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Articles: Thuc, Abp.

Abp. Thuc: A Brief Defense
Most. Rev. Daniel L. Dolan

NOTE: The following comments are excerpts from a conference Bishop Dolan originally delivered in French at the École Saint-Joseph, Serre-Nerpol, Isère (France), October 17, 1999.

        The bishop addressed various false accusations the Society of St. Pius X had spread against him in France, including the accusation that his episcopal consecration was "invalid," since it derived from Archbishop P.M. Ngo-dinh-Thuc, former Archbishop of Hué, Vietnam.

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The second point: The accusation that my orders are not valid comes from those who never knew Abp. Thuc, but take it upon themselves to judge his mental state nonetheless. They imagine that, because he did some imprudent things, he could not have been in his right mind. But this is not true.

      The proper response to this is to prove by eyewitness testimony that Abp. Thuc was in his right mind at the time of the consecrations of Bp. Guérard des Lauriers, and a little later of Bp. Zamora and Bp. Carmona, from whom I derive my episcopal consecration.

      There is overwhelming evidence both from eyewitnesses who knew him at the time, and from the actions that he himself performed, that Archbishop Thuc was perfectly lucid when he did the consecrations of Bishop Guérard des Lauriers in May of 1981, and of Bishops Zamora and Carmona in October of 1981.

      It is true that Archbishop Thuc ordained and consecrated some unworthy persons. It is true that he exercised poor judgment with regard to his selection of priestly and episcopal candidates. This fact, however, does not prove or even suggest lack of lucidity; it only shows poor judgement.

      We might also point out that Abp. Lefebvre made some very poor judgments about whom to ordain.

      Furthermore, it does not follow that, because someone acts inconsistently or erratically, he is therefore senile or incapable of valid sacraments.

      Archbishop Lefebvre acted very erratically in 1987 and 1988. In August of 1987, he referred to John Paul II as an antichrist, but in May of 1988 signed the protocol in which he submitted to him as Vicar of Christ. The very next day, he went back on the protocol which he had just signed. One of the reasons he offered to the Vatican for proceeding with the consecrations without their permission was that "the tents had been rented." On June 15th, 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre gave a press conference in which he said that John Paul II was not Catholic, was excommunicated, was outside of the Church, but was the head of the Church. On June 16th, he told a reporter that he would change his mind if John Paul II - who the day before was not even a Catholic - would approve of his four bishops. Yet he was completely in his right mind.

      To claim that inconsistency or erratic behavior invalidate a sacrament is to manifest a profound ignorance of the fundamental principles of sacramental theology.

      The only type of mental state that is invalidating is one in which the minister does not know what he is doing. For example, if, through senility, a priest does not know where he is or what sacrament he is performing, it would be invalid.

      Such is not the case with Archbishop Thuc, as there are both eyewitnesses and facts which attest unquestionably to his lucidity.


A. Evidence of Eyewitnesses

      What is the evidence of the eyewitnesses who knew Archbishop Thuc?

      1.   Dr. Hiller and Dr. Heller. These are the two German eyewitnesses of both these consecrations. They knew Archbishop Thuc intimately, having seen him regularly when the Archbishop resided in Munich for a number of months. They have both testified under oath, one in writing, the other orally, with God as their witness, that Archbishop Thuc was in full command of his faculties when he performed the above mentioned consecrations. These laymen are well-educated, intelligent, and alert; there is absolutely no reason to doubt their veracity or their ability to judge the Archbishop's state of mind.

      2.   Fr. Noël Barbara. Fr. Barbara went to see Archbishop Thuc in the Spring of 1981 and then again in January 1982. He thus saw him both before and after the consecrations. Fr. Barbara has sworn, in writing, with God as his witness, that both times he found Archbishop Thuc to be in full use of his mental faculties, and that he answered the questions put to him about the consecrations clearly. Fr. Barbara also wrote, immediately after the January visit, notes concerning his conversation with Archbishop Thuc. These notes reflect the clear mind of the Archbishop, as he answered questions with clarity and distinct memory.

      3.   Fr. Gustave Delmasure. This priest, who was a well-respected traditional priest in France, former pastor of a parish in Cannes, went to see Archbishop Thuc in March of 1982. He has given sworn testimony, with God as his witness, that he found Archbishop Thuc to be in his right mind, and that he responded to his questions with swiftness and clarity.

      4.   Bishop Guérard des Lauriers. In a personal interview with Fr. Joseph Collins, Bishop Guérard des Lauriers, who himself had been consecrated in May, 1981 by Archbishop Thuc, attested to the fact that the Archbishop was in his right mind. He said that the rite of consecration was followed integrally by Archbishop Thuc, and that he (Thuc) was of sound mind throughout the ceremony. (Bishop Guérard des Lauriers was a well-known Dominican theologian who taught at the Lateran University in Rome, and who advised Pope Pius XII on the definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950).

      5.   Fr. Philippe Guépin. Fr. Guépin is a traditional priest who says Mass for a large group in Nantes. He was ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1977, and was asked to leave the Society of St. Pius X in 1980 because he refused to recognize John Paul II as pope. He knew Archbishop Thuc at Ecône, and had prolonged conversations with him. He has attested that Archbishop Thuc was in his right mind.

      6.   Fr. Bruno Schaeffer, who was ordained by Abp. Thuc in 1982 (after the episcopal consecrations) told Fr. Guépin that Abp. Thuc was completely in his right mind, and that he observed the rite of ordination perfectly.

      7.   Eyewitnesses who saw him and knew him in Rochester, New York, where Abp. Thuc stayed in 1983 and 1984, also attested to the fact that even at that time, shortly before his death in 1984, Abp. Thuc was in his right mind, and offered daily Mass.


      Now we must ask ourselves: are all these people liars? All of these eyewitnesses say the same thing, even though they knew Abp Thuc at different times and in different circumstances. Are they all lying? It would be ridiculous to say such a thing.

      Those who would have us believe, for whatever reason, that Archbishop Thuc was not lucid are telling us to conclude that all the eyewitnesses cited above are bold-faced liars.

      That would mean that faithful Roman Catholic priests, some of them ordained for fifty years or more, and who have labored for the salvation of souls their whole lives, are liars, calling down the authority of God to witness to their wicked lies. This they would do shortly before they go to God for judgement, and in such important a matter as an episcopal consecration.

      This supposition is absurd and very uncharitable. There is no better testimony than that of sworn eyewitnesses. No one can reasonably fault someone for taking the word of reliable sworn eyewitnesses.

      I remind you that the classic, time-tested, and universal way in which to establish a fact is the sworn eyewitness testimony of reliable witnesses. It is the way in which every court of law determines the fact of crime or innocence. Based on such testimony, human beings are either exonerated or condemned, sometimes to death.

      The law courts of the Catholic Church operate on the sworn testimony of reliable witnesses.

      Most importantly, our Blessed Lord sanctioned the practice with divine approval: And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. (Matthew 18:16) And in the Gospel of Saint Mark, Our Lord upbraids the disciples for not having believed the witnesses of his resurrection. (Mark 16:14).


B. Evidence of Facts.

      What is the evidence of the facts which attest to Archbishop Thuc's lucidity?

      1.   The fact that Archbishop Thuc functioned publicly in his right mind at the time of the consecrations. This is attested to by the German witnesses, Dr. Hiller and Dr. Heller. The Archbishop spent a few months in Munich where he said Sunday Masses, and was able to be observed by all. It was noted by them that he said the traditional Mass very carefully with close attention to the rubrics. He also gave public lectures in Mexico after the consecration of the Mexican bishops.

      2.   The fact that Archbishop Thuc wrote in his own hand, with strong, forceful handwriting, a consecration certificate , letters, and other declarations both in Latin and in French. One who is not in his right mind could not sit down and write in a coherent manner, particularly in Latin.

      3.   The fact that Archbishop Thuc had a clear and vivid memory of the consecrations in his conversations with Fr. Barbara. One of these conversations is related in notes which Fr. Barbara took just after the interview. In it the Archbishop remembered not only having consecrated the two Mexican priests, Frs. Zamora and Carmona, but even commented that Fr. Carmona spoke much better Latin than Fr. Zamora. He also testified to his having consecrated Fr. Guérard des Lauriers, and included details about him. Such clear memory about specific events and names is proof that the Archbishop was in his right mind at the time of the consecrations, and at the time of his speaking to Fr. Barbara.

      4.   The fact that the Vatican excommunicated Archbishop Thuc. Everyone knows that if someone is not in his right mind, he is incapable of committing a crime, and therefore incapable of being censured. The fact that the Vatican, after a thorough investigation, excommunicated Archbishop Thuc for having done these consecrations is a sign that they considered him to be in his right mind. If they had found him in an impaired mental state, they would have made this fact public, and repudiated the consecrations as invalid. Indeed, the very fact that that they excommunicated him is an admission, legally, that the consecrations were valid. For it is a principle of law that censures are not incurred if the act is invalid. "Besides," says the canonist Augustine, "it is generally held that the order must have been received validly, and therefore the penalty would not follow if, for instance, a Protestant bishop would confer an order." [A Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law, Volume VIII, p. 449].

      The Vatican clearly concedes the validity of the consecrations in the very document of excommunication. In stating that it will not give the bishops consecrated by Archbishop Thuc the legal status of bishops, adds "quidquid est de ordinum validitate," which properly translated means, "however valid the orders may be." The phrase concedes the validity, since the indicative mood is used in Latin, which always indicates a statement of fact, and not of doubt.

      This recognition of validity is further attested to by the fact that two Apostolic Delegates, one in Mexico in 1983 and one in the United States in 1988, called the consecrations of Archbishop Thuc "valid but illicit." They would never have said such a thing if the Vatican did not have that position.

      Even Bishop Richard Williamson, the Rector of the seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in the United States, has told members of the laity that he regards my episcopal consecration as valid. (Letter 10/21/93.)


C. Some Objections

      1.   Scandal. But some have objected that even if these consecrations are valid, we should avoid them because of the scandals of Archbishop Thuc. But this is not true.

      In the first place, Archbishop Thuc is dead, and his sins have died with him. His sins, whatever they may have been, are not transferred to those whom he consecrated. Each bishop must be judged on his own merits, and not on the virtues or vices of him who consecrated him. The saintly Cardinal Merry del Val, the Secretary of State of St. Pius X, was consecrated by Cardinal Rampolla, who was a freemason. Does that mean that Cardinal Merry del Val was scandalous? Of course not.

      In any case Canon Law permits the faithful to approach even the excommunicated clergy, in case of necessity, for sacraments. (Canon 2261 § 2). What interests us about Archbishop Thuc, then, is not his sins or poor judgement, but (1) the fact that he performed these consecrations, (2) the fact that he used the traditional rite, (3) the fact that he was in his right mind. But all these things are attested to by document and reliable and even sworn eyewitness testimony.

      2.   Bad Bishops. But they further object that the fruits of Archbishop Thuc are bad, alleging that he gave birth to a whole set of bad bishops.

      I respond that the mere fact of tracing your orders to Archbishop Thuc does not mean that you participate in his sins or shortcomings. It is not like you belong to some organization of "Thuc Bishops." Anyone who traces his orders to Archbishop Thuc is not automatically associated with all those whom Archbishop Thuc ordained or consecrated - any more than a bishop consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre would participate in the sins of Cardinal Liénart, who consecrated Archbishop Lefebvre, but who was one of the worst modernists at Vatican II.

      There is a single thing that matters here, and that is that Archbishop Thuc performed episcopal consecrations which are valid. From these valid consecrations, valid and responsible Catholic bishops are available to us in order to give us priests.


D. Why Turn to Archbishop Thuc?

      I would like to add that Abp. Thuc had many virtues which should not be neglected. He was the only bishop who had the courage to denounce publicly John Paul II as a false pope. He also said Mass very devoutly, and was known to hear confessions for many hours at a time, even in very old age.

      But the only reason why we have had to turn to Thuc in any case was that he was willing to consecrate bishops who would preserve the true Catholic position with regard to Vatican II and the modernist "popes." If the Society of St. Pius X had stayed on the right path, my consecration would not have been necessary, and we would be working side by side with them.

      But it has been unfortunately necessary to break from the Society of St. Pius X, because their positions are inconsistent and therefore erroneous. Furthermore, they espouse doctrines and attitudes towards the authority of the Church and the magisterium which are not compatible with the Catholic Faith.

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