rule over Vietnam.

In 1950, with Diem not making much impact and being targeted for assassination, he and Thuc applied for permission to travel to Rome for the Holy Year celebrations at the Vatican. However, they went to Japan to lobby Cuong De to enlist support to seize power. They met Wesley Fishel, an American academic who had done consultancy work for the US government. Fishel was a proponent of the anti-colonial, anti-communist third force doctrine in Asia and was impressed with Diem. He helped the brothers to organise contacts and meetings in the United States to enlist support.[2] With the outbreak of the Korean War and McCarthyism, Vietnamese anti-communists were a sought after commodity in America. Diem and Thuc was given a reception at the State Department with the Acting Secretary of State James Webb, where Thuc did much of the talking. Diem also made links with Cardinal Francis Spellman, regarded as the most politically powerful cleric of his time. Spellman had studied with Thuc in Rome in the 1930s and was to become one of Diem's most powerful advocates. Diem managed an audience with Pope Pius XII in Rome with the help of Thuc.[3] Spellman helped Diệm to garner support among right wing and Catholic circles. As French power in Vietnam declined, Diệm's support in America, which Thuc helped to nurture, made his stock rise. Bao Dai then made Diem the Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam because he though Diem's connections would secure funding.[4] In October 1955, Diem deposed Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum organised by Nhu and declared himself President of the newly-proclaimed Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Thuc thus became part of the ruling family, which presided over a dictatorship in which the power was concentrated in the hands of the Ngo family, enforced through secret police and imprisonment and torture of opponents.

Thuc lived in the Presidential Palace, along with Nhu, Nhu's wife and Diệm.[5][6] The most senior Catholic official in the country, Thuc 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. He sought "voluntary donations" from businessman using paperwork that resembled tax notices.[7] The 370,000 acres (1,500 km2) of Catholic Church land in the country were exempted from land reform, whereas other holdings larger than 1.15 km² were split up and given away.[8]

In a majority Buddhist country,[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] the Ngos' 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] Diệm also once told a high-ranking officer, forgetting that he was a Buddhist, "Put your Catholic officers in sensitive places. They can be trusted." Many officers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam converted to Catholicism in the belief that their military prospects depended on it.[17] Additionally, the distribution of firearms to village self-defense militias intended to repel Vietcong guerrillas saw weapons only given to Catholics.[18] Some Catholic priests ran their own private armies,[19] and in some areas forced conversions, looting, shelling and demolition of pagodas occurred.[20] Some Buddhist villages converted en masse in order to receive aid or avoid being forcibly resettled by Diệm's regime.[21] The Catholic Church was the largest landowner in the country, and the "private" status that was imposed on Buddhism by the French, which required official permission to conduct public Buddhist activities, was not repealed.[22] Catholics were also de facto exempt from the corvée labor that the government obliged all citizens to perform; U.S. aid was disproportionately distributed to Catholic majority villages. Under Diệm, the Catholic Church enjoyed special exemptions in property acquisition, and in 1959, Diệm dedicated his country to the Virgin Mary.[23]

The white and gold Vatican flag was regularly flown at all major public events in South Vietnam.[24] U.S. Aid supplies tended to go to Catholics, and the newly constructed Hue and Dalat universities were placed under Catholic authority to foster a Catholic-skewed academic environment.[25] The government erected banners reading "Long Live the Catholic Church" in French, Latin, and Vietnamese,[26] and gave state receptions with full military honors to Catholic dignatories such as Spellman. During one visit, Spellman announced that he would donate USD50,000 to South Vietnam, explicitly saying that only Catholics would receive aid.[27]

This discrimination eventually led to the family's downfall. In May 1963, in the central city of Huế, where Thuc was the archbishop, Buddhists were prohibited from displaying the Buddhist flags during Vesak celebrations commemorating the birth of Gautama Buddha when the government cited a regulation prohibiting the display of non-government flags at the request of Thuc.[28] A few days earlier, Catholics were encouraged to fly Vatican flags to celebrate Thuc's 25th anniversary as a bishop. This led to a Buddhist protest against the government, which was ended when nine civilians were shot dead. The Ngos blamed the Vietcong for the deaths,[29][30] and protests for equality broke out across the country. Later, the Ngos attacked and vandalised Buddhist pagodas across the country in an attempt to crush the movement. It was estimated that up to hundreds died. This precipitated US withdrawal of support, and the army began to plot a coup.[31]

Diệm was overthrown and assassinated together with Nhu on November 2, 1963. Can was sentenced to death and executed in 1964. Of all his siblings, only Thục and Luyen escaped catastrophe. Luyen was serving as ambassador in London and Thục had been summoned to Rome for the Second Vatican Council. After the Council (1962–1965), for political reasons and, later on, to evade punishment by the post-Diem government, Archbishop Thục was not allowed to return to his duties at home and thus began his life in exile, initially in Rome, later on in Toulon, France.

Palmar de Troya

El Palmar de Troya, Spain, a small village near Utrera, Seville, was the site of supposed apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The Virgin was said to have appeared to little girls and to one adult, male visionary. The visionary and founder of the Palmar movement, Clemente Domínguez y Gómez staged ecstasies and supposedly received the stigmata. Archbishop Thuc traveled to Spain due to the intervention of Roman Catholic Canon of Grand-Saint-Bernard Rev. Maurice Revaz, who until he had become convinced by the Palmar de Troya apparitions, had taught Canon Law at the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) seminary of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in Ecône, Switzerland. Revaz left the SSPX for the Palmar de Troya group. Archbishop Lefebvre himself did not believe in the apparitions of Palmar de Troya and often warned his faithful of the many recent apparitions being reported; even more after Professor Rev. Revaz had left Lefebvre's traditionalist Catholic seminary for "this fraudulent group in Palmar".

Archbishop Thục initially believed the apparitions were genuine. He also decided that several men in the Palmar de Troya-based Carmelite Order of the Holy Face were worthy of receiving Holy Orders. On January 1, 1976, Archbishop Thục consecrated Domínguez y Gómez and four others to the episcopate, after having earlier ordained two of them to the priesthood on December 31, 1975. Three of the men consecrated by Thục had already been Roman Catholic priests for a long time: among them two diocesan priests and a Benedictine father. Since the consecrations were not done with the Pope's approval, Pope Paul VI excommunicated Archbishop Thục.

Archbishop Thục quickly severed his ties with Palmar de Troya - not directly because of Paul VI's objections, but rather because he came to conclude that the Palmarian movement was deviant and illegitimate, and that the apparitions were in fact fraudulent. He asked for the excommunication to be lifted and to receive absolution of all ecclesial penalties, to which Pope Paul VI immediately agreed.

Domínguez y Gómez and his followers however proceeded to say Mass, ordain their own priests and consecrate bishops for their initially vagant religious Congregation of supposed Carmelites, however in the end (towards the end of 1977) effectively setting up a parallel church in opposition to the dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church by usurping ordinary ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Upon the death of Pope Paul VI in mid 1978, Domínguez y Gómez claimed to have been mystically crowned pope in a jail, only hours after the death news reached him, founding the Palmarian Catholic Church.


Archbishop Thục then moved to Toulon in southern France, where he was assigned a confessional in the cathedral until about 1981. He at least once concelebrated the Mass of Paul VI (the new rite of Mass promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969) in the vernacular. One author says that Thục also served at the Mass of Paul VI as an acolyte several times.[32] Thục lived in a poorly maintained apartment in relative poverty. Convinced of a crisis devastating the Roman Catholic Church and coming under increasing influence of sedevacantist activists, Archbishop Thục proceeded to consecrate several bishops without a mandate from the Holy See because he believed he was morally obliged to secure apostolic succession in the Latin Church, considering the reformed rites for the sacrament of Holy Orders of Paul VI to be of doubtful validity. Thục consecrated a Dominican priest, an expert on the dogma of the Assumption, advisor to Pope Pius XII,[33] and former professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, Guérard des Lauriers. On October 17, 1981, he consecrated two Mexican priests and former seminary professors, Moisés Carmona of Acapulco and Adolfo Zamora. Both of these priests were convinced that the Papal See of Rome was vacant and the successors of Pope Pius XII were all heretical usurpers of papal office and power (see Sedevacantism). In February 1982, in Munich's Sankt Michael church, Archbishop Thục issued a declaration that the Holy See in Rome was vacant. In his declaration, he intimated that he desired a restoration of the hierarchy to end the vacancy. However, his newly consecrated bishops became a fragmented group. Nevertheless, many of them limited themselves essentially to sacramental ministry and only consecrated a few other bishops.

Archbishop Thục while consecrating Fr. Guérard des Lauriers O.P. to the episcopate. May, 1981.

On September 25, 1982, Thục conditionally consecrated the former Old Catholic bishop, Christian Datessen. It is alleged that during this period, Archbishop Thục consecrated various individuals of dubious character and of independent Catholic and Old Catholic tendency, allegations which were never substantiated. Many of these dubious persons claimed to have "collected" multiple lines of apostolic succession, from several churches and sects, Catholic, Jacobite and Eastern Orthodox. The claims of these supposedly consecrated individuals were refuted by sources close to Archbishop Thục, going as far as to say the questionable persons claiming to have been consecrated by Thục, especially a certain "Bishop Roux", falsely claimed having been consecrated by Archbishop Thục.[34] Other persons close to Thục say that on the dates of the supposed consecrations, Thục had been with them in a different country and not where the alleged consecration by Thục supposedly had taken place. It should be noted that these claims were made after Thục's death.

Apart from the bishops consecrated by Thục with papal mandates in Vietnam, Thục consecrated five bishops at Palmar de Troya, three sedevacantists in 1981, and provided an episcopal ordination sub conditione to three clerics, who presented themselves to Thục as former Old Catholics intent on joining the traditionalist faction of the Roman Catholic Church. These eleven bishops consecrated by Thục proceeded to consecrate other bishops for various Catholic splinter groups, many of them sedevacantists.

Baton Rouge, La., United States, January, 1983: Archbishop Thục dining with other sedevacantist Bishops and Priests. From left to right: Bishop George J. Musey, Father J. Vida Elmer, Father Ralph Siebert, Father Fidelis (Robert) McKenna O.P., empty chair where the photographer of this photo was sitting who is a Metropolitan Archbishop and also Primate, then Archbishop Thục, and finally, Bishop Louis Vezelis O.F.M. All of those who were still Priests in this photo were later, at various times, consecrated bishops, not by Archbishop Thục, but by Bishop George J. Musey, except for Father Robert McKenna O.P., who was consecrated a Bishop by Bishop Michel Louis Guerard des Lauriers, O.P. and who later consecrated Father J. Vida Elmer a Bishop.

Shortly after the Datessen consecration, Archbishop Thục departed for the United States at the invitation of Bishop Louis Vezelis O.F.M., a Franciscan former missionary priest who had agreed to receive Episcopal Consecration by the Thục line Bishop George J. Musey, assisted by Co-Consecrators, Bishop Moisés Carmona y Rivera of Acapulco, Mexico, and Bishops Adolfo Zamora and Roberto Martínez of Mexico City, Mexico in order to provide Bishops for an "imperfect Council" which was to take place later in Mexico in order to elect a legitimate Pope from among themselves. Archbishop Thuc took up residence in Bishop Vezelis' New York State friary for a short time after this photo was taken.

End of life

It is alleged (by the Vezelis group in particular) that Archbishop Thục was "abducted" by a group of Vietnamese priests while he was in New York and was taken to a Vietnamese Roman Catholic monastery in Missouri, where he was kept from contact with sedevacantists. A range of wild conspiracy theories exist about Thục's disappearance from the sedevacantist movement. It is equally possible that Thục joined his Vietnamese confrères after coming to the conclusion that his involvement in sedevacantism was not proper, or possibly just for nostalgic reasons. It is known that Thục posed in clerical garb with more conservative Vietnamese "Novus Ordo" clerics (priests and one bishop) during this period (1982–1984).[35] His Vietnamese Roman Catholic countrymen in exile continued, despite the illicit episcopal consecrations and despite his (formerly) open sedevacantism, to view Thục with the greatest respect. This veneration might be linked to the assassination of his brother-president in 1963. An ethnically Vietnamese website exists honouring Thục, but mentions nothing about the illicit episcopal consecrations.[36]

It is possible he returned to union with Pope John Paul II and abjured his former position of Sedevacantism, although this can neither be confirmed nor denied with certainty. Under these uncertain circumstances, Archbishop Thục died at the monastery of the Vietnamese American religious Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix on December 13, 1984, at Carthage, Missouri, United States.



Validity controversy

Some opponents of Thục and even some sedevacantists claim that the Thục-line episcopal consecrations might be invalid because they allege Archbishop Thục was no longer in possession of his mental capacities. This has been disputed by several authors; Bishop Gilles Barthe of the Diocese of Toulon - and thus himself involved in the controversies and opposed to traditionalist movements - claimed Thuc was not, without adducing proof though.[37] Pio Cardinal Laghi, Vatican diplomat and papal nuncio to the United States said that the episcopal consecrations and subsequent ordinations and consecrations are "valid but illicit". The Holy See itself has recognized and regularized a Thục-line priest who was ordained in the earlier ordinations of Palmar, bishop Alfred Seiwert-Fleige, and was reconciled to John Paul II. Seiwert-Fleige was allowed to function publicly as a priest, though was probably ordered to lay down his episcopal dignity. His Holy Orders were recognized as entirely valid. Seiwert-Fleige publicly concelebrated at a papal Mass of John Paul II at St. Peter's Square (Vatican City) in 2001. Ngo Dinh Thục according to all present at the consecrations and those who associated with him beforehand and afterwards was in full mental capacity during his 1981 consecrations. Furthermore, Thục wrote an official note in Latin confirming that he consecrated Carmona and Zamora. Other sources have alleged that the Vatican curial dicasteries have kept registries of all the Thuc-line bishops as valid episcopi vagantes. This is a logical procedure of the Vatican, as Roman Catholic doctrine requires only a valid bishop, a valid Catholic rite (Thuc used the old form of the Latin Roman Pontifical for episcopal consecrations), and imposition of hands. If these three conditions are met, a sacrament is to be considered as valid, unless the celebrant himself openly claimed an intention contrary to what the Church intends the rite to confer. Some opponents of Thuc allege that episcopal consecrations require two co-consecrators to ensure validity. While canonically this is true, one consecrating bishop without co-consecrators consecrates validly, as proven from the fact that the episcopal consecrations and priestly ordinations of the Old Catholic Church, which descend to one episcopal consecration conferred by only one bishop, Dominique-Marie Varlet, were always recognized as valid by the Holy See in numerous declarations of the Holy Office.

Others question the validity of Archbishop Thuc's orders because of a report in the Angelus Magazine (June, 1982) which stated that Archbishop Thuc: "renounced his actions and published a letter saying that the orders he had conferred were null and void because he had withheld all intention of conveying orders..."

Other possible consecrations

In addition to the consecrations above, Archbishop Thục conditionally re-consecrated the following bishops who formerly belonged to the Old Catholic Church; Jean Laborie on February 8, 1977, and Christian Datessen on September 25, 1982. Laborie and Datessen founded their own missions. Reportedly, Archbishop Thục conditionally re-consecrated Michel Fernandez and Jean-Marie Roger Kozik, both formerly of the Palmar de Troya-based 'Carmelite Order of the Holy Face' (they left when the Palmarian mysticist leader declared himself "pope"), on October 19, 1978 and who returned to more or less traditionalist Roman Catholicism as practical episcopi vagantes. Kozik and Fernandez had also been ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood by archbishop Thục at Palmar in 1975. Bishop Kozik became the founder of Fraternite Notre Dame, a French Traditionalist Catholic Church.

It has been reported, but remains unconfirmed, that Archbishop Thục also consecrated Labat d'Arnoux on July 10, 1976, Claude Nanta de Torrini on March 19, 1977. These consecrations probably did not take place.

This makes a total of eleven bishops consecrated by Thục without the pontifical or apostolic mandate (from the Holy See) required for licitness (liceity) though not for validity. These bishops are: five Palmarian bishops (1976), Laborie (1977), Datessen (1982), Kozik, Fernandez (1978), Guérard des Lauriers (1981) and Zamora and Carmona-Rivera (1981).

Roux controversy

Finally, there is the case of the episcopus vagans Jean Gerard Roux. Roux alleges that he was consecrated by Archbishop Thuc on April 18, 1982. However, it is reported that he was consecrated earlier and later by other vagant bishops. There remains doubt concerning the circumstances of Roux's ordination and consecration. As a vagus who is known for having fraudulently asserted titles and honours, Roux should be considered as not consecrated, especially given the reports that Thuc was not with Roux on the date given by Roux as his supposed consecration. Archbishop Thuc was in Munich on the given date (April 18) and therefore could not have consecrated a Roux in Nice.[38]

Fraudulent claims

Besides the Roux controversy, because of Thuc ordained several bishops without papal mandate, and because he was a well-known, doubtlessly valid, Roman Catholic bishop, some vagant bishops and others posing as Independent Catholic clergy claim succession from him as well as from other Roman Catholic bishops, without in reality having been ordained in their apostolic succession.


  1. ^ Van Thien - Roman Catholic Hierarchy; Khac Ngu - Roman Catholic Hierarchy
  2. ^ University Project Cloaked C.I.A. Role In Saigon, 1955-59 New York Times - April 14, 1966
  3. ^ "The Beleaguered Man", Time (magazine), April 4, 1955. Accessed March 27, 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."
  4. ^ Jacobs, pp. 25–34.
  5. ^ Karnow, p. 326.
  6. ^ Moyar,p. 36.
  7. ^ Olson, p. 98.
  8. ^ Jacobs, pp. 93–96.
  9. ^ The 1966 Buddhist Crisis in South Vietnam HistoryNet
  10. ^ Gettleman, pp. 275–76, 366.
  11. ^ Moyar, pp. 215–216.
  12. ^ The Religious Crisis - TIME
  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. ^ Gettleman, pp. 280–282.
  18. ^ "South Vietnam: Whose funeral pyre?". The New Republic. 1963-06-29. p. 9.  
  19. ^ Warner, p. 210.
  20. ^ Fall, p. 199.
  21. ^ Buttinger, p. 993.
  22. ^ Karnow, p. 294.
  23. ^ Jacobs, p. 91.
  24. ^ "Diem's other crusade". The New Republic. 1963-06-22. pp. 5–6.  
  25. ^ Halberstam, David (1963-06-17). "Diệm and the Buddhists". New York Times.  
  26. ^ Jacobs (2004), p. 185.
  27. ^ Jacobs (2004), p. 188.
  28. ^ Topmiller, p. 2.
  29. ^ Karnow, p. 295.
  30. ^ Moyar, pp. 212–213.
  31. ^ Gettleman, pp. 64–83.
  32. ^ Rev. Fr. Noël Barbara, Fortes in fide, Nr 12.
  33. ^ M.L. Guérard des Lauriers, Dimensions de la Foi, Paris: Cerf, 1952.
  34. ^ Anthony Chadwick on Jean-Gérard Roux: 'A pathological Liar'
  35. ^ Photo of Thục with Vietnamese clerics I; Photo of Thục with Vietnamese clerics II
  36. ^ Website in Vietnamese on Archbishop Ngô dinh Thuc
  37. ^ On the validity of the Ngô Dinh Thuc consecrations. By Rev. Anthony Cekada.
  38. ^ Einsicht - Röm.-Kath. Zeitschrift, Dr. E. Heller, December 1993, page 95. "Da sich der Erzbischof, den ich am 29. Januar 1982 in Nizza mit dem Flugzeug abgeholt hatte, zu diesem Zeitpunkt in München befand- er flog erst am 1. Mai 1982 wieder von München nach Nizza (Abflug: 15 Uhr 35, Ankunft: 17 Uhr 05), wo er von Herrn Norrant mit dem Auto abgeholt wurde -, kann eine Weihe zu diesem Zeitpunkt nicht erfolgt sein."
    "An episcopal consecration on April 18, 1982 cannot have taken place in Loano, as the Archbishop Thuc, whom I had taken with me from Nice on January 29, 1982, by plane, at that date was with me and my family in Munich—he would fly back to Nice only on May 1, 1982 (Departure 3.35 pm), where he was picked up by Mr Norrant by car. Testimony of Dr. Eberhard Heller, Munich, Germany.

External links

Episcopal Lineage
Consecrated by: Antonin Drapier
Date of consecration: May 4, 1938
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Philippe Nguyên-Kim-Diên January 22, 1961
Michel Nguyên Khác Ngu January 22, 1961
Antoine Nguyên Van Thien January 22, 1961
Clemente Dominguez January 11, 1976
Manuel Corral January 11, 1976
Camilo Estevez January 11, 1976
Michael Donnelly January 11, 1976
Francis Sandler O.S.B. January 11, 1976
Michel Louis Guerard des Lauriers O.P. May 7, 1981
Moises Carmona October 17, 1981
Adolfo Zamora October 17, 1981


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