by Father P. Cornelio Byman
The following comment on the sedevacantist "bishops" is by Father P. Cornelio Byman, a missionary priest working in Mexico. One of the sedevacantist bishops has termed the comment a "diatribe" and described it as a "poorly prepared and unjust vilification of a noble man, a great Archbishop." Our readers will note that, on the contrary, Father Byman writes of Archbishop Ngo Dhin-Thuc with kindness and respect. It provides a useful follow-up to the article by Michael Davies in our February issue. We must warn our readers once more that, even if the consecrations of these "bishops" are valid they have placed themselves outside the Church and now constitute no more than one more schismatic sect. The only course for a faithful Catholic is to shun them absolutely, just as we must shun the proliferation of Old Roman Catholic bishops, even though many of them say the Tridentine Mass. The position of Archbishop Lefebvre is absolutely unequivocal—Pope John Paul II is the lawfully reigning Pontiff. We must accept this, we must pray for him, but we are not bound to follow him in measures which are ruinous for the Church.
This commentary is printed with the kind permission of Father Byman.
THIS VERY OLD and lonely former Bishop of Hue (Vietnam), who has lived in Rome since he was expelled from his country, has recently begun to stir up the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre and other groups of traditionalists. Almost forgotten after his first entering into publicity by the consecration of a great number of illegal bishops in Palmar de Troya (Spain), and although absolved from his first excommunication incurred by this senseless performance, has relapsed.
To understand the lamentable zigzag mentality of this truly venerable bishop, we must know first of all of the many circumstances of his life, which was marked by struggle for God and the Holy Church, persecution and the frightening tragedies which proceeded the most crucial of events—the ruin of the post-conciliar Church.
Msgr. Ngo-Dhin-Thuc was born on October 6, 1897, in a Catholic family of North Vietnam. Soon he showed himself as gifted with special talents, so that he was sent to Rome to improve his study of theology, before he was ordained a priest. Holding degrees of doctor in philosophy, theology and canon law, he returned to his country and already, in 1941, he was consecrated Bishop of Vinhlong, which he soon transformed into a pattern for the whole country. In 1960 he was elevated to archiepiscopal See of Hue.
His attendance at Vatican II saved his life. His brother, Diem, President of South Vietnam, and two other brothers were murdered, and he himself was forbidden to return to his country by the denial of the visa he needed for this purpose. This motivated Pope Paul VI, in 1968, to force Msgr. Thuc to retire in favor of Msgr. Philippe Nguyen Kim Dien, a supporter of the hand extended by the Marxists. Could it be that Msgr. Thuc, because of his 73 years, was considered too old to return to his diocese? In his memoirs he complained bitterly because he was still very able at that time. He continued living in Rome where he was nominated Titular Archbishop of Bulla Regis.
It is evident that the colonial war with France, followed by the invasion of South Vietnam by hordes of communists from North Vietnam, and the war of self-defense, the murder of his three brothers and the expulsion from his beloved country, caused a terrible impact on his emotional faculties. Moreover, his demotion as Archbishop of Hue, the philomarxist policy of Paul VI, and the explosion of modernism did the rest to disorient this great bishop—so gracious, but retiring; and much too naive!
His first mistake was to believe in the affirmation of the seer, Clemente Domingues of Palmar de Troya, arguing that the most Holy Virgin had notified him that Msgr. Thuc should ordain him with a group of followers and consecrate them bishops. About Christmas, 1975, he ordained them first, no doubt, without any theological formation, and no less admissible, without any incardination by a local bishop, both vital conditions for the reception of Orders. Forthwith followed on January 11, 1976, their consecration as bishops (according to "Introibo" some twenty bishops in all). Pope Paul VI immediately excommunicated Msgr. Thuc and Clemente, together with his group of pseudobishops.
It would seem these consecrations are doubtful. To consecrate legally the bishop must have in mind to do what the Church does. The Pope alone has the authority to consecrate or to let bishops be consecrated. "I give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven" (Matt. XVI, 19). These words of Our Lord are for Saint Peter and his successors. If the ordinations of the priests were valid, at least they were illicit. Having reached this goal, Clemente didn't anymore need Msgr. Thuc, and he continued imperturbably alone to ordain other priests and to consecrate other bishops. At the death of Pope Paul VI on August 6, 1978, he (Clemente) proclaimed himself as his successor and was nominated, he claims, "in a vision" by Our Lord and named Gregory XVII.
From his heart, Msgr. Thuc was soon repentant and he asked for forgiveness for his mistake. On September 17, of the same year, he was absolved from the grave chastisement of excommunication. It seems that subsequently he didn't feel himself happy in Rome and he traveled to Toulon (France) where he lived in great poverty with a Buddhist family from Vietnam.
Unfortunately, his repentance did not last long. Some ultra-traditionalists succeeded in convincing him to again agree to consecrate some bishops for their group. In a mimeo-tract, Msgr. Thuc even declared, after a short time, that he didn't have any sorrow about having consecrated Clemente, but only that he broke with him after this imposter had claimed to be pope. This lack of repentance became apparent May 7, 1981, by some new consecrations done by him: of a French priest, the Rev. Michel Louis Guérard des Lauriers, ghost-writer of the Ottaviani Intervention; and on October 17th of two Mexican priests, Adolf Zamora and Moises Carmona, done quietly in his house in Toulon. These consecrations which are likewise at least unlawful, have moved in all their strata the different groups of traditionalists and provoked cries of indignation and consternation between them. When I came into the United States some months ago and called, by phone, a lady to announce my next visit to say Mass, she asked me suddenly if I had any fellowship with these pseudobishops. My answer was a definite, "No!" and I perceived a sigh of relief from the other end of the line. Very few priests in the U.S.A. are willing to follow these home-made bishops created by Msgr. Thuc, who has once again disappeared in Italy. One of these last creations, Father Carmona, has already in a short time, "consecrated three others, two Mexicans and a North American.
Mexico is the only country with an important group of sedevacantists. These are ultra-traditionalists who believe that Pope Pius XII was the last pope, and who excommunicate the others who do not agree with what they consider Catholic Dogma. As far as I know they do not have other priests in Mexico than these four pseudobishops. Why are they bishops, if not for showing off a cheap miter which fits badly on their heads?
I know that some true priests in the U.S.A. do ask themselves sincerely if they have to recognize in this theatre-blow, the Holy Will of God. They may understand that it is better to have no bishops than such given to the faithful—not by St. Peter or his successors—but by a sick man. We traditionalists are already in trouble with dozens, if not hundreds, of false bishops and bastard priests, consecrated and ordained by schismatics. If we don't stop our apathy in so serious a case, the Catholic Church may be flooded in a short time by hundreds, or thousands, of vocationless impostors, consecrated and ordained arbitrarily, or having bought their Orders.
Let all the good priests remain united in charity, in mutual understanding and prayer, confident in Our Lord Who has promised: "I shall be with you all days, even till the end of time."
How odd this statement sounds, published in the sedevacantist "Trento" of March, 1982, that Msgr. Ngo Dhin-Thuc held that it was necessary to dispel certain conjectures: "I testify that I performed the ordinations of Palmar de Troya in full lucidity, (sic) I do not have any relation with Palmar de Troya since its chief imparted himself a pope ... etc. Imparted, December 19, 1981, in Toulon in full possession of my faculties, (sic) Pierre Martin Ngo Dhin-Thuc, Archbishop Tit. of Bulla Regis."
Why such a curious self-criticism, that only could be valid with an affidavit of a physician? It shows that he thinks the opposite beforehand. This is the reason why, in Europe, where Msgr. Thuc is better known, there exists some doubt concerning the validity of those ordinations and consecrations. Validity depends on the mental responsibility of the consecrating bishop.
We must have compassion for him because of the terrible trial he suffered before the expulsion from his country, followed by the sight of the sudden decadence of the Church which he had served his whole lifetime so meritoriously and so worthily. Let us pray for him so that he may recognize his part in the confusion and damage he has caused to the same cause, that he believed he served, and looked forward to the reward Providence had in store for him, that he may see the grave infractions he has made in the divinely inspired laws of the holy Catholic Church. The laws of the Church count for all her members. We must have confidence in Him Who declared before His Ascension: "I shall be with you all days, even till the end of time."
O ALMIGHTY AND EVERLASTING GOD, Who hast compassion on all, and wouldst not that any should perish: favorably look down upon all those who are seduced by the deceit of Satan; that, all heretical impiety being removed, the hearts of such as err may repent and return to the unity of Thy truth.