Ngô Đình Thục

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His Excellency
Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục
Archbishop of Huế
Signature of Ngo Dinh Thuc.svg
Signature of Ngo Dinh Thuc.
See Archdiocese of Huế
Installed 24 November 1960
Term ended 17 February 1968
Predecessor Jean-Baptiste Urrutia as Vicar Apostolic of Huế
Successor Philippe Nguyên-Kim-Diên
Other posts
Ordination 20 December 1925
Consecration 4 May 1938
by Antonin-Fernand Drapier
Personal details
Born (1897-10-06)October 6, 1897
Huế, French Indochina
Died December 13, 1984(1984-12-13) (aged 87)
Carthage, Missouri
Buried Springfield, Missouri
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents Ngô Đình Khả
Education Philosophy, Theology, Canon law
Alma mater Pontifical Gregorian University
Motto Miles Christi ("Soldier of Christ")
Coat of arms

Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục (Vietnamese pronunciation: [ŋo ɗîɲ tʰùkp]) (6 October 1897 – 13 December 1984) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Huế, Vietnam and a member of the Ngô family, who ruled South Vietnam in the years leading up to the Vietnam War. He was the founder of Dalat University.

In 1963, while in Rome attending the second session of the Second Vatican Council, his younger brother Diệm, who was president of South Vietnam, was assassinated in a military coup. Thục was unable to return to Vietnam and lived the rest of his life in exile, living in Rome, France and the United States. During this time, he became involved with the Traditionalist Catholic movement and consecrated a number of bishops without the Vatican's approval for the Palmarian and Sedevacantist movements. As a result, he was excommunicated by and reconciled with Rome a number of times.


Ngô Đình Thục was born in Huế to an affluent Roman Catholic family as the second of six 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. Khôi was reportedly buried alive by the Việt Minh right after the August Revolution in August 1945 for having been a mandarin of the French-controlled Emperor Bảo Đại's administration. Three other brothers, Diệm, Nhu and Cẩn, were all politically active. Diệm had been Interior Minister under Bảo Đại 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. Diệm led a coup, overthrowing the emperor and becoming president of South Vietnam in 1955. Diệm, Nhu and Cẩn were all later assassinated during the 1963 South Vietnamese coup.

Cardinal François Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận (1928–2002) was Thục's nephew.

Career in Vietnam

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 taught at the Sorbonne. He was selected to study theology in Rome, Italy, and returned to Vietnam in 1927 after having been 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, he was chosen by Rome to direct the Apostolic Vicariate at Vĩnh Long. He was consecrated a bishop on 4 May 1938, being the third Vietnamese priest raised to the rank of bishop.

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.[1]

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 also made links with Cardinal Francis Spellman, the most politically influential cleric of his time. Spellman had studied with Thục in Rome in the 1930s and became one of Diệm's most powerful advocates. Diệm managed an audience with Pope Pius XII in Rome with his brother's help.[2] Spellman helped Diệm to garner support among right-wing and Catholic circles. 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 funding.[3]

Diệm's rule

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, dedicated Roman Catholics in a Buddhist majority country.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] 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.[11]

On 24 November 1960, Thục was named Archbishop of Huế by Pope John XXIII making him the most senior Catholic official in the country. Thục used his position to seize farms, businesses, urban real estate, rental property and rubber plantations for the Catholic Church and to enrich his immediate family. He used Army of the Republic of Vietnam personnel to work on his timber and construction projects. He sought “voluntary donations” from businessmen using paperwork that resembled tax notices.[12] 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.[13]

Diệm 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.[14] Additionally, the distribution of firearms to village self-defense militias intended to repel Việt Cộng guerrillas saw weapons given only to Catholics.[15] Some Catholic priests ran their own private armies,[16] and in some areas forced conversions, looting, shelling and demolition of pagodas occurred.[17]

Some Buddhist villages converted en masse in order to receive aid or avoid being forcibly resettled by Diệm’s regime.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20]

The white and gold Vatican flag was regularly flown at all major public events in South Vietnam.[21] U.S. Aid supplies tended to go to Catholics, and the newly constructed Huế and Đà Lạt universities were placed under Catholic authority to foster a Catholic academic environment.[22] The government erected banners reading “Long Live the Catholic Church” in French, Latin, and Vietnamese,[23] and gave state receptions with full military honors to Catholic dignitaries, such as Archbishop of New York Francis Cardinal Spellman. During one visit, Spellman announced that he would donate US$50,000 to South Vietnam, explicitly stating that only Catholics would receive aid.[24]

Buddhist unrest and downfall of Diệm

In May 1963, in the central city of Huế, where Thục was archbishop, 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.[25] A few days earlier, Catholics were encouraged to fly Vatican flags to celebrate Thục's 25th anniversary as bishop. 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 double standards led to a Buddhist protest against the government, which was ended when nine civilians were shot dead or run over when the military attacked. Despite footage showing otherwise, the Ngôs blamed the Việt Cộng for the deaths,[26][27] and protests for equality broke out across the country. Thục called for his brothers to forcefully suppress the protesters. Later, the Ngôs' forces attacked and vandalised Buddhist pagodas across the country in an attempt to crush the burgeoning movement. It is estimated that up to 400 people were killed or disappeared.[28]

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 was serving as ambassador in London, and Thục had been summoned to Rome for the Second Vatican Council. After the Council (1962–65), for political reasons and, later on, to evade punishment by the post-Diệm government, Archbishop Thục was not allowed to return to his duties at home and thus began his life in exile, initially in Rome.[citation needed]


Thục moved to Toulon, 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 claims Thục served at the Mass of Paul VI as an acolyte several times.[29]

Convinced of a crisis devastating the Roman Catholic Church and coming under the increasing influence of sedevacantist activists, Thục consecrated several bishops without a mandate from the Holy See.[30] In December 1975 he went to Palmar de Troya, where he ordained Clemente Domínguez y Gómez—who claimed to have witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary—and others, and the following month he consecrated Dominguez and four followers as bishops.[31] In May 1981 Thục consecrated a French priest, Michel-Louis Guérard des Lauriers, as bishop.[31] Des Lauriers was a Dominican, an expert on the dogma of the Assumption and advisor to Pope Pius XII,[32] and former professor at the Pontifical Lateran University. In October 1981, he consecrated two Mexican priests and former seminary professors, Moisés Carmona (of Acapulco) and Adolfo Zamora (of Mexico City).[33] Both of these priests were convinced that the Papal See of Rome was vacant and the successors of Pope Pius XII were heretical usurpers of papal office and power. In February 1982, in Munich's Sankt Michael church, Thục issued a declaration that the Holy See in Rome was vacant, intimating that he desired a restoration of the hierarchy to end the vacancy. However, his newly consecrated bishops became a fragmented group. Many limited themselves essentially to sacramental ministry and only consecrated a few other bishops.[34]

Thục may have performed other consecrations besides the five bishops at Palmar de Troya and the three sedevacantists in 1981. There are claims that he consecrated two priests, Luigi Boni and Jean Gerard Roux, in Loano in Italy on 18 April 1982, but a Dr. Heller, of Una Voce in Munich, has said that Thục was with him in Munich on that date.[35] The bishops consecrated by Thục proceeded to consecrate other bishops for various Catholic splinter groups, many of them sedevacantists. Thục departed for the United States[when?] at the invitation of Bishop Louis Vezelis, a Franciscan former missionary priest who had agreed to receive Episcopal Consecration by the Thục line Bishop George J. Musey, assisted by co-consecrators, Bishops Carmona, Zamora and Martínez, 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.[citation needed]

Thục died at the monastery of the Vietnamese American religious Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix on 13 December 1984, at Carthage, Missouri, aged 87.

See also


  1. "University Project Cloaked C.I.A. Role In Saigon, 1955–59", New York Times, 14 April 1966
  2. "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."
  3. Jacobs, pp. 25–34
  4. The 1966 Buddhist Crisis in South Vietnam, HistoryNet
  5. Gettleman, pp. 275–76, 366
  6. Moyar, pp. 215–16
  7. "South Viet Nam: The Religious Crisis". Time. 14 June 1963. Retrieved 22 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Tucker, pp. 49, 291, 293.
  9. Maclear, p. 63.
  10. SNIE 53-2-63, "The Situation in South Vietnam", 10 July 1963
  11. Tucker, p. 291
  12. Olson, p. 98
  13. Jacobs, pp. 93–96
  14. Gettleman, pp. 280–82
  15. "South Vietnam: Whose funeral pyre?". The New Republic. 1963-06-29. p. 9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Warner, p. 210
  17. Fall, p. 199
  18. Buttinger, p. 993
  19. Karnow, p. 294.
  20. Jacobs, p. 91
  21. "Diệm's other crusade". The New Republic. 1963-06-22. pp. 5–6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Halberstam, David (1963-06-17). "Diệm and the Buddhists". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Jacobs (2004), p. 185
  24. Jacobs (2004), p. 188.
  25. Topmiller, p. 2
  26. Karnow, p. 295
  27. Moyar, pp. 212–13
  28. Gettleman, pp. 64–83
  29. Rev. Fr. Noël Barbara, Fortes in fide, Nr 12.
  30. "Archbishop Thục: a brief defense"
  31. 31.0 31.1 Michael W. Cuneo, The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism, JHU Press, 1999,p. 99.
  32. M.L. Guérard des Lauriers, Dimensions de la Foi, Paris: Cerf, 1952
  33. Griff Ruby, The Resurrection of the Roman Catholic Church: A Guide to the Traditional Catholic Movement, iUniverse, 2002, pp. 138–9.
  34. "Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo": Autobiography by Mgr. Ngô Đình Thục, written ca. 1978–1980. Einsicht – röm.-kath. Zeitschrift: Munich
  35. Schmitt, Oskar (2006). Ein würdiger Verwalter im Weinberg unseres Herrn Jesus Christus: Bischof Pierre Martin Ngô-dinh-Thuc (in German). Books on Demand. pp. 134–5. ISBN 9783833453854. Retrieved 6 July 2014. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Borthwick, Mark (1998). Pacific Century: The Emergence of Modern Pacific Asia. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3471-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Buttinger, Joseph (1967). Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled. Praeger Publishers.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fall, Bernard B. (1963). The Two Viet-Nams. Praeger Publishers.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gettleman, Marvin E. (1966). Vietnam: History, Documents, and Opinions on a Major World Crisis. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Halberstam, David; Singal, Daniel J. (2008). The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam during the Kennedy Era. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-6007-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hammer, Ellen J. (1987). A Death in November: America in Vietnam, 1963. New York City: E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-24210-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jacobs, Seth (2004). America's miracle man in Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, religion, race, and U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia, 1950–1957. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3440-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jacobs, Seth (2006). Cold War Mandarin: Ngo Dinh Diem and the Origins of America's War in Vietnam, 1950–1963. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-4447-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jones, Howard (2003). Death of a Generation: how the assassinations of Diem and JFK prolonged the Vietnam War. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505286-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Karnow, Stanley (1997). Vietnam: A History. New York City: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-670-84218-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Langguth, A. J. (2000). Our Vietnam: the war, 1954–1975. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81202-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Maclear, Michael (1981). Vietnam:The Ten Thousand Day War. New York City: Methuen Publishing. ISBN 0-423-00580-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moyar, Mark (2006). Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. New York City: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86911-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Olson, James S. (1996). Where the Domino Fell. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-08431-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sheehan, Neil (1989). A Bright Shining Lie. New York City: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-679-72414-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Topmiller, Robert J. (2006). The Lotus Unleashed: The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2260-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social and Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-040-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Warner, Denis (1964). The Last Confucian: Vietnam, South-East Asia, and the West. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links