In this way, Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô-dinh-Thục was irreverently referred to by someone I knew in Fribourg in the late 1980’s – Tic-Tac-Thuc. By then, he was already banalised and ridiculed in contrast with Archbishop Lefebvre, and compared with colourful characters of earlier times like Arnold Harris Mathew and René Vilatte.
I have just acquired Sede Vacante: The Life and Legacy of Archbishop Thục, Apocryphile Press 2018. I have it on my Kindle reader, so will fill in time whilst waiting for tides and that sort of thing when I will be out in my boat. Like Bishop Duarte Costa of whom I wrote in The Boys from Brazil, the fact that Ngô-dinh-Thục was a genuine Roman Catholic archbishop did not remove the stigma of being a sort of “Godfather” of Vietnam’s ruling clan under his brother Ngô Đình Diệm who was killed with his entire family by the Communists. Thục escaped, leaving only intrigue, money, secret deals and the Vietnam War.
I have yet to read this book. If the book by the same author on the Brazilians is anything to go on, I am likely to find out some very interesting things. I never met Archbishop Thuc himself, but I did read many things about him, mostly apologetic from various sedevacantist groups in France and the USA. His detractors advance a thesis of the invalidity of ordinations and episcopal consecrations conferred by Thuc on account of mental incompetence. Frankly I do not believe this to have been the case.
He was responsible for the Palmar de Troya sect acquiring valid Catholic orders, and later for a number of more or less respectable episcopi vagantes. That is of course if a mechanical “line of succession” is all that is needed to transmit the Sacraments of the Church… Since this subject attracts the curiosity of those who like religious gossip, here is a page giving links to what I have written in the past on Palmar de Troya and sedevacantism. I am not ready or prepared to throw myself into polemics on these subjects, for the simple reason that I was through with Roman Catholicism when I joined the ACC for the first time in 1995 and the TAC in 2005. The French have the expression jeter de la poudre aux yeux, which is usually translated into English as smoke and mirrors.
Sedevacantism is easy to undo once you have rejected the claims made about the Papacy by the first Vatican Council in 1870 and the prevailing interpretations of the notion of infallible magisterium and what happens when or if a pope teaches formal heresy. If such doctrines have no credibility, as Anglicans and the Orthodox hold, then sedevacantism is perhaps the easiest way to refute the absurd claims about the prime bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
I was myself ordained a priest by a bishop consecrated by Clemente Dominguez y Gomez, himself consecrated by Thuc in December 1975. I received ordination to the priesthood sub conditione by my present Bishop to give assurance of the integrity of my priesthood in respect to the faithful of the Anglican Catholic Church. It also brought resolution to my troubled path as a deacon and priest trying to be of service to various marginal groups claiming to be Roman Catholic.
It is without doubt that I will discover many things about that sad figure of the Vietnamese bishop exiled in Italy, in southern France and finally in America. I have for a long time been convinced that he was not deprived of his mental competence, but that he was not a man of integrity, or at least one who was motivated by hatred and cynicism. More later, when I finish the book…