Some years ago the validity of Holy Orders emanating from Bishop Thuc, and to a lesser extent from Marcel Lefebvre, was being actively debated. Today it seems to be all but a foregone conclusion that the Holy Orders emanating from the both of these men are considered to be valid. I believe that this is a mistake.
The consequences of erroneously presuming validity of Orders is catastrophic. With the sole exception of Baptism, none of the Sacraments would be valid. There would be no Sacramental absolution given at Confession, nor would the Body and Blood of Christ be offered at Mass or distributed at Holy Communion. And perhaps most tragically, the Sacrament of Extreme Unction wouldn’t take place at that critical time of one's death. No amount of good will or wishful thinking on the part of either the minister or the intended recipient could supply for this deficiency. Everyone loses.
|Table of Contents
I. The Case Against Marcel Lefebvre and the SSPX
II. The Case Against Bishop Thuc
III. The No Authority Bishops
IV. Final Conclusion in Summary
Rebuttal to Certain Objections
I fear that this is exactly what may be happening in many traditional Catholic Churches. This is why I have written this article.
I ask the reader to bear in mind that in trying to get to the truth in this matter, it necessarily entails, by its very nature, the examination of the conduct of the persons of interest; what they said, what they did, etc. But an important distinction needs to be made between examining those deeds which bear upon the validity of Orders and examining the alleged personal sins which have no bearing on validity whatsoever. To examine and make public the former is permitted, and oftentimes necessary; to examine and make public the later is forbidden under the penalty of sin. On that note, there was a notable amount of material intentionally left out of this article, thinking that it would be better to say less with a clean conscience than to say more. To the best of my knowledge, everything stated herein is accurate and true; if it can be otherwise demonstrated to me, I will correct it with my apologies.
The Traditional Clergy
Almost all of the traditionalist clergy in North America and Europe have something in common, i.e., nearly all of them derive their priestly and episcopal Orders from one of two sources: Marcel Lefebvre or Bishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc. Since Marcel Lefebvre’s Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is by far the largest of the traditionalist groups, and also since many of the most prominent traditionalist bishops of the Thuc lineage trace their priesthood back to Marcel Lefebvre, then examining the validity of Lefebvre’s Orders offers us an opportunity to cover the largest spectrum of the traditionalist clergy under a single heading.
VALIDITY OF ORDERS
Without valid bishops to ordain, there are no valid priests. Without valid bishops and priests, there are no Sacraments (Baptism excepted, and under certain conditions, marriage excepted as well). Without the Sacraments, there is no Church. So one can readily see that the validity of episcopal Orders is without doubt a most important question; because both the validity of the Sacraments, and the validity of bishops and priests alike, are wholly dependent upon the validity of Orders possessed by the bestowing bishop.
So the starting point for the traditionalist clergy is whether they were ordained and consecrated by a valid bishop. Absent this, everything else becomes a moot point.1Minimum Requirements for Valid Consecration to the Episcopacy
For a valid consecration to take place, surprising little is required:
Regarding the consecration of Marcel Lefebvre, all three of these requirements present a problem.
As there is no known reason to call into question the sacramental matter and form regarding the Orders received by Marcel Lefebvre, we will focus only on the sacramental intention, of which there is serious concern.
For any Sacrament to be valid, three things are necessary: proper matter, form and intention:
“All these Sacraments are made up of three elements: namely, things as the matter, words as the form, and the person of the minister who confers the Sacrament with the intention of doing what the Church does. If any of these is lacking, the Sacrament is not effected.” [not effected: it did not happen] (Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, 1439.)
In the case of conferring Holy Orders, to do what the Church does is self-evident; the Church intends to ordain or consecrate ministers to continue the work of redemption that Christ entrusted to His Apostles, i.e., to administer the Sacraments of the Church, to teach all truth, to convert sinners, “to offer Sacrifice, to bless, to guide, to preach and to baptize.”2
If a minister of the Sacrament of Orders has a different intention than the “intention of doing what the Church does”; his intention, be it ever so good or hostile, would cause the Sacrament to fail – Holy Orders would not be bestowed upon the intended recipient. This is accepted by all theologians and confirmed by the popes. Pope Alexander VIII condemned the following proposition in 1690:
“A Baptism is valid which is conferred by a minister who observes all the external rite and the form of baptizing but who says in his heart: ‘I do not intend to do what the Church does.’”3
To further help clarify this, perhaps it would be helpful to invert it from a condemned proposition to an approved one: A Baptism is not valid which is conferred by a minister … who says in his heart: I do not intend to do what the Church does.
Enter Cardinal Achille Liénart
Marcel Lefebvre was “ordained” a priest in 1929 and “consecrated” a bishop in 1947. In 1970, five years after he signed the decrees of Vatican Council II, he founded the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Three years before he died in 1991, he “consecrated” four members of the SSPX as bishops. The problem regarding the validity of the consecration of these four men goes back to the man who ordained and consecrated them, Marcel Lefebvre. The problem with Marcel Lefebvre and his highly doubtful ability to confer Holy Orders goes back to his Seminary professor, the man who ordained and consecrated Marcel Lefebvre himself – Cardinal Achille Liénart, a socialist who had distinguished himself as an ultra liberal in Vatican Council II. He died in 1973, and received this eulogy from Time Magazine:
“Died. Achille Cardinal Liénart, 89, staunchly progressive bishop of the industrial diocese of Lille for four decades; in Lille. A champion of social reform in France long before he won a red hat in 1930, Cardinal Liénart was an active supporter of trade-unionism and a leader of the worker-priest movement that sent Catholic clergymen to live among French laborers. Undaunted by either the opposition of industrialists, who dubbed him "the Red Cardinal," [i.e., the Communist Cardinal] or the Vatican's termination of the worker-priest experiment in 1954, he became a leading proponent of church decentralization during Vatican II.” (2/26/73)
Of greater concern to traditional Catholics than the fact that Liénart was a radical socialist was the fact that he was also a high-ranking Freemason. The proof for this is assertion quite compelling. Let us meet the witnesses and take a look at their evidence.
Liénart the Mason
Liénart was first exposed as being a high-ranking, 30 degree Freemason in a book titled L’Infaillibilité Pontificale (Papal Infallibility), which was written by a Chamberlain of Pope Pius XII, Marquis de la Franquerie, an experienced and accomplished Catholic author4 as well as a personal friend of Marcel Lefebvre. In fact, the second edition of L’Infaillibilité Pontificale contains a commendation from Lefebvre in which he expresses his appreciation to his “dear Marquis” for publishing the book.5
This book revealed that Liénart was “a Luciferian who frequented black masses”6 and whose role at Vatican Council II was dictated to him from his Masonic superiors. In a footnote to the above quoted text, the Marquis explains:
“This attitude of the Cardinal could not surprise those who knew of his membership in Masonic and Luciferian Lodges. That was why the author of this study had consistently refused to accompany Cardinal Liénart in official ceremonies, as Secret Chamberlain.”
“The Cardinal had been initiated in 1912 in a Lodge in Cambrai, whose Venerable was Brother Debierre. He attended one Lodge in Cambrai, three in Lille, one in Valenciennes and two in Paris, including one lodge especially composed of parliamentarians. In 1919, he was indicated as a Visitor (18th degree) and then in 1924 as a 30th degree. The future Cardinal met in the lodges Brother Debierre and Roger Salengro. Debierre was one of the informants of Cardinal Gasparri, who had been initiated in America, and Cardinal Hartmann, Archbishop of Cologne, a Rosicrucian of Germany.”7
In addition to this book, there have also been several publications exposing Liénart as a Mason. One of these is a French periodical called Le Courrier Tychique, published by Max Barret, friend and former chauffeur of Marcel Lefebvre. This publication carried the story in its October 25, 2009 edition of Lienart’s deathbed confession to a traditionalist priest by the name of Canon Descornets. It said that Lienart not only confessed his Masonic membership, but that he further requested the Canon to make the fact of it public, and in order to facilite this, he released Canon Descornets from the seal of the confessional. The Canon complied with his request, but fearing reprecusions (he was still operating under his Vatican II bishop), he did so only to private audiences. It was from a first-hand witness at one of these audiences that Max Barret obtained the information that he published in his article.
In March, 2013, Einsicht, a conservative German publication often quoted in attempting to prove the validity of the Thuc lineage, treated of the fact of Liénart's masonic membership and stated that Lefebvre acquaintance and ex-SSPX professor, Father Gerard des Lauriers, advised those who had beened ordained by Marcel Lefebrve to get themselves conditionally ordained again due to concerns about validity.
Father Luigi Villa provides yet more evidence. He was said to have been commissioned by Cardinal Ottaviani to obtain documentation about high ranking Church officials suspected of being Masons. This task one day found Father Villa in Paris, waiting near a Masonic lodge for someone to provide him with documentary evidence confirming Liénart's Masonic membership, when he was assaulted and beat into unconsciousness. While pounding him, his assailent shouted: “There is a devil on this earth!” (Who is Father Luigi Villa? by Dr. Franco Adessa)
(Another source of Liénart's masonic ties arose when an internal conflict within a Freemasonic Lodge in Italy, between Mino Pecorelli and his former Grand Master, Licio Gelli, spilled out into the public forum. As a result of this conflict, Pecorelli leaked out a membership list in July, 1976. So many credible publications have since reprinted this list that its authenticity is beyond all reasonable doubt. It should be noted, however, that Liénart's name was not found on the original list put out by Pecorelli, but made its way into the list at a later date, in which it stated: “Liénart, Achille, Cardinal. Grand Master top Mason. Bishop of Lille, France. Recruits Masons. Was leader of progressive forces at Vatican II Council.”8 Whether his name was added by Pecorelli himself or by someone else is unknown, which is why this is being given parathentically.)
Lefebvre Acknowledges Liénart as a Freemason
Most significant of all of the witness is none other than Marcel Lefebvre himself. In March of 1976, Chiesa Viva No.51, a magazine published in Rome, reproduced the story from the book L’infaillibilité Pontificale claiming that Achille Liénart was a high ranking Freemason, followed by another Italian periodical, Si Si, No No.
In response to the article carried by Chiesa Viva, Lefebvre publicly acknowledged the fact that Liénart was a Freemason in a speech given in Montreal on May 27, 1976:
“Two months ago in Rome, the traditionalist periodical Chiesa Viva, published — I have seen it in Rome with my own eyes — on the back side of the cover, the photograph of Cardinal Liénart with all his Masonic paraphernalia, the day of the date of his inscription in Masonry, the grade to which he belonged, then the date at which he rose to the 20th, then to the 30th degree of Masonry, attached to this lodge, to that lodge, at this place, at that place. Meanwhile, about two or three months after this publication was made, I heard nothing about any reaction, or any contradiction. Now, unfortunately, I must say to you that this Cardinal Liénart is my bishop, it is he who ordained me a priest, it is he who consecrated me a bishop. I cannot help it... Fortunately, the orders are valid... But, in spite of it, it was very painful for me to be informed of it.”
It is interesting to note that Lefebvre immediately started to defend the “validity” of his Orders, even though their validity had not been openly challenged. Presumably Lefebvre took this defensive posture because he knew about the doubtfulness of Orders emanating from a Freemasonic minister. In point of fact, he had good reason to be concerned.
An indirect, but nonetheless an interesting witness, in none other than Liénart himself. For although the Marquis’ book was published several years before Liénart’s death, (and as a Cardinal of the Church, it is unimaginable that Liénart would not have been made aware of the Marquis’ allegation) the record is absolutely silent as to any refutation, denial or demand for retraction either by Liénart or anyone else. This silence in the face of such a damning allegation supports the argument that the Marquis’ book was indeed correct – Liénart was a high ranking Freemason.
“Two or Three Witnesses”
St. Thomas teaches that “it is reasonably established both by Divine and by human law, that the assertion of several witnesses should be upheld.” (Summa, 2nd of 2nd, 70, 2) Thus the witnesses presented here give us more than ample evidence to safely conclude that Liénart was indeed a Freemason.
“In the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall stand.” (2 Cor. 13:1)
Freemasons – Valid Sacramental Intention?
So the question naturally arises: If Liénart was a Freemason, what about Lefebvre’s Orders? Wouldn’t there be doubt concerning their validity? Fortunately, it is not necessary to “divine” the intentions of those who are Freemasons as to whether or not they would confer Holy Orders with the “intention to do what the Church does,” because nearly every pope since 1738 has published warnings about the Freemasons and their objectives. Here’s a sampling (emphases supplied):
“[T]hey [Freemasons] declare repeatedly that Christ is either a scandal or foolish; indeed, not rarely, that there is no God, and they teach that the soul of man dies together with the body: the codes and statutes, by which they explain their goals and ordinances openly declare that all the things which We have already mentioned, and which pertain to the overthrowing of Legitimate Rulers and totally destroying the Church come forth from them. And this has been ascertained and must be considered as certain, that these sects, although in name different, nevertheless have been joined among themselves by an impious bond of filthy goals.” (Quo Graviora – Apostolic Constitution of Pope Leo XII, March 13, 1826)
“[T]hose secret societies of factious men who, completely opposed to God and to princes, are wholly dedicated to bringing about the fall of the Church, the destruction of kingdoms, and disorder in the whole world…Their law is untruth: their god is the devil and their cult is turpitude… Our predecessors, Clement XII, Benedict XIV, Pius VII, Leo XII, repeatedly condemned with anathema that kind of secret society…” (Traditi Humilitati - Encyclical of Pope Pius VIII ,May 24, 1829)
“[S]uch that they profane and defile the passion of Jesus Christ by certain of their impious ceremonies, that they despise the Sacraments of the Church (for which they seem to substitute other new things invented by themselves through their supreme wickedness) and despise the very mysteries of the Catholic Religion and that they overthrow this Apostolic See against which, because on it the Sovereignty of the Apostolic Chair has always flourished, (S. Aug. Epist. 43.) they are roused by a certain unparalleled hate and they devise every dangerous destructive plot.” (Constitution of Pope Pius VII – Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo – 9/13/1821)
“They are planning the destruction of holy Church publicly and openly, and this with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom… Their chief dogmas are so greatly and manifestly at variance with reason that nothing can be more perverse. To wish to destroy the religion and the Church which God Himself has established… their ultimate purpose forces itself into view – namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced… and now the time has come when the partisans of the sects openly declare, what in secret among themselves they have for a long time plotted, that the sacred power of the Pontiffs must be abolished, and that the papacy itself, founded by divine right, must be utterly destroyed. If other proofs were wanting, this fact would be sufficiently disclosed by the testimony of men well informed, of whom some at other times, and others again recently, have declared it to be true of the Freemasons that they especially desire to assail the Church with irreconcilable hostility, and that they will never rest until they have destroyed whatever the supreme Pontiffs have established for the sake of religion.” (Humanum Genus, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, 4/20/1884)
So bearing in mind that the destruction of Catholicism is the goal of the Freemason, let us examine Liénart the “Mason.”
Liénart’s Doubtful Sacramental Intention
We obviously have no way of knowing with certainty what Liénart’s intentions were when he first ordained and then later consecrated Marcel Lefebvre, only he and God know that, but we can draw a reasonable conclusion based upon what the popes have taught us about high-ranking Freemasons. This reasonable conclusion would tell us that it is highly improbable that Liénart would have “intended to do what the Church does” when he ordained and consecrated Marcel Lefebvre.
Since, as just noted, the destruction of Catholicism is a Freemasonic objective, a question naturally arises: why would a high ranking Mason (Liénart) advance someone to further the interests of Catholicism and thereby undermine the interests of Masonry? It doesn’t add up, especially when one takes into account the directives that Pope Leo XIII issued to all of the bishops of the world about combating Freemasonry:
“And because We know that Our best and firmest hope of a remedy is in the power of that divine religion which the Freemasons hate in proportion to their fear of it… We pray and beseech you, venerable brethren, to join your efforts with Ours, and earnestly to strive for the extirpation of this foul plague… We wish it to be your rule first of all to tear away the mask from Freemasonry, and to let it be seen as it really is; and by sermons and pastoral letters to instruct the people as to the artifices used by societies of this kind in seducing men and enticing them into their ranks, and as to the depravity of their opinions and the wickedness of their acts.” (Humanum Genus, id.)
So again the question: why would Liénart ever consider validly consecrating Lefebvre, if as a result of that consecration Lefebvre would have been duty-bound to “extirpate” and to “tear away the mask” of Freemasonry? What could have possibly motivated Liénart to do that?
On the other hand, if Liénart was “wholly dedicated to bringing about the fall of the Church,” then one sure way of accomplishing that would be to destroy Apostolic Succession in the Church; and that could easily be achieved by secretly feigning the “ordinations” of priests and the “consecrations” of bishops. This writer suggests that this latter intention is the more probable one and more in keeping with right reason.
Sacramental Intention is not Enslaved to the Form of the Sacrament
The defenders of Lefebvre, however, would have us believe that if an enemy of Catholicism visibly used proper matter and form in their ordination and consecration ceremonies, then we have no choice but to accept that intention as good and the Sacrament as valid. This is not sound sacramental theology and a highly dangerous proposition, because in accepting this line of reasoning, one would have to enslave and subordinate the intention of the minister to the matter and form employed. Taking this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, then if Anton LeVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, were to consecrate someone (supposing that he himself had obtained valid consecration, as Satanists sometimes did) by using proper matter and form, then we would have to accept that consecration at face value as being valid. But what intelligent person would accept this? What serious-minded Catholic would go to such a person for the Sacraments or entrust the welfare of their souls to him?
The defenders of this external intention supposition rely on a false premise, based principally upon the misapplication of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Apostolicae Curae9 against the validity of Anglican Orders, which causes them to embrace a highly improbable scholastic theory which states that the “external intention” alone is sufficient for sacramental validity.
In support of their position, they often quote a certain portion of this encyclical which states that: “A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do what the Church does.” But in presenting this sentence out of the context of the paragraph which contained it, they either naively or deceptively distort the whole of what Pope Leo XIII taught. Here is the paragraph in its entirety:
“With this inherent defect of 'form' is joined the defect of 'intention' which is equally essential to the Sacrament. The Church does not judge about the mind and intention, in so far as it is something by its nature internal; but in so far as it is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it. A person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do what the Church does. On this principle rests the doctrine that a Sacrament is truly conferred by the ministry of one who is a heretic or unbaptized, provided the Catholic rite be employed. On the other hand, if the rite be changed, with the manifest intention of introducing another rite not approved by the Church and of rejecting what the Church does, and what, by the institution of Christ, belongs to the nature of the Sacrament, then it is clear that not only is the necessary intention wanting to the Sacrament, but that the intention is adverse to and destructive of the Sacrament.” (Emphasis supplied)
What Leo XIII is teaching here is that when the Anglicans changed the form of the Sacrament, they necessarily changed the intention of the Sacrament as well, either change being equally destructive of the Sacrament. He is not teaching that the intention is presumed valid in every case, without exception, provided that the form is not changed. This is obvious when he states that “but in so far as it [the intention] is manifested externally she is bound to judge concerning it.” So here we have the exception of a presumed good intention, i.e., an externally manifested intention otherwise.
This is why in the hypothetical case about Anton LeVey one must reject any Orders he hypothetically would have conferred, because his membership in the Church of Satan is an external manifestation of something, i.e., his hostility to God and Catholicism. So likewise in the case of Liénart, his membership in Freemasonry is an external manifestation of something as well, i.e., his hostility to God and Catholicism.
Furthermore, Leo XIII’s statement that “a person who has correctly and seriously used the requisite matter and form to effect and confer a sacrament is presumed for that very reason to have intended to do what the Church does” cannot be construed to exclude from the term “seriously” the indispensible element of the sacramental intention, as Lefebvre's defenders would have us believe:
“If the true intention of confecting a sacrament is lacking, the element of the serious external performance seems to contribute very little or nothing to the contention that those actions thus posited constitute a true sacrament. In fact it is a misnomer to call an action "serious" if the internal serious intent is lacking. Such so-called "serious" performances are not serious at all. That they are apparently serious is true, but that they are really serious is false.” (The Dogmatic Theology on the Intention of the Minister in the Confection of the Sacraments by Rev. Raphael De Salvo, O.S.B., S.T.L. 1949, p. 97)
It is also noteworthy that almost all theologians today reject the external intention theory and state that a minister of the Sacraments must have an internal intention to confer the Sacrament:
“According to the almost general opinion of modern theologians, an inner intention is necessary for the valid administration of the Sacraments… The mere external intention is not compatible with the concept of doing what the Church intends, or with the status of the minister as a servant of Christ, or with the religious determination of the sacramental sign…” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott, 1955)
“The Church teaches very unequivocally that for the valid conferring of the sacraments, the minister must have the intention of doing at least what the Church does. This is laid down with great emphasis by the Council of Trent. (Sess. VII). The opinion once defended by such theologians as Catharinus and Salmeron (theologians at Trent) that there need only be the intention to perform deliberately the external rite proper to each sacrament, and that, as long as this was true, the interior dissent of the minister from the mind of the Church would not invalidate the sacrament, no longer finds adherents. The common doctrine now is that a real internal intention to act as a minister of Christ, or to do what Christ instituted the sacraments to effect… is required… Whatever may be said speculatively about the opinion of Ambrosius Catharinus who advocated the sufficiency of an external intention in the minister, it may not be followed in practice, because, outside of cases of necessity, no one may follow a probable opinion against one that is safer, when there is question of something required for the validity of a sacrament.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, p. 69)
This necessary internal intention is further confirmed by St. Thomas Aquinas:
“I answer that, The minister’s intention may be perverted in two ways. First in regard to the Sacrament: for instance, when a man does not intend to confer a Sacrament, but to make a mockery of it. Such a perverse intention takes away the truth of the Sacrament, especially if it be manifested outwardly.” (Summa Theologica, 3rd, 64, 10.)
And by St. Alphonsus:
“For the validity of the Sacraments there is required in the minister neither faith nor probity, but rather power (and jurisdiction in some Sacraments), as well as the intention or will, at least virtual and absolute, or the equivalent of this, of doing, not that external act only, but that Sacrament, or at least of doing what the Church does or what Christ instituted… the confection of a Sacrament requires such an intention which determines the action to be sacramental, and which removes the indifference of the words and actions; but an intention only of doing the external action, which could be referred to other ends, is not such an intention. Thus the Council of Trent defined that a “Sacrament” performed in jest would be invalid, contrary to Luther.” (Theologia Moralis: Bk. 6, Pt. 1 - emphasis supplied)
And by Pope Alexander VIII who condemned the following (as already noted above):
“Baptism is valid which is conferred by a minister who observes all the external rite and the form of baptizing but within his heart resolves: ‘I do not intend what the Church does.’” (Denzinger, 1318)
And finally by the Holy Office:
“On 23 January, 1586, the Sacred Congregation of the Council gave a decision in the following cases: A Bishop, before the Ordination ceremony, declared that he had no intention of ordaining any candidates who were under age, and that if any such received the imposition of hands, it would be an empty ceremony. The answer was that those under age were not ordained.”
“A certain Anthony Gonzalez de Acuna, Bishop of Charcas in South America, declared with an oath before an ordination ceremony that he intended not to confer orders on any candidate of mixed blood. Several such presented themselves and received the rite at his hands. The case was referred to Rome, and on 13 February, 1682, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, which while gravely rebuking the Bishop for his conduct, pronounced that the Orders were invalid in the case of those of mixed blood, and that all priestly acts performed by them were invalid.” (Principles of Sacramental Theology by Bernard Leeming, S.J.)
The inescapable conclusion here is that Liénart, by an adverse sacramental intention alone, was clearly capable of destroying the Sacraments he is supposed to have conferred on Lefebvre.
Lefebvre Contradicts SSPX Theory on Sacramental Intention
It is a strange piece of irony that those who attempt to defend Lefebvre’s Orders on the ground of the “external intention” theory, are refuted by none other than Marcel Lefebvre himself:
“You well know, my dear brethren, that there can be no priests without bishops. When God calls me —this will certainly not be long —from whom would these seminarians receive the Sacrament of Orders? From conciliar bishops, who, due to their doubtful intentions, confer doubtful Sacraments? This is not possible.” (Marcel Lefebvre’s Consecration Ceremony Sermon, June 30, 1988)
So it is clear that the sacramental intention, which is a necessary element in every Sacrament, is not enslaved to the external form of that Sacrament; rather, the minster must have the minimum intention of doing what the Church does or else the Sacrament is rendered invalid. Now in considering the fact that Achille Liénart was almost beyond doubt a Freemason, and considering that almost beyond doubt he would not have intended to do what the Church does when conferring the Sacraments of the Church, since Freemasons “despise the Sacraments of the Church,” we must ask ourselves: How are Catholics to deal with those who have received doubtful Orders from him?
The Church’s Teaching Regarding Doubtful Sacraments
We turn to St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, who is a Doctor of the Catholic Church and the Patron Saint of Confessors, Theologians and Moralists. One of the greatest among his 111 written works is his book on moral theology (Theologica Moralis). Here he reiterated the Church’s teaching in determining sacramental validity in cases of doubt.9a It is given at some length so as to enable the reader to grasp the full import of this important doctrine of the Church which is so applicable to our situation today:
“[O]ne must take note of the different species of probability: for one opinion may be barely probable, another probable, another more probable, another most probable, another morally certain, another safe, another safer. An opinion is barely probable which depends on some foundation, but not such that would prevail upon a prudent man to assent to it; but this kind of opinion we are unable to use. That is probable, which rests on a grave foundation, either intrinsically of reason or extrinsically of authority, such that it would prevail upon a prudent man to assent to it, although with respect for the opposite opinion. That is more probable (or highly probable), which rests on a more grave foundation, but also with prudent respect for the opposite, such that the contrary may also be thought to be probable. That is most probable, which rests on a most grave foundation, such that the opposite is thought to be barely or doubtfully probable; we may always licitly use such an opinion. An opinion is morally certain, which excludes all prudent fear of error, such that the opposite is reputed as altogether improbable. Finally, an opinion is safe, which recedes from every danger of sinning. But that is safer (or very safe), which recedes greatly from such danger, even if it does not rely on firmer reasons.”
“Thence it should be noted that there is a probability of fact and another of law. A probability of fact is that which revolves around the truth of a thing, or the substance of a thing, such as whether in a Sacrament, the use of such matter would be valid or invalid…”
“This established, it is never lawful to use a probable opinion with the probability of fact when there is danger of harm to another or to oneself; because this kind of probability by no means removes the danger of harm: for if the opinion is false, harm to one’s neighbor or to the one acting will not be evaded. For example, baptism attempted using saliva is truly invalid, so that an infant would remain unbaptized; probability in the opposite opinion is certainly unable to effect its validity. Hence:
“Therefore, it must always be said, that it is never licit to use a probable opinion with the probability of fact, where there is danger of harm or injury to one’s neighbor.”10 (Theologica Moralis, Book 1, Chapter 3, Of Probable Conscience).
- 1. It is not licit, in a matter of faith and in everything which appears to be a necessary means of eternal salvation, to follow a less probable opinion (as was ineptly said in Prop. 4, proscribed [condemned] by Innocent XI) nor a more probable one; rather we are bound to follow the safer opinion…”
- 4. In the administration of the Sacraments, a minister may use neither a probable opinion nor a more probable opinion concerning their validity, but is bound to follow a safe opinion; that is, one that is either very safe or morally certain.”
Marcel Lefebvre – Moral Certainty?
So the Church’s minimum requirement for accepting the validity of a Sacrament is “moral certainty.” To reiterate, moral certainty is one “which excludes all prudent fear of error, such that the opposite is reputed as altogether improbable.” Now in consideration of the facts surrounding Liénart’s Masonic roots and the teachings of the Popes on Freemasonry, does Marcel Lefebvre's ordination and consecration by Liénart reach this standard of moral certainty? Is all prudent fear of error absent here? When Liénart imposed his hands upon Lefebvre at the ceremonies of ordination and consecration, was it altogether improbable that his sacramental intention was different than doing what the Church does?
In considering the evidence just presented above, the answer to these questions is a resounding no. It was not altogether improbable that Liénart would have had an intention different, if not openly hostile, to doing as the Church does. The conclusion is inescapable: moral certainty is lacking. So Catholics must follow the safer course, which demands that we refuse to accept the validity of Lefebvre’s doubtful Orders , because, as the Church teaches: “it is not lawful to act on mere probability when the validity of the sacraments is in question.”11
The Simple Priesthood: a Prerequisite for a Valid Episcopal Consecration
Those who attempt to defend Lefebvre’s Orders will put forward the argument that at a consecration of a bishop, there are generally two “co-consecrators” present to ensure validity, and that even if Liénart’s intention was faulty, the co-consecrators would have supplied for this Sacramental defect. This is correct regarding the consecration of bishops. But when someone is ordained a priest, there are no “co-ordainers” present to ensure validity. If the ordaining bishop fails to confer the Sacrament, there are no “back-up bishops” to supply for this deficiency. This fact is of consequence, because Lefebvre was not only “consecrated” by Liénart, he was also “ordained” by him.
There are two schools of thought regarding the Sacrament of Order on this issue. The minority view is that episcopal consecration is a separate Order from the priesthood and therefore being a validly ordained priest is not a prerequisite to receiving valid consecration to the episcopacy. This minority position is the one adopted by the SSPX and other Lefebvre supporters.
The majority view, however, is:
“that previous ordination to the Presbyterate [priesthood] is essential to the Episcopate, so that the episcopal consecration of one who was not already a priest would be null and void… This is certainly the general view of theologians; and, as we have said, it is confirmed by the universal practice of the Church.” (The Teaching of the Catholic Church –The Sacrament of Order, Canon George Smith, D.D., Ph.D., 1954)
This position is supported by the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas:
“[T]he episcopal power depends on the priestly power, since no one can receive the episcopal power unless he have previously the priestly power. Therefore the episcopate is not an Order.” (Summa, Supp. 40, 5)
Again, the necessary requirement of moral certainty is lacking by those who hold to the minority view, i.e., that one does not first need to be a priest to be validly consecrated a bishop. While theologians may hold to this minority view as a remotely possible theory, Catholics in practice must reject it when it comes to determining the validity of Orders, because “with the Sacraments, the safer path must be chosen.” 12 Moral certitude is lacking in Lefebvre’s ordination to the priesthood, therefore it logically follows that moral certitude must be at least as equally lacking in Lefebvre’s consecration to the episcopacy as well, even if his consecration had been otherwise valid.
The same teachings of the Church which causes one to reject the Orders of Marcel Lefebvre, also causes one to reject the Orders of the “bishops” supposedly consecrated by Lefebvre, and for the same reason. Granted that Lefebvre was assisted at the consecrations of the four SSPX bishops in 1988 by the 84 year old Bishop Castro Meyer, but this does not solve the problem that all four episcopal candidates received their “ordinations” to the “priesthood” by Lefebvre without the assistance of any “co-ordainers.” If one must reject Lefebvre’s Orders as being less than morally certain, then one must also equally reject anyone tracing their Orders back to Lefebvre, because as the scholastic axiom goes: “one cannot give that which one does not have.” If Lefebvre didn’t have the episcopal power, then he couldn’t bestow that either that power or the power of the priesthood to others.
If there are any valid priests within the SSPX, they came from without the organization, not from within.
To further compound the doubtful validity of Lefebvre’s Orders is the fact that Liénart’s own Orders are suspect, because with the sole exception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the proper intention is not only required of the minister of the Sacrament, but it is also required of the recipient as well:
“A Sacrament received without a proper intention or which is conferred upon a person against his will is invalid.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, 1955)
“In adults, for the valid reception of any sacrament except the Eucharist, it is necessary that they have the intention of receiving it. The sacraments impose obligations and confer grace: Christ does not wish to impose those obligations or confer grace without the consent of man.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Sacraments, 1907)
Therefore the question arises: Is there moral certitude that Liénart had the requisite intention when he was consecrated a bishop? A chronological look at his life may provide the answer.
1773, April 28 - By his Constitution "In eminenti" Pope Clement XII excommunicated those who joined Masonry.
1884, February 7 – Liénart is born.
1884, May 10 – The Holy Office pronounces an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church for membership in Masonry.
1907, June 29 – Liénart ordained a priest.
1912 – Liénart becomes a Freemason and incurs automatic excommunication.
1918, May 19 – the Code of Canon Law takes effect. Canon 2335 confirms the former law of an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church for anyone who becomes a Freemason.
1919 – Liénart is promoted to “Visiteur” – 18th degree in Freemasonry.
1924 – Liénart is promoted to the 30th degree in Freemasonry.
1928, October 6 – Liénart is consecrated a Bishop.
1930, June 30 – Liénart becomes a Cardinal.
1973, February 15 – Liénart was judged by a God whom he warred against.
So we see that Liénart had been a Mason for 16 years, and a 30 degree Mason for 4 years, before being consecrated a bishop. That he willingly and knowingly accepted the excommunication attached to his membership must be concluded, for it is virtually impossible that as a Seminarian studying for the priesthood, and later as a priest of 16 years, that he could have been ignorant of the Church’s teachings and penalties regarding Masonry. This facts help to set the stage for a glimpse into his mindset when he presented himself for episcopal consecration.
When one enters Freemasonry, they start at the bottom (1st degree) and work their way up. They are required to take an oath as they advance to each succeeding degree. The following is an oath for the 1st degree:
“I, in the presence of the Great Architect of the Universe, . . . do hereby and hereon solemnly and sincerely swear, that I will always hide, conceal and never reveal any part or parts, any point or points of the secrets or mysteries of or belonging to Free and Accepted Masons in Masonry which may heretofore have been known by, shall now or may at any future time be communicated to me… These several points I solemnly swear to observe under no less penalty, than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root and my body buried in the sands of the sea… or the more efficient punishment of being branded as a willfully perjured individual, void of all moral worth. So help me God…” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Masonry, 1910)
30th degree oath:
“I solemnly and freely vow obedience to all the laws and regulations of the Order, whose belief will be my belief, I promise obedience to all my regular superiors… I vow never to submit to or tolerate any intellectual Despotism, [i.e., Catholic Church and Catholic Monarchies] that may pretend to chain or fetter free thought… I solemnly vow to consecrate my life to the ends of the Order of Knights of Kadosh, and to co-operate most efficaciously by all means prescribed by the constituted authorities of the order to attain them. I solemnly vow and consecrate, to these ends, my words, my power, my strength, my influence, my intelligence and my life… I pledge myself to obey without hesitation any order whatever it may be of my regular Superiors in the Order.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Masonry, 1910, citing Grand Master of the Scottish Rite - Albert Pike. Emphasis supplied)
Regarding the Order of the Knights of Kadosh: “The Kadosh, trampling on the papal tiara and the royal crown, is destined to wreak a just vengeance on these ‘high criminals’ for the murder of Molay.”13 (Albert Pike, ibid. Emphasis supplied)
So in considering Freemasonry as a whole, and in particular the level of commitment of Lienart, the question becomes: is there moral certitude that at the time of his episcopal consecration, that Liénart would have had the proper intention required by the Church? It is within the realm of possibility that he could have had the proper intention, but does this possibility attain to moral certainty? The answer once again must be a resounding no, for what is the likelihood that an enemy of Catholicism would have a proper Catholic intention?
The answer to this question of his Sacramental intention becomes even more clear when one considers the fact that Catholicism and Freemasonry are fundamentally and diametrically opposed to one another.
“The two systems of Romanism [Catholicism] and Freemasonry are not only incompatible, but they are radically opposed to each other and American Masons say: ‘We won't make a man a Freemason, until we know that he isn't a Catholic.’ ” (Grand Deacon J.C. Parkinson, an illustrious English Mason. Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, it is impossible to be a Catholic and a Mason at the same time – one must choose between the one and the other. If one chooses Catholicism, then he must, of course, reject Masonry. If he fails to do so, his state as a Catholic is one of an excommunicate. So a true Catholic can never be a Mason.
But it is wholly possible, and even compatible with Masonry, that a loyal Mason can be a “Catholic” in order to carry out one of the aims of Masonry – the destruction of the Catholic Church. This is not mere speculation, Masonic infiltration into the Catholic Church is a well documented fact. There is, of course, no evidence that any of these Masonic infiltrators have ever lost membership in Masonry as a result. How could they? They were simply fulfilling one of the stated goals of Masonry. They were simply being good Masons.
So if moral certitude is to be found here, it would be fair to say that there is moral certitude that Liénart's intention in receiving the Sacrament of Orders was hostile to and destructive of the Sacrament. At best, we must consider Liénart to be no more than a priest.
4. CONCLUSION ON LEFEBVRE AND THE SSPX
So we have encountered three separate obstacles challenging the validity of Lefebvre’s episcopacy:
Each one of these three issues standing independently fails to meet the necessary criterion of moral certitude for validity. Collectively they fail even further.
So one must necessarily conclude that at best, the priestly and episcopal Orders of Lefebvre and the men he "ordained" and "consecrated" are highly doubtful; and as noted above, doubtful Orders must be rejected.
The Validity of the Thuc Lineage
Those tracing their ordinations and/or consecrations back to Bishop Thuc are legion, and in virtue of their sheer numbers alone, are drowning out the voices of those who legitimately call into question a very weighty issue with eternal consequences attached to it: were the consecrations performed by Archbishop Thuc valid?
Much of what I present below is an attempt to counter-balance the factual misinformation which seems prevalent everywhere regarding Bishop Thuc. On the part of some, there has been a considerable amount of “white-washing” of the not-so-edifying history of Bishop Thuc, with the result that many people have formed opinions on him based on factual errors and omissions.
The victim of all this, besides truth itself, are all those well-meaning Catholics who have misplaced their trust in the validity of the Sacramental Orders emanating from him. I believe that this needs to be corrected.
1. BRIEF HISTORY OF BISHOP THUC
Unlike Marcel Lefebvre, there is no reason to doubt the personal validity of Bishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc’s consecration. He was a valid bishop with the power to validly consecrate other bishops. But like Lefebvre’s consecrator, Cardinal Liénart, the question of a valid sacramental intention causes concern in his regard too. His advocates would have us blindly accept the validity of his consecrations and ignore that which is externally manifest, i.e., Bishop Thuc was, by and large, not a traditionalist; his behavior was very erratic; and he said and did many things which cast serious doubts upon the validity of the consecrations performed by him. First, a brief look at the historical Bishop Thuc.
Born in 1897, Bishop Ngo Dinh Thuc was consecrated a bishop in South Vietnam in 1938, and promoted to the dignity of “archbishop” in 1960 by the false pope – John XXIII.
Bishop Thuc was an active participant in Vatican Council II and reportedly signed all of the documents of that false council. After the close of Vatican Council II, Paul VI would not permit him to return to Vietnam, so Bishop Thuc started his life as a disgruntled exile in Rome. In 1968, Paul VI appointed Bishop Thuc as Titular Archbishop of Bulla Regia (an ancient, now vacant see in Tunisia).
The Consecration Spree Starts
While living in Rome, Bishop Thuc got to know Fr. Ravaz, who at the time was teaching in Marcel Lefebvre's seminary in Switzerland. In the mid-1970’s, Fr. Ravaz became involved with a group of “visionaries” in Palmar de Troya, Spain, headed by an insurance broker, Clemente Dominguez Gomez, who believed that the "real" Paul VI was a prisoner of the Vatican and that the visible Paul VI was a living duplicate of the imprisoned one. (After Paul VI died in 1978, Dominguez claimed that Christ had mystically crowned him pope and he took the name of Gregory XVII. He subsequently started his own church and declared Paul VI to be a martyr-saint.)
One day Fr. Ravaz told Bishop Thuc that “Our Lady” had work for him to do in Palmar de Troya, and so off went Bishop Thuc. On December 31, 1975, Bishop Thuc ordained Clemente and four other lay men to the priesthood, and just 12 days later he consecrated two of the five newly ordained men and three others to the episcopacy for the Palmar de Troya group. (As an aside, in less than 2 years Clemente "consecrated" to the episcopacy no less than 70 men.)
Because Bishop Thuc did this without a mandate (permission) from Rome, on September 17, 1976, Paul VI “excommunicated” him. Thereupon Bishop Thuc quickly repented, renounced what he had done in Spain, and Paul VI received him back into the Vatican II church.
On July 10, 1977, just six months after the Palmarian consecrations, we find Thuc consecrating his first bishop for the Old Catholic Church, Labat d'Arnoux. On February 2, 1977, Bishop Thuc conditionally consecrated another Old Catholic by the name of Jean Laborie (who, incidentally, had been previously consecrated four other times.) Over the next few years, Bishop Thuc will consecrate at least three more bishops for the Old Catholic Church.14
In 1978, Bishop Thuc moved to Toulon, France and took up residence with a Buddhist Vietnamese family. While there, he regularly assisted Vatican II bishop, Barthe de Frejus, at his Cathedral in Toulon.
On April 16th, 1981, Holy Thursday, Bishop Thuc was caught concelebrating the New Mass with Barthe de Frejus. He had also been hearing “confessions” of the Vatican II church members in the same cathedral. Yet a mere three weeks after this event, Bishop Thuc had his first flirt with traditional Catholicism and consecrated Guerard des Lauriers on May 7, 1981.
Then on October 17, 1981, Bishop Thuc consecrated two traditionalists Mexican priests, Moises Carmona and Aldolfo Zamora.
On April 18, 1982, and then again on September 25, 1982, Bishop Thuc consecrated two more traditionalist bishops, Luigi Boni and Christian Datessen respectively.
Later in 1982, Bishop Thuc moved to New York to live with a traditionalist bishop of Thuc lineage – Louis Vezelis.
On March 12, 1983, John Paul II excommunicated Bishop Thuc for once again consecrating without a mandate from Rome.
On January 8, 1984, Bishop Thuc moved to Carthage Missouri to live at a Vatican II Vietmenese seminary located there, and it is there that he died on December 13, 1984.
So in the course of six years, Bishop Thuc consecrated 15 men: 5 for the Palmarian Church, 5 for the Old Catholic Church, and 5 for various traditional Catholic Churches.15 Considering that the average bishop performs 1 consecration in the course of his life, 15 or more consecrations in the span of six years is quite extraordinary, to say the least. Was all of this done in an effort by Bishop Thuc to preserve traditional Catholicism, as some claim? The answer to this question can be clarified by examining the conduct of Bishop Thuc himself, being cognizant of the fact that a man’s actions do indeed, speak louder than his words.
2. BISHOP THUC – THE “TRADITIONALIST”
The fact that Bishop Thuc, at least at certain times in his life, embraced some traditional practices is beyond dispute. Here is some of the evidence to support it:
* Father Noel Barbara, a traditionalist priest, accompanied by Father Barthe, met with Bishop Thuc on two occasions, once in March, 1981 and again in January, 1982. He wrote of his visits:
“Archbishop Thuc informed us that he celebrated Mass in his apartment early every morning, and always in the traditional rite… In the corner [Thuc’s apartment] was a table on which he celebrated the traditional rite as codified by Saint Pius V every morning.” 16
* In 1988, several “traditionalist priests” flew to Germany to interview Drs. Hiller and Heller, two traditional Catholic Germans who produce a publication called Einsicht. Drs. Hiller and Heller, friends and advocates of Bishop Thuc, had personally known the then deceased Bishop and had been active participants in several of the Thuc consecrations. These interviews with Drs. Hiller and Heller were recorded and excerpts of them put into print:
“Hiller said of Thuc: He said to himself, ‘I have nothing to lose. There is only one thing to continue the Catholic Church… When I ordain priests or consecrate bishops, perhaps, the Catholic Church will have a chance to continue.’” 17 [It is outside of the scope of this article to address this and the other theological errors expressed by Bishop Thuc.]
* The above named Einsicht published Bishop Thuc’s autobiography, reportedly written between 1978 and 1980. In this unauthenticated biography Bishop Thuc wrote:
“Vatican II seems to have the same goal as Communism: temporal human bliss. The following scandal therefore occurred: Prohibition of the least attack against Communism. Therefore the dogma: ‘the natural goodness of all types of beliefs.’”
* In February, 1982, a declaration of Bishop Thuc was published. We will take a closer look at this Declaration shortly, but here is the English translation, presented in its entirety:
"Declaration of Bishop Peter Martin Ngo Dihn Thuc
How does the Catholic Church appear today as we look at it? In Rome, John Paul II reigns as "Pope," surrounded by the body of Cardinals and of many bishops and prelates. Outside of Rome, the Catholic Church seems to be flourishing, along with its bishops and priests. The number of Catholics is great. Daily the Mass is celebrated in so many churches, and on Sundays the churches are full of many faithful who come to hear the Mass and receive Holy Communion.
But in the sight of God, how does today's Church appear? Are the Masses both the daily ones and those at which people assist on Sundays pleasing to God? By no means, because that Mass is the same for Catholics as it is for Protestants therefore it is displeasing to God and invalid. The only Mass that pleases God is the Mass of St. Pius V, which is offered by few priests and bishops, among whom I count myself.
Therefore, to the extent that I can, I will open seminaries for educating candidates for that priesthood which is pleasing to God.
Besides this "Mass," which does not please God, there are many other things that God rejects: for example, changes in the ordination of priests, the consecration of bishops, and in the Sacraments of Confirmation and of Extreme Unction.
Moreover, the "priests" now hold to:
- false ecumenism;
- the adoration [or cult] of man;
- the freedom to embrace any religion whatsoever;
- the unwillingness to condemn heresies and to expel the heretics.
Therefore, in so far as I am a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, I judge that the See of the Catholic Church in Rome to be vacant; and it is necessary for me, as bishop, to do all that is needed so that the Catholic Church in Rome endures for the eternal salvation of souls.
February 25, 1982
+Peter Martin Ngo-dinh-Thuc, Archbishop"
* Another piece of evidence is a joint declaration made by Bishop Thuc and the two Mexican priests he consecrated in 1981. It was published on May 26, 1983:
“The Roman Catholic Bishops, united with His Excellency Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục, declare:
That we support him in his valiant public declaration made regarding the vacancy of the Apostolic See and the invalidity and illicitness of the New Mass. We hold with him that the Apostolic See has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII by virtue of the fact that those who were elected to succeed him did not possess the canonical qualifications necessary to be legitimate candidates for the Papacy.
… Based upon the Bull Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio of His Holiness Pope Paul IV, we hold that Angelo Roncalli was never a legitimate Pope and that his acts are completely null and void.
We declare that the New "Mass" is invalid. ... We declare that the introduction of this New "Mass" also signals the promulgation of a new humanistic religion in which Almighty God is no longer worshipped as he desires to be worshipped. ... Those who have accepted this New 'Mass' have, in reality and without taking notice of it, apostatized from the true faith; they have separated themselves from the true Church and are in danger of losing their souls, because outside the Church founded by Jesus Christ no one can be saved. For this reason, we invite the faithful to return to their Faith from which they have strayed.
We reject the heretical Decree on Religious Freedom which places the divinely revealed religion on an equality with false religions. This decree is a clear and evident sign of the denial of our holy traditions by the apostate and schismatic hierarchy.
We declare that no one can oblige us to separate ourselves from the true Church, from that Church instituted by Christ Himself and which is destined to last until the consummation of the world just as He instituted it. ... We give thanks to God for the integrity of our Faith and we beseech His grace that we may be able to persevere in it. We pray for those who have lost this Faith by accepting the heretical changes that have given rise to a new Church and to a new religion.”
* The final piece of evidence is another declaration which Bishop Thuc along with five other Thuc “bishops,” purportedly signed in Mexico. This declaration is quite lengthy even in its abridged form, which was published by the traditionalist magazine, The Seraph. As this declaration contains nothing not already addressed in Thuc’s other two declarations, and as its abridged form is three full pages long, it has not been reproduced here. It is of interest, however, that this declaration bears the same date as the one just reproduced above: May 26, 1983 – for this feeds the theory of some that Bishop Thuc’s public traditionalist stands were being orchestrated by others.
All of the above evidence, standing alone, could make a case in favor of Bishop Thuc having been a traditional Catholic bishop and would provide little cause to question his intentions when he conferred Orders. But the truth of the matter is that the above represents just one face of the many-faced Bishop Thuc.
Vatican Council II – 1962-65
If Bishop Thuc had been a true traditional Catholic bishop, he would have been faithful to the great responsibility God had placed on his shoulders as a successor of the Apostles, i.e., to recognize that all his “efforts must aim at preserving the truth faith.” (Cath. Ency., Bishops, Obligations) When Vatican Council II was threatening to shipwreck the spiritual welfare of his flock, his obligation to take a firm stand with orthodoxy was greater than ever, for “if it is dangerous for the helmsman to leave the ship when the sea is calm, how much more so when it is stormy.” (Pope Nicholas I, cf. VII, qu. i, can. Sciscitaris). His solemn responsibility, as a chosen vessel of God, was “not to personally desert his flock, neither on account of any temporal convenience nor on account of any imminent personal danger, as the good shepherd ought to lay down his life for his sheep.” (St. Thomas, Summa, 2nd of 2nd, 185, 5) Such is the role of a bishop in relation to his flock when spiritual danger lurks.
So when it became obvious that Vatican Council II was attempting to destroy Catholicism, not preserve it, where was Bishop Thuc? Where is to be found the record of him “preserving the true faith” at Vatican Council II? The answer is that there is no record of him doing this. He was silent while Catholicism was being assaulted. Was the reason that Bishop Thuc didn’t speak out at the Council in defense of true Catholicism due to the fact that he was simply a timid old man, too cowardly to speak out, as some have suggested? The record shows that he was not afraid to speak out, and speak out he did – but not against the errors of Vatican Council II; shockingly, he railed against the Council because it wasn’t liberal enough! Below are two quotes from Bishop Thuc given at Vatican Council II:
* Editor’s note: Much of the quoted material given below in this section on Bishop Thuc is grammatically ungainly, but in an effort to preserve accuracy, it is presented without modification, unless otherwise noted.
“With great consolation I see present in these assemblies the delegates of the non-Catholic Christian Churches, to be witnesses of our fraternity, sincerity and liberty. But where are the delegates or observers of the non-Christians? Do they then not need this wondrous sight of the unity of the Catholic Church? Or do they not need an explanation of our Christian faith? What! do the people whom they represent not form a third part—or rather more truly the greater part— of these scattered sheep that Christ eagerly desired to enter into one sheepfold? The scandal coming to the whole world from the absence of any invitations sent to the chiefs of the non-Christian religions I expounded in the central commission—but in vain. I earnestly begged the council to make good the omission, so that this most loathsome discrimination between some religions and religions may not longer be found. This absence of an invitation to the heads of the Christian religions confirms in a certain manner that prejudice creeping through the Asiatic and African world: ‘The Catholic Church is a church for men of white color and not for colored men.’” (Acta Synodalia Vaticani II, vol. 2, part 1, pp. 358-359)
“…it seems to me an extraordinary thing that in the schema concerning the people of God, express mention is nowhere made of women, so that the Church appears totally masculine, whereas the reality is quite different. Do not women constitute the greater part of the laity—even of ecclesiastical prescriptions? Of course I well know the Church had to behave like this in order not to offend the prejudices of those ages. Thus, St. Paul imposed the veil on women in Church, lest they displease the angels. So why must men proudly enter the church bareheaded which is contrary to the custom of clerics today both in the West and the East? In the same way, silence was imposed on women whereas in this Basilica the walls recently resounded to the voices of the Fathers. So to, nuns must obtain the permission of churches to wash the sacred linens. And likewise this unjust discrimination appears here and now in this conciliar hall… Why is it that in our atomic age, when almost everywhere in the world women have obtained juridical equality with men, it is only in the Church of Christ that they still suffer these injurious discriminations… I eagerly seek… these discriminations against the most valiant sex be eradicated. Last of all I shall be grateful to him who can present me with a plain apodictic text of the Gospel which excludes the sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the sacred functions.” (Acta Synodalia Vaticani II, vol. 2, part 3, pp. 513)
Since the focus of this article is concerning the validity of Thuc’s consecrations, all of the errors contained in these two paragraphs will have to be addressed elsewhere. It is sufficient to note here that out of his own mouth he established himself to be anything but a traditional Catholic, for while the very heart and soul of Catholicism was under attack, his concerns were with ecumenism with non-Christians and equal rights for women. Sadly, it didn’t end there.
* In reference to the Palmar de Troya consecrations, as noted above, Paul VI excommunicated Bishop Thuc. Did Bishop Thuc ignore the “excommunication” on the legitimate grounds that a false pope has no power to expel anyone from the Catholic Church? Quite to the contrary. Bishop Thuc in fact acknowledged the excommunication as valid.
“The Prelate [Bishop Thuc], as soon as he realized the gravity of the facts, deplored and repudiated what he had done, and sought to impede further abuses. He then humbly placed himself at the disposition of ecclesiastical authority. For this purpose he hastened to request from the Holy Father absolution of the excommunication he had incurred and he wrote to His Eminence Cardinal Bueno y Monreal, Archbishop of Seville, a letter in which, recognizing his own error, he asked pardon for ‘the grave scandal given to the faithful and for the immense harm caused to the Church by placing in danger its unity.’” (L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, Sept. 17, 1976)
So clearly in 1976, he still acknowledged Paul VI and the Vatican II church as legitimate; which in fact seemed to be his consistent position with the exception of a short stint with the traditionalist movement for a few short years.
* In Bishop Thuc’s autobiography, written between 1978 and 1980, he continued to acknowledge John XXIII and Paul VI as valid popes:
“And John XXIII was the pastor of the church that had declared 2000 years ago: ‘I know my sheep, and my sheep know me.’… The second Vatican Council was due to John XXIII's initiative. His epithet was "the good", but in my insignificant opinion, this very devout, very saintly Pope was a weakling.”
“I waited for a few months and appealed to the Holy Father. I do not know what the Holy Father Paul VI did, but he used the situation that I could not return to my diocese in Hué [Vietnam]…”
* Father Barthe, referenced above, writes further of Bishop Thuc’s affiliation with the Vatican II church, when he and Father Noel Barbara went to France to meet with Bishop Thuc on January 7, 1981. Again we cite his article - Fortes in Fide, #12:
“He [Bishop Thuc] is at the Cathedral. We went there and found him assisting in the synaxe [i.e., the "Novus Ordo Missae"] of one of the priests…”
“With the authorization of the conciliar bishop of Toulon, Thuc had a confessional allotted to him in the conciliar bishop's cathedral, and until the beginning of 1982, Thuc served daily at the new masses celebrated in this same cathedral.”
“Father Barbara asked him what his relations with the [Novus Ordo] bishop of the cathedral were. He responded that the [novus ordo] Bishop of Toulon had given him the task of providing the Vietnamese with Confession, and also the powers of confession for anyone who came to him. Once a year, on Holy Thursday, he invited the elderly Archbishop to concelebrate mass with him in the new rite…”
“Father Barbara then respectfully, but firmly, rebuked the elderly bishop:
“It is most unfortunate that during the course of my visit with him… Archbishop Ngo did not state that he refused to recognize John Paul II as pope. Why did he not do so?”
- With regard to the "Novus Ordo Missae" which the Archbishop assisted at, and once a year concelebrated: Father Barbara briefly explained that this "Novus Ordo" was not a Catholic Mass but a Protestant service.
- With regard to the heretical nature of Vatican II and the new Church: Father Barbara explained that he must break with this Church and not continue to be in communion with the post-Conciliar hierarchy. Do not imitate Archbishop Lefebvre who cries forth from the rooftops that he recognizes the legitimacy of the post-Conciliar hierarchy, and at the same time publicly disobeys them.
- About the seriously illicit and culpable consecrations which he had conferred. To consecrate bishops without the authorization of John Paul II with whom you are in communion is an act which is materially schismatic. Moreover, the bishop who ordains without any precaution, assumes the responsibility for the actions of those whom he ordains. Father Barbara reminded Archbishop Ngo of the warning given to consecrators: ‘the bishop should not impose his hands lightly.’…”
Perhaps he did not do so because as the majority of the evidence suggests, he indeed recognized John Paul II as a legitimate and valid pope.
* This recognition of John Paul II as pope manifested itself even during the very consecration ceremonies of the traditionalist clergy. A recorded debate between traditionalist “priests” William Jenkins and Anthony Cekada has Jenkins making this unchallenged statement:
“We know that Archbishop Thuc, allegedly before he consecrated Father Guerard des Lauriers, had to state categorically that John Paul II was not the pope. Then he appears to consecrate Guerard des Lauriers, and we have it on the authority of Hiller and Heller, that he was constantly invoking John Paul II’s name in the ceremony, as authorizing him to consecrate Guerard des Lauriers.”
“It is a fact, we have it on record, we have the sworn testimony, that during the consecration of Guerard des Lauriers, that Guerard des Lauriers himself had to continually intervene in the ceremony and tell Archbishop Thuc ‘you can’t say that.’ Because he continually invoked John Paul the II’s name in spite of the fact that just two weeks before he said that he’s not the pope.”18
* In Bishop Thuc’s 1983 declaration which he signed with five of his “episcopal” progeny, the opening statement of this declaration reads: “The Roman Catholic Bishops united with His Excellency Archbishop Ngo-Dinh-Thuc, sole Catholic Archbishop in the world…” Thuc also signed this declaration as “Archbishop Peter Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc.” Yet the third paragraph of this declaration states: “We hold… that the Apostolic See has been vacant since the death of Pius XII…” The contradiction is glaring, if the Apostolic See has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII, then why does Bishop Thuc still go by the title of Archbishop, a title bestowed upon him by John XXIII?
* Bishop Thuc died on December 13, 1984, at the Vatican II seminary of Our Lady of the Ozarks, Carthage, Missouri. Five days after his death the following was published as his last public statement:
“I, undersigned, Peter Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc, Titular Archbishop of Bulla Regia, and Archbishop Emeritus of Hue, wish to publicly retract all my previous errors concerning my illegitimately ordaining to the Episcopate, in 1981, several priests, namely Revs. M. L. Guerard des Lauriers, O. P., Moses Carmona, and Adolpho Zamora, as well as my denial of the Second Vatican Council, the new ‘Ordo Missae’, especially the dignity of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, as actually legitimate successor of St. Peter, published in Munich in 1982.
I wish to sincerely ask you all to forgive me, praying for me, and redressing all scandal caused by such regrettable actions and declaration of mine.
I would also like to exhort the above mentioned priests who had illegitimately been ordained to the Episcopate by me in 1981, and all others whom they have in turn ordained bishops and priests, as well as their followers, to retract their error, leaving their actually false status, and reconciling themselves with the Church and the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.”
Bishop Thuc consecrated at least 15 men, why is he singling out here only three of them? Did he find no error in consecrating the others? Why have these three and these three alone drawn out from him a final mea culpa?
So, Bishop Thuc’s final statement neatly sums up in words what had in fact been his conduct in life, that with the exception of a period spanning less than three years, Bishop Thuc had been a professing member of the Vatican II Church; that’s how he lived, that’s where he died, and that's what he professed to believe when he died.
We have already seen some of the strange notions put forward by Bishop Thuc during his attendance at the false Council of Vatican II. His own biography gives us even further insight into his liberal and unorthodox mentality:
“Why should one prescribe only one way to celebrate Holy Mass, which is solely made up of the consecration? And prescribe it under punishment of suspension and even excommunication? Is that not an abuse of power? In fact, would a Paul of Tarsus have been excommunicated by Peter, since he had consecrated bishops without reporting this to Peter?”
* [Presumably this is in reference to the fact that Paul VI excommunicated Bishop Thuc for "consecrating" bishops without papal approval. But no serious historian has ever suggested that St. Paul, or any of the other Apostles, ever consecrated bishops contrary to existing laws or the wishes of St. Peter. Furthermore, the Apostles had special powers and prerogatives given to them by Christ which did not descend to their successors in the episcopate, the bishops. The analogy that just because the Apostles “did it,” therefore all bishops “can do it,” is an erroneous one.]
“Today, the priest consecrates while standing and bowing, in order to communicate. The Japanese eat while sitting on their heels; the Hindus sit on the floor while eating, the meal spread out on banana leaves; the Chinese and Viet eat with chopsticks. One might be logically surprised that Paul VI condemns those who celebrate in another fashion, according to the liturgy of St. Pius V, for example. With this logic he could have condemned the first Mass celebrated by Jesus.”
So is Bishop Thuc here arguing that instead of following the custom of deep reverence in receiving the Precious Body and Blood of Our Divine Lord, we should rather sit and consume His Precious Body and Blood with chopsticks in the same manner that we would eat chop suey? And to do this besides on banana leaves? Add to this what was given above in his speech at Vatican Council II in favor of female equality in the Church and pushing for greater ecumenism with non-Christians, and we start to get a clearer insight into what makes him tick, and certainly doesn't appear to be traditional Catholicism.
Irregularities in Conferring Orders
Bishop Thuc was a well educated man, having received doctorates in philosophy, theology, and Canon Law, as well as a license to teach from the renowned Sorbonne. So absent from suffering from some kind of dementia, he would have certainly known the gravity of bestowing Orders upon unworthy candidates, as well as the gravity of conferring Orders contrary to the manner prescribed by the Church. Yet, this is exactly what he did; he ordained and consecrated people wholly unfit for Orders and sometimes did so contrary to Church law governing such matters.
* Again, we turn to Fathers Barbara and Barthe as witnesses:
“As paradoxical as it may seem, the purpose of this article [Fortes in Fide] which appears under my signature, is to rehabilitate in the souls of my readers His Excellency, Archbishop Peter-Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc, the elderly Archbishop of Hue in South Vietnam, and to establish the licidity of some of the episcopal consecrations which he performed.”
“Why do I say ‘some’ and not ‘all’? Because not everyone he consecrated was Catholic… But among those who were consecrated by this Archbishop, some did not belong to the Catholic Church...”
“Father Barbara reminded him that he had visited him during the previous year to ask for information about a certain Garcia of Marseille who the Archbishop had ordained. Archbishop Thuc informed us that he regretted having done so, because he had come to know that the Father in question was mentally unbalanced…”
“Father then explained to him the reason for our visit. A Mexican friend, Father Marquette, had informed us that he had consecrated the curé of Acapulco, Father Moses Carmona, and another Mexican, Father Zamora. The Archbishop admitted that such was the case. ‘I didn't know them. There were two Germans, Heller and Hiller, who brought them to me and asked that I consecrate them. I had confidence in these two gentlemen because I knew Mr. Heller. He is a very fine person. I knew him because he asked me to confirm his little daughter and I had confirmed her.’”
“Evaluation. Archbishop Ngo Din Thuc… gave us the impression that matters of licitness were not very important for him.”
* Father Barbara also wrote of Bishop Thuc in another article titled “Burning Questions, Straight Answers”:
“We emphasize that Thuc never concerned himself with withdrawing those on whom he imposed hands from these sects. He ordained priests or consecrated bishops in their respective sects; so that now, by the recklessness of this old Catholic bishop, these unfortunate heretico-schismatics in their sects profane the holy Mass and all the Sacraments which they administer in a manner which is necessarily sacrilegious.”
* And Thuc friend, Dr. Hiller:
“[H]e was also old, it's clear, was responsible for this that Thuc hadn't had the time and was not willingly to prove for a long time absolutely all people who were coming to be ordained as a priest…” 19
* Dr. Hiller was asked about Bishop Thuc’s consecration of a member of the schismatic Old Catholic Church:
“‘[H]ow could he [Thuc] think to continue the Catholic Church through an Old Catholic?’ Dr. Hiller replied: ‘He thought that when he would be ordained as a priest or consecrated, he would be a Catholic, a Roman Catholic, not an Old Catholic. He knowed [sic] exactly that the Old Catholic Church isn’t the Roman Catholic Church.’”
And this from a man who possessed three doctorates!
* As already noted, in 1978 Bishop Thuc consecrated two men, Roger Kozik and Michel Fernadez. These two individuals present yet another case against Bishop Thuc for imposing his hands on unworthy candidates.
“‘Brought before the criminal court of Agen, Messrs. Kozik and Fernandez were charged with racketeering, and then released. Then they were prosecuted in the court of appeals for fraud, and were sentenced to eight months in prison with parole… A police investigation determined in 1989 that the total of the contributions, which had passed through their private accounts, reached seventy-five million francs, or 7,500,000,000 old French francs.’ [A footnote says the sum was equal to fourteen million U.S. dollars.]” 20
* There is also an interesting letter written by Father Adolfo Zamora in which he expresses doubts about the validity of his own consecration:
“Ever since my episcopal consecration two years ago, I have not been officially recognized as a bishop [by the organization to which he belonged: Union Catolica Trento]. Now I do not know if I am a bishop.”21
And that's the crux of the problem Father, neither does anyone else.
The soundness of Bishop Thuc’s mind is a frequently recurring issue, and it is so for good reason. Much has been said elsewhere about Bishop Thuc enabling the Palmarians in founding their new Church by ordaining and consecrating clergy for them. His gullibility in this instance is truly astonishing, as he recorded in his own autobiography:
“Then a priest came to me, one I had met before in Ecône, Switzerland. He told me outright: ‘Excellency, the Holy Virgin sends me in order for me to send you to central Spain immediately to render her a service. My car is ready for you at the parsonage's door and we will immediately depart in order to be there for Christmas.’”
“Stunned by this invitation, I said to him: ‘If it is a service that the Holy Virgin required, I am ready to follow you to the end of the world, but I must inform the priest because of the Christmas Mass and must pack my bag. Meanwhile, since it was soon midday, go to the village restaurant and get something to eat.’ He replied to me: ‘There are three of us in the car and we do not even have a cent with which to buy a cup of coffee.’ I told him: ‘All three of you go; I will pay for your lunch.’ A lunch that cost me 3,000 Liras.”
“In order to reach Palmar de Troya, I would have spent 50,000 Liras for gas and meals. While I nibbled on a piece of bread, they ate well.”22
Soundness of mind, what others have observed:
- “A newsletter which supports Mgr. Ngo describes him as a ‘timid Asiatic who was easily influenced,’ and continues: ‘Once again, realize the fact that Mgr. Ngo, physically and psychologically worn out, ... only wants peace and quiet ... It should be noted that this prelate has acquired some complexes, and that age doesn’t help things.’”23
- “Mgr. Thuc said he ‘had the mind of a child,’ meaning that ‘he was guileless and somewhat naïve in dealing with others, a fact which explains why he did certain consecrations which he later regretted.’”24
- “According to one priest at the time who met him, Mgr. Thuc ‘went in and out of lucidity.’”25
- “Conciliar Bishop Gilles Barthe, with whom Mgr. Thuc publicly concelebrated the New “Mass” and in whose diocese he finally settled, told in the French monthly La Documentation Catholique (February 21, 1982) of his concerns surrounding the elderly prelate’s activities. ‘I voice the most express reservations about the value [validity] of these ordinations,’ he stated, then going on to question Mgr. Thuc’s lucidity during the rites: ‘It is even less [clear] for the ordinations done in his house at Toulon. It is permitted to ask oneself up to what point he was well aware of the acts which he did and to what point his liberty went…’”26
One author summarized Bishop Thuc’s activities quite well:
“He [Bishop Thuc] seemed to do and say what those around him wanted him to do and say. He acted as if he did not have a mind of his own. When he was under the influence of the Novus Ordo clergy, he did and said what they wanted. When the Old Catholics came to him for episcopal consecration, he did what they wanted. When under the influence of Hiller and Heller, he accommodated them. Then, when he was back under the influence of the Novus Ordo, he did what they wanted and repudiated what he had done and said under the influence of Hiller and Heller.”27
We hope and pray that Bishop Thuc did in fact have a mental deficiency, because in considering all of the evil that has emanated from his reckless ordinations and consecrations, this successor of the Apostles, who possessed three doctorates and other degrees of learning, would have been horribly culpable before the judgment seat of God, unless he did indeed “have the mind of a child.”
So far, we have produced a significant amount of evidence challenging the notion that Bishop Thuc was a traditionalist whose only intention in conferring Orders was to preserve true Catholicism. Standing in opposition to all of this evidence, are some statements attributed to Bishop Thuc himself. If Bishop Thuc had been a credible man, then his statements might carry some weight. But was he credible? Simply because he said something, do we have good reason for believing it?
According to Bishop Thuc’s own autobiography, when he was snookered into going to Palmar de Troya to bestow Orders, he found himself in a little bit of a pickle, because it was Christmas Eve and he was scheduled to offer Christmas Mass in the local Vatican II church. So, did he tell the priest, at whose parish he was assisting, the truth about why he could not offer Christmas Mass? Or if unwilling to tell him the truth, did he simply inform him that he was unable to offer the Mass for personal or private reasons? No, he didn’t do that, instead, he chose to lie.
“I called the Sexton [sacristan] and asked him to inform the priest about Christmas Mass. I told him that I would immediately go to France because of urgent family matters and would return promptly in two weeks...”
The Palmar deceits didn’t end there:
“When asked about the fiasco of Palmar de Troya, Dr. Hiller tried to excuse Thuc saying that he did what he did because ‘he was a very simple believing man.’ When Thuc was asked about this by Vatican authorities, Dr. Hiller said: ‘Thuc said to Rome after this catastrophe which happened there. He thought that he had been told to him that Paul VI was in bilocation there in Palmar.’”
“Hiller said that Thuc knew exactly what he was saying when he said this and that this allusion to the bilocation of Paul VI, as his excuse for doing the Palmar de Troya consecrations, was an exercise in diplomacy and that Thuc often gave such answers. Hiller said of Thuc: ‘He had had a lot of answers in this direction, yes. When asked him not very intelligent [sic] or one thought he wasn't clear he gives such answers.’” 28
It has already been noted above that after Bishop Thuc was “excommunicated” for the Palmar consecrations, how he “recognized his own error” and issued his mea culpa for it. And yet, barely 4 months later, we find Bishop Thuc laying hands on Jean Laborie to make him a bishop of an anti-Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Church. So, was Bishop Thuc’s acknowledged error and contrition real? Or was it done simply to deceive the Vatican in order to get his “excommunication” lifted? Another “exercise in diplomacy” that Dr. Hiller referred to?
Bishop Thuc's 1982 Declaration
“Besides this ‘Mass,’ which does not please God, there are many other things that God rejects: for example, changes in the ordination of priests, the consecration of bishops, and in the Sacraments of Confirmation and of Extreme Unction.”
Why is Bishop Thuc only challenging the Sacraments of Orders, Confirmation and Extreme Unction? Why is he excluding from this list the Sacrament of Confession? Could it be because he had been hearing “Confessions” in the Vatican II church and didn’t want to implicate himself? For if “God rejects” the sacrament of Confession in the Vatican II church, doesn’t it necessarily follow that God would also reject the minister of that rejected sacrament, i.e., Bishop Thuc himself?
So it appears that we are dealing with duplicity here – a declaration not according to truth, but rather one of modified “truth,” one that shields the declarant from condemning himself by his own statement. This could be added to the list of things that challenge the credibility of Bishop Thuc; he has not been totally honest and truthful in this and other statements in support of traditional Catholicism. Even Bishop Thuc advocate, Father des Lauriers, acknowledged this tendency in Bishop Thuc when he referred to him in his “In Memoriam” as being someone who was “less than candid.”
It is also interesting to note that Bishop Thuc did not challenge the validity of the Vatican II sacraments of Orders, Confirmation and Extreme Unction in this declaration, but merely stated that they are rejected by God. Many false religions have valid sacraments that are “rejected” by God, because they are illicit. So in simply stating that these sacraments are displeasing to God is not the same as saying that they are invalid; a simple distinction someone with his educational background could not have been ignorant of. So why did he stop short of saying that they were invalid? Is it because he didn’t believe them to be invalid? Or are we dealing with yet another act of “diplomacy” on the part of Bishop Thuc?
Bishop Thuc's 1983 Declaration
Another piece of disturbing evidence is Bishop Thuc’s joint 1983 Declaration together with Fathers Carmona and Zamora, already given above. This Declaration in part states:
“We [Carmona and Zamora] hold with him [Bishop Thuc] that the Apostolic See has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII… we hold that Angelo Roncalli was never a legitimate Pope and that his acts are completely null and void…”
If the Apostolic See has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII and if Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII) was never pope and his acts null and void; then both John XXIII and Paul VI were powerless to excommunicate Bishop Thuc, to elevate him to the status of archbishop, to demand and receive the resignation of his See in Vietnam, to bestow upon him the titular See... these all being, of course, papal acts. So again, why then did Bishop Thuc throughout his career sign his name with the title of “Archbishop,” a position given to him by John XXIII? Why did he sign his name with the title of “Titular Archbishop of Bulla Regis,” a See given him by Paul VI? Why did he submit his resignation to Paul VI and accept excommunication from him? Isn’t Bishop Thuc implicitly denying that which he explicitly affirms? And, no less, in the very same document in which he denounced their authority to perform papal acts?
Bishop Thuc Inadvertently Judged Himself to be An Apostate
Further in his 1983 Declaration:
“We declare that the New 'Mass' is invalid… We declare that the introduction of this New "Mass" also signals the promulgation of a new humanistic religion in which Almighty God is no longer worshipped as he desires to be worshipped… Those who have accepted this New 'Mass' have, in reality and without taking notice of it, apostatized from the true faith; they have separated themselves from the true Church and are in danger of losing their souls…” (Emphasis supplied)
If Bishop Thuc believed that the New “Mass” was invalid, then why did he concelebrate the New Mass in France and why did he regularly serve it as an Acolyte? By doing so, isn’t he, by his own definition, admitting to partaking in a “new humanistic religion”?
And furthermore, doesn’t concelebrating the New Mass and serving it as an Acolyte constitute Bishop Thuc as having “accepted this New ‘Mass’”? And consequently, didn’t he, according to his own Declaration, “apostatized from the true faith” and “separated [him]self from the true Church”?
We don’t need to pass judgment on Bishop Thuc, he just passed judgment on himself: in virtue of his own Declaration, he judged himself an apostate.29
We continue with his 1983 Declaration:
“We reject the heretical Decree on Religious Freedom which places the divinely revealed religion on an equality with false religions. This decree is a clear and evident sign of the denial of our holy traditions by the apostate and schismatic hierarchy…” (Emphasis supplied)
He was part of that “apostate and schismatic hierarchy”! He participated in Vatican Council II! He was one of the culprits responsible for enacting this “heretical Decree on Religious Freedom”! So by the above statement, Bishop Thuc is actually affirming (what was only too true) that he too was part of that hierarchy guilty of denying the holy traditions of the Faith.
So how does one explain these evident contradictions? How does one reconcile such opposing statements? Was he suffering from a mental disorder? Was he simply everybody’s yes-man? Or was there perhaps something else motivating him?
The sin of simony is the buying and selling of spiritual things. If a bishop were to ordain or consecrate someone for monetary gain, he would be guilty of the sin of simony, which besides being a sacrilege, would cause him to be both suspect of heresy and suspended.
“All persons, even those of episcopal dignity, who through simony knowingly promote a man or are promoted [themselves] to orders, or who administer or receive other sacraments through simony, are suspect of heresy; clerics, moreover, incur a suspension reserved to the Holy See. (Canon 2371)
There is evidence that Bishop Thuc was guilty of simony:
"Father [Barbara] then explained to him the reason for our visit. A Mexican friend, Father Marquette, had informed us that he had consecrated the curé of Acapulco, Father Moses Carmona, and another Mexican, Father Zamora. The Archbishop [Thuc] admitted that such was the case. ‘I didn't know them. There were two Germans, Heller and Hiller, who brought them to me and asked that I consecrate them. I had confidence in these two gentlemen because I knew Mr. Heller. He is a very fine person… These Germans are very generous... They had brought along everything that was necessary for the consecration.’” 30
Dr. Hiller on Bishop Thuc: “When you see, had seen, the personal situation it's not an exculpation from [sic] him absolutely, but it is an explanation. When you had seen the personal situation he left in Toulon, a lot of things would be clear... You see, Thuc was absolutely poor. He had nothing to live [on], quite nothing. He was living in a very small room in a small street in Toulon in the first floor, and he had a small room and, nearby, a kitchen and the toilet in the kitchen. And then he had five cats with him and the cats lived every time in this rooms, [sic] the windows had been closed with… Because the cats probably would be, would not come back… So, you can understand there is a very triste [depressing] atmosphere there. He had here his desk where he wrote the Mass every morning and…”
Fr. Kelly: “What did he do with the cats?”
Dr. Hiller: “Yes, he lived with them.”
Fr. Kelly: “When he said Mass, I mean?”
Dr. Hiller: “The cats… around very… But when other people were standing there the cats were excited… They were like children to him, and when he was lying on his sofa there, the cats were lying round him – sleeping…”31
Further evidence comes from Father Guerard des Lauriers, who, as noted above, was “consecrated” by Bishop Thuc in 1981. A friend and staunch advocate of Bishop Thuc, he wrote a remembrance about Bishop Thuc shortly after Bishop Thuc's death in 1984. In his “In Memoriam” of Bishop Thuc, Father des Lauriers makes some candid revelations with an honesty rarely to be found among Thuc supporters. Bear in mind, however, that this is written by an advocate of Bishop Thuc and consequently it was couched in such tones as to be protective of him as possible.
“But the illegal actions at Palmar resulted in Mgr. Thuc being excommunicated, and as a result, being deprived of all financial support. And those who he had assisted did little to help him. Overcome by these problems, and perhaps also by his isolation which so many sorrows made even more difficult, Mgr. Thuc sought and received reacceptance into the official ‘Church.’”
“Mgr. Thuc, at least in the practical order, and without any excessive concern about Epikeia, based these actions [consecrations] on different grounds. One can, if not justify them, at least explain them on psychological grounds…c) Usury as a result of solitude for which the past had never prepared Mgr. Thuc.”
“With a wealthy background, Mgr. Thuc was accustomed with regard to his interpersonal connections, to live in an atmosphere of comfort and prosperity. Solitude, which is the price of witnessing, therefore went against his nature. One can understand then that, spontaneously and without any calculation, he was inclined in these re-consecrations to "patronize" the individuals involved, and without any disproportionate psychological commitment, to "patronize" the halls of the wealthy which reflected his own apostolic soul, and which also gave sustenance to his great financial needs.”
“That the decisions were influenced by ‘overtones’ of a natural order, especially such as by what might be called "psychological usury" which we have alluded to above (1)(c), possibly blended with other motivations in the subconscious of Mgr. Thuc, is certainly possible.”
“Those who claim the right to impose such affirmations [i.e., to call Bishop Thuc a formal heretic or a formal schismatic] with absolute certitude usurp Authority. It is impossible to have, with regard to these issues, absolute certitude, or even moral certitude… The same reasons which we have already mentioned (bb) apply. That which above all applies is the need he had for support: partly personal, because of his fear of solitude, partly in order to help others. To explain is not to justify… Locked in misery, Mgr. Thuc was very receptive to human warmth such as the Bishop of Toulon showered on him, along with the most welcome income which he received from the Cathedral.”
“What follows is the substance of what he said to me (Thursday, March 17, 1982), and I swear to its accuracy before God.
‘I was then (1970) in Rome facing the impossibility of returning to Hue which I wanted to do. Paul VI called me. Expressing great friendship, he offered me a very large sum of money (Mgr. Thuc never told me the amount of the sum, and I never asked him). I was in great need of funds for the many [Vietnamese] refugees which I was obliged to help. I ended up by accepting his offer. As a result I was very happy and grateful to Paul VI. Fifteen days later Paul VI sent a Monsignor to my place of residence. This individual carried a prepared document with him: it was my resignation from the archdiocese of Hue.’”
For 30 pieces of silver…
It is tragic that instead of putting his trust in God's caring providence, Bishop Thuc sold out for monetary considerations. God would have taken care of him, if only he had put God first.
“Therefore I say to you: Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on… seek not what you shall eat or what you shall drink: But your Father knoweth that you have need of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice: and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 12)
A sacrilege is the irreverent treatment of sacred things. For example, if someone goes through the external motions of conferring a Sacrament (a sacred thing), but withholds his intention of actually conferring that Sacrament, then no Sacrament takes place, as was noted above; instead a sacrilege occurs. This type of conduct is referred to as simulating (faking) a Sacrament. Like simony, the sacrilegious simulating of a Sacrament is a grievous sin and offense against God.
Now since no one can ever be 100% certain that the minister of a Sacrament has the intention of “doing what the Church does,” the integrity of the sacramental minister is obviously of upmost importance. If a valid minister of a Sacrament employs the proper matter and form, and gives no cause for one to suspect his intention, we accept the Sacrament as valid. But what if the minister gives us cause to suspect him?
Bishop Thuc Admits to Simulation
When inquiry was made about Bishop Thuc concelebrating the new mass with the Vatican II bishop of Toulon, the following testimony was given:
“According to Drs. Hiller and Heller, who are close associates of him, and who are defenders of him, they claimed that they asked him how he could possibly do this? And his answer was, because the bishop of the diocese had been so kind to him, allowing him to hear confessions in the cathedral church, that he felt that he owed it to him to concelebrate the new mass with him. But, Archbishop Thuc said to these men, and we have this on tape, not just is writing, we have this on tape, their own voices; they said, that Archbishop Thuc told them, for what it is worth, that he withheld his intention in the process of doing this, that is, he simulated the sacrament of consecrating.”32 (William Jenkins)
It is worth noting that this testimony was admitted to during the above mentioned Cekada-Jenkins debate by Cekada himself, a pro-Bishop Thuc defender:
“Father Jenkins, I concede all of this…” (Cekada)
“I knew you would because they are facts and you know them as much as I do.” (Jenkins)
“Sure, you got them from my articles.” (Cekada)
“Well, no, no. We got them straight from the horses mouth, we got them from… yeah, we got them from your article, and from Hiller and Heller.” (Jenkins)
Here we are presented with two witness (Hiller and Heller) who heard from Bishop Thuc himself that on at least one occasion he faked a Sacrament of the Church – he simulated saying Mass.33 As a consequence, he has parted company from those men whom the Church presumes to be trustworthy ministers of the Sacraments. He has given us reason to distrust him with the Sacraments of the Church.
To help clarify this, consider this hypothetical scenario: Suppose you owned a bank and a prospective employee told you that he had once robbed a bank, would you hire him? Or if you were in charge of security and a prospective employee told you that he had been guilty of espionage in the past, again, would you hire him? No. For the simple reason that they could not be trusted. And if this is true in things pertaining to one’s temporal welfare, how much more is it true pertaining to one’s spiritual welfare? If a person cannot be trusted with your material assets or with your temporal security, how much more should he not be trusted with the eternal welfare of your soul? After all, what is the potential loss of material assets or physical security compared with the potential loss of God and eternal life?
But this is what one must deal with when a minister of God has been discovered to have been so duplicitous as to go through the externals of having offered Mass and yet at the same time withheld his Sacramental intention.
Bishop Thuc Admits to Simulating Yet Again
This admission by Bishop Thuc naturally gives rise to a follow-up question: If he admitted to doing it once, has he done it more than once? When he laid his hands on these various men of doubtful reputation, did he withhold his intention of conferring the Sacrament of Orders upon them? He says he did:
“So after the questionable ordinations [Palmar de Troya], Bishop Ngo-Dinh-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 to the Palmar de Troya sect.” (Angelus Magazine, June 1982 edition - emphasis supplied)
So we now have a second and independent source citing yet another admission from Bishop Thuc in which he stated that he simulated the Sacraments of the Church, with the end result being that at least 5 of his 15 so-called consecrations were certainly invalid, null and void; because by his own admission Bishop Thuc intentionally botched them.
But, are these two statements true? Did Bishop Thuc in fact fake a “mass” and did he withhold his intention when conferring consecration? These are the questions the supporters of Bishop Thuc immediately raise as they impulsively jump to his defense. But if we are to apply the very same standard that the supporters of Bishop Thuc use in trying to defend the validity of his acts, i.e., the credibility of witnesses (in this case, two of the three witnesses are the very ones they themselves most often rely upon - Hiller and Heller), then one must accept the testimony just cited as factual evidence of the truth. If there was rebuttal evidence to be found, that would be one thing, but there is no rebuttal evidence to be found anywhere. This absence alone speaks volumes.
In the normal course of events, if any bishop was falsely charged with such a serious crime as simulating the Sacraments of the Church, one would expect a very loud and vocal denial of the accusations, followed by immediate demands for correction and retraction. Perhaps a defamation suit might even be in order. But in the case of Bishop Thuc, the record is absolutely silent. The article in the Angelus magazine was published two and one-half years before his death, and yet there is not a peep of protest against it to be found anywhere. And the publication of the Angelus article is not the only instance of a mooted Bishop Thuc.
Before Anthony Cekada was “pro-Thuc,” he was “anti-Thuc,” and he published a highly critical article against Bishop Thuc entitled “Two Bishops in Every Garage.” In this article, published two years before Bishop Thuc’s death, he charges that Bishop Thuc “simulated the celebration of Mass – simulation of a sacrament.” And yet again, nothing from Bishop Thuc - just more silence. Where are the denials and demands for retraction for the serious accusation against him found in this article? The fact of the matter is that there are none. And why not? Because in all probability, Bishop Thuc knew that this article and the one found in the Angelus magazine were both factual and correct. He had indeed simulated the Sacraments of the Church. After all, how could he deny it, when he had already admitted to it in the presence of witnesses?
But no matter what angle you view this from; that is, Bishop Thuc really did void these acts by withholding his necessary Sacramental intention, or that Bishop Thuc just made those statements to get himself out of a pickle, the end result is the same – his integrity as a trustworthy minister of the Sacraments of the Church has been ruined. His conduct has come short of the minimum standard of moral certainty required by the Church for accepting the validity of the Sacraments conferred by him – most especially in the area of episcopal consecrations.
I. Facts in Support of the Validity of the Thuc Consecrations:
Now to recap what was already proven above; the Church’s minimum requirement for accepting the validity of a Sacrament is “moral certainty.” Moral certainty is one “which excludes all prudent fear of error, such that the opposite is reputed as altogether improbable.”
Now in weighing all of the above evidence, the question becomes:
It seems to me that no objective person possessing the use of right reason could conclude that Bishop Thuc’s consecrations were certain to the degree that they excluded all prudent fear of error, such that the opposite is reputed as altogether improbable.
Catholics, therefore, must reject the validity of Bishop Thuc’s consecrations. And if we must reject Bishop Thuc’s consecrations, we of course must also reject all of the ordinations and consecrations emanating from the Thuc progeny, for the Thuc bishops cannot supply for what was originally wanting to the Sacrament of Orders – one cannot give to others that which they do not possess themselves. So the lack of moral certitude by which Catholics must reject the validity of Bishop Thuc’s Orders must also be applied to Bishop Thuc’s progeny.
To further compound the doubtful validity of many of today’s traditional Catholic bishops, many of these bishops teach that they possess no authority. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear them publicly state that their powers are limited to only providing the Sacraments to the faithful; but beyond that, they profess that they have no authority. Their sole episcopal function, they say, rests with dispensing the Sacraments.
In embracing this theory, what these men have in fact done was to create a new episcopacy, one without historical precedent or doctrinal support. For nowhere, either in the history of the Church or in her doctrines, can a “Sacraments only bishop” be found. It is a new invention. They just made it up. And as with almost all Catholic novelties not proceeding from legitimate Church authority, it contains error. But in keeping within the scope of this article, we will simply consider the error of this new theory as to how it affects the validity of episcopal consecrations. Those who wish to examen this error at greater length are directed to Traditional Catholic Bishops - Do They Possess Authority?
The Sacraments Effect What They Signify
It is of faith that the “Sacraments of the New Covenant contain the grace which they signify” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, p. 328); and it is here where our “Sacraments only bishops” run into trouble - for the Sacrament of Episcopal Consecration signifies more than the mere dispensing of the Sacraments, it also signifies the bestowal of the power to teach and the power to rule.
Before proceeding further on this point, it should be firstly noted that ALL bishops of the Latin Rite receive the exact same Rite of Consecration. There are not separate Rites of Consecration for residential bishops and non-residential ones.
It is also noteworthy that as of December, 31, 1961, the Catholic Church had 2,342 bishops. 1,370 were residential bishops, and 972 titular bishops. (What is a Bishop? by Archbishop Joseph Urtasun, 1962) This means that 42% of all of the bishops were non-residential bishops, a very considerable minority. Again, all consecrated according to the same Rite.
So there is one and only one Sacramental Rite of Consecration and this rite must necessarily effect what it signifies. These two points are beyond dispute.
What the Rite of Consecration Effects on All Bishops
Below are some excerpts from the Rite of Consecration of a Bishop which gives evidence of the bestowal of the power not only to sanctify, but also to teach and to rule:
So one can see from these various excerpts that the matter and form of this Sacrament signifies the traditional concept of a bishop – that of one sanctifying, teaching, and ruling. It is here that I believe that our Sacraments only bishops run afoul with the Church’s requirement of a valid sacramental intention, because they deny that they possess any power whatsoever to teach and to rule.
We have already covered earlier in this article the Church’s minimal requirement for a valid sacramental intention, that of simply intending “to do what the Church does.” This is not a difficult hurdle to get over. In fact, it is such a low hurdle, that one does not even have to know what is the Church’s intention regarding any particular Sacrament, it suffices simply to intend “to do what the Church does” in bestowing that Sacrament. That’s all that is required.
Nevertheless, “to do what the Church does” in conferring a Sacrament means to do it according to the mind of the Church. That is self-evident. If one intentionally does something differently than the mind of the Church, he cannot claim that he has the intention of “doing what the Church does.”
Now the undisputed theological truth that the Sacraments “signify the grace which they effect and effect the grace which they signify” (Apostolicae Curae, Leo XIII, 1896) forces us to conclude that the Sacrament of Episcopal Consecration, which signifies the bestowal of the power to teach and to rule, actually bestows these two powers, else it would not effect what it signifies. Therefore, it follows that all validly consecrated Latin Rite Catholic bishops posses the three powers of sanctifying, of teaching, and of ruling. (The distinction between possessing the power and to have the authorization to exercise the power is not germane here because our Sacraments only bishops not only deny authorization [another topic], but they further deny possession.)
But our Sacraments only bishops don’t believe that this power to rule and to teach applies to them. They openly proclaim that they do not posses it. Therefore it stands to reason, that when they confer or receive episcopal consecration, that they do not intend to bestow or receive these two powers. This calls into question the sufficiency of their intention. The mind of the Church is to bestow the three powers of sanctifying, teaching and ruling, as the Sacrament of Consecration clearly shows. The mind of our Sacraments only bishops is simply to bestow the power of sanctifying while omitting the other two powers of teaching and ruling. In so doing, they clearly intend something different than what the Rite itself intends.
If our Sacraments only bishops adopted this belief after their respective consecrations, it would have no effect upon their episcopal Orders whatsoever. But if either the bishop bestowing this Sacrament or the candidate receiving it believed in this theory at the time of consecration, their intention would be adverse, or at the very least, incomplete. It would not be in conformity with “doing what the Church does.” This would, of course, render this Sacrament, at a minimum, doubtfully valid.
There are several reoccurring arguments that seem to get passed around-and-around among those who support the theory that we must accept Masonic Orders as being valid (hereinafter the “pro-validity group”). There is also a general consensus among this group that Liénart was in fact not a Mason at all. They come to these conclusions by: 1) dismissing credible witnesses, 2) making certain theological deductions from silence alone, and 3) purporting to give historical precedence for the Church’s acceptance of Masonic Orders. I will try to demonstrate that all three of these arguments are opposed to both fact and Catholic doctrine.
1) Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
The Attack on Credible Witnesses
After dismissing Marcel Lefebvre’s very public admission that Liénart was a Mason (more on this later), the pro-validity group claims that all of the evidence proving that Liénart was a Mason can be reduced to a single book (this "single book" allegation has already disproven in the main article above) called “Papal Infallibility,” written by a French author, the Marquis de la Franquerie.
Let me first state that the claim put forth by the Marquis in his book (that Liénart was a Mason) is an extremely serious charge, and therefore it is both just and even necessary to examine the truth of this claim. If this claim is false, may God have mercy on the Marquis. But if we entertain any hope of arriving at the truth of this claim, the examination of it needs to be done fairly and according to Catholic principles. Since the evidence that the Marquis presents is referred to as witness evidence, we need to ascertain what the Church teaches regarding it. St. Thomas gives us the guiding principles:
Of Injustice with Regard to the Person of the Witness: “Good is to be presumed of everyone unless the contrary appear, provided this does not threaten injury to another: because, in that case, one ought to be careful not to believe everyone readily, according to 1 Jn. 4:1: ‘Believe not every spirit.’” (Summa, 2nd of 2nd, 70, 3)
Therefore the Catholic position regarding the Marquis and his witness is this: the presumption of truth (presumed good) rests with them, but we need to be careful not to believe too readily, because what they are witnessing is indeed injurious to another, i.e. Liénart. This is our Catholic search criteria.
Who is the Marquis de la Franquerie
Marquis de la Franquerie is the pen name of André le Sage Franquerie la Tourre (1901 – 1992), a French Catholic, son of a lawyer, who at the age of 25 was made editor of the International Review of Secret Societies (i.e., Masonry) and has been credited for writing numerous Catholic publications.
The following is the listii of publications attributed to him:
Hardly the list of tabloid publications one would expect to find from a “sensationalist writer,” as some have accused him of being.
In addition to these writing credentials, the Marquis also served as Papal Chamberlain to Pope Pius XII. This is a position of honor given by the Holy See to Catholics who have somehow distinguished themselves in a Catholic sense and whom the Holy See saw fit to pay tribute to in a very public way. That the Holy See under Pius XII would have bestowed this honor upon a “sensationalist writer” or an otherwise unworthy author is highly doubtful. This honor alone lends credibility to the Marquis.
Also contributing to the credibility of the Marquis is Dr. Marian Horvat. While I do not accept her theological position on the papacy, she is nevertheless an independent opinion on the Marquis as well as accomplished writer with a degree in Journalism and a Master’s and Doctorate in Medieval History. She had this to say about the Marquis: “The Marquis de Franquerie is a secure source, and I do not doubt his word that Cardinal Gasparri… was a Mason.” iii The Marquis’ source on Cardinal Gasparri was a man by the name of “Monsieur B.”
The Marquis’ Witness, “Monsieur B…”
“The essential qualifications of a witness are knowledge of the fact at issue and truthfulness: he must be an eye-witness and trustworthy.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Witness)
The witness to Liénart’s Masonic membership that the Marquis cites in his book is simply named “Monsieur B.” Monsieur B., being a confidential witness, obviously affords us no opportunity to know him, other than what the Marquis has told us about him. The Marquis tells us that Monsieur B. was a former Freemason whom he met at Lourdes, France, where Monsieur B. was miraculously cured on July 19, 1932 of a festering sore that he had on his left foot for 14 years. The Marquis states this miraculous cure was recognized by the Bureau of Findings on July 18, 1933.iv It is this Monsieur B. that told the Marquis about Liénart. That’s all that we know about his witness.
The fact that the Marquis did not disclose more information about his informant is not at all unusual. As anyone familiar with journalism knows, source confidentiality is common practice, and it is this very confidentiality which causes witnesses to come forward with important information which they would otherwise keep silent about, i.e., Freemasonic infiltration into the Catholic Church. The veracity of confidential witnesses is only as good as the source vouching for it – in this case, the Marquis. As the Marquis’s credibility stands or falls, so does that of his witness. But as the Marquis’ accusers have presented no evidence whatsoever that would challenge the Marquis’ credibility, then we have no grounds for calling it into doubt, for “good is to be presumed of everyone unless the contrary appear.” The Marquis and his witness are not an exception here.
Further Accusations Against the Marquis
Some further attack the Marquis’ credibility by claiming that if he really did have evidence of Liénart’s Freemason ties, then he would have notified someone in the Church about it, rather than doing “nothing.”
But where is his accusers’ evidence that he did nothing? The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that he did nothing – they are just making it up to discredit him. An allegation, by the way, which runs contrary to the Marquis’ past conduct:
“He denounced the alleged infiltration of Freemasonry in the Catholic Church, accusing in particular Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro. He also issued charges against the Cardinal Pietro Gasparri in decrying the policy which he considered close to the Masonic circles in newspaper articles and the Catholic hierarchy.” (Wikipedia, Andre de la Franquerie)
Whether the Marquis did something or did “nothing” as far as Liénart goes, I don’t know; but I do know that the 8th Commandment forbids us to bear false witness against our neighbor. And when certain people accuse the Marquis of fabricating the story about Liénart, which is a very serious charge, and present no evidence whatsoever to support their accusation, they are guilty of bearing false witness against him. And this for no other apparent reason than the fact that the Marquis exposed a truth which they didn't want to hear. It seems to me that what we are dealing with here is a simple case of character assassination; a classic “attack the messenger” ploy straight out of the book of dirty politics. It is most unbecoming of men who call themselves Catholics to engage in such conduct. May God forgive them for smearing this man’s reputation.
In conclusion on the Marquis and his witness: the presumption of their truthfulness has not been proven otherwise. Therefore, according to Catholic principles, their testimony stands.
Marcel LefebvreMarcel Lefebvre publicly stated that Liénart was a Mason:
“I have seen it in Rome with my own eyes — on the back side of the cover, the photograph of Cardinal Liénart with all his Masonic paraphernalia…”
Some argue that the photograph Lefebvre spoke of did not show Liénart in Masonic paraphernalia at all, but rather in ordinary ecclesiastical attire. They therefore conclude that Marcel Lefebvre had a memory lapse and forthwith dismiss him as a credible witness against Liénart. But are they correct in doing this?
In any judicial proceeding, few if any witnesses are stronger than one who witnesses against his own interest. Witnesses are known to frequently lie to protect themselves and others, but none lie to indict themselves, which is why a witness against his own interest is such strong evidence of the truth in any matter. In fact, when someone witnesses against his own interest by “confessing” to a crime, no further evidence is needed to convict. That witnessing alone is considered sufficient evidence as to the truth of the matter testified to.
Now Marcel Lefebvre, in acknowledging that Liénart was a Mason, was a witness against his own interest. He wouldn’t have made this up because he had nothing to gain from it. In fact, just the opposite is true – he knew that it would be detrimental to him. He gave evidence of this foreknowledge by immediately going on the defensive concerning the validity of his Orders: “Fortunately, the Orders are valid…”
Let's take a look at this “faulty memory.” The memory is “the faculty of retaining and recalling past experience.”v From this definition it is easy to see that a memory failure has to be a failure about something that was actually received by one of the senses (“past experience”) and stored into the memory. (When one remembers a dream, what they remember of the dream is that which was received through the senses of seeing, hearing… in the dream itself.) Admitting that the brain is an extremely complex organ and exactly how the memory works is still unknown by science, it is nevertheless certain that the normal path to the memory is almost exclusively through the five senses, unless, of course, one has a mental abnormality. As there is no reason to believe that Marcel Lefebvre had such an abnormality, we may reasonably conclude that his memory of seeing Liénart in his Masonic garb must have entered into his senses from somewhere - he didn’t just conjure it up out of the clear blue.
So if it is a fact that the Chiesa Viva magazine did not show Liénart in his Masonic regalia as Lefebvre stated, then it seems more probable that Lefebvre saw him somewhere dressed as a Mason, as opposed to have never seen him dressed as a Mason at all. It seems reasonable to me to conclude that Lefebvre’s “memory lapse” was about where he saw Liénart so clothed, rather than the fact that he saw him so clothed.
This of course raises an interesting question. Where in fact did Lefebvre see Liénart in his Masonic regalia? What were the chances that Liénart, “the Catholic Cardinal,” would be dressed in his Masonic clothing outside of a Masonic gathering? Stop to think about this. For two centuries the popes have been condemning Freemasonry and the penalty of excommunication was attached to any Catholic who joined them. What, therefore, would be the likelihood that a Cardinal would chance losing his career in the Church by allowing himself to be seen dressed as a Mason by anyone who wasn’t already a Mason himself?
2) Silence – The “Wish Upon a Star” Theology
These are the certain truths we know about Masonry from the teachings of the Church:
Beyond this, the Church is essentially silent regarding Masonry. But the pro-validity group has determined that this silence is actually proof of something, i.e., that it proves that Masonic ordinations and consecrations are in fact valid. An interesting conclusion, but one void of merit.
Silence has evidentiary value, granted, but silence alone is proof of nothing except silence. That is why no court of law in any civilized country will ever convict a person based on silence alone. It is inconclusive.
Now to the best of everyone’s knowledge, the question of the doubtful validity of Freemasonic ordinations and consecrations has never been specifically addressed by the Church; she has been silent in this regard. The pro-validity group, however, has attempted to hijack this silence as proof that it supports their position, i.e., that the lack of a formal condemnation of Masonic Sacramental intention is proof positive that said intention must be accepted as valid. What they are essentially saying here, is that whatever the Church does not condemn, is approved. This is a fallacious principle and one that leads to error, for the failure to condemn something cannot be construed as proof of its polar opposite. In vain will they look for doctrinal support for such a thesis. The silence of the Church and the silence of nearly all of her theologians on this topic cannot be claimed by either party to this discussion as proof of their position. It is simply silence. But that which we can do is to apply Sacramental Theology to the truths that the Church teaches about Masonry and draw reasonable conclusions from it.
General Presumption: Masonry = Adverse Sacramental Intention
That presumption favors the validity of a Sacrament is not debated. This is the general rule and I am unaware of anyone who denies this. The fact that the pro-validity group keeps making this an issue is bewildering and seems to serve no other purpose than to provide them with a straw-man to beat up. No one denies that in the ordinary course of events, that when a bishop performs ordinations and consecrations, that they are to be accepted as valid – that’s the norm. But many rules admit of exceptions; and as has already been noted in this article, Freemasonry is one such exception. This exception to the rule has not been directly stated about Freemasons, true; but that it can be derived from certain principles is obvious. In fact, it is so obvious that I am not in the least surprised that it has rarely been addressed – it is a self-evident truth.
Without repeating everything in the above article, I will try to demonstrate this by giving a short synopsis of the pertinent controlling issues:
It’s so simple: Liénart, as a Mason, was a declared enemy of Catholicism. He had the capacity to destroy the Sacramental Orders of Marcel Lefebvre. In the normal course of events, he would have done so.
Is there something complicated here? Doesn’t this presumption of an “adverse intention” in a Mason satisfy the time-tested standard employed by the Church of “gaining the assent of a prudent man”? Wouldn’t a prudent man assume that a declared enemy of Catholicism would have an adverse intention to Catholicism? Sometimes I am amazed that this argument even has to be made, because to me it is so patently self-evident. A prudent man would not entrust his welfare to the “good intentions” of a declared enemy! Much less should a Catholic entrust the welfare of his soul to someone whose Sacramental Orders were wholly dependent upon the “good intentions” of a declared enemy.
A Noted Theologian Deals a Grave Wound to the Pro-Validity Group
This issue of Masonic Sacramental intention was indirectly addressed by a respected theologian, Augustin Lehmkuhl, in an actual case regarding a priest named Fabricius, who had become a member of a secret society. While Lehmkuhl does not specifically mention Masonry by name, that Masonry is a secret society is beyond dispute: “The fact that the Freemasons is a secret society is alone sufficient to make membership illegal for Catholics.” (A Catholic Dictionary, Attwater). And so Lehmkuhl’s conclusion on the sacraments conferred by someone who had joined a secret society is justifiably and appropriately applied to Masonry as well, for no rational argument can be made as to why it would not apply.
“Lehmkuhl gives an interesting case of conscience on the point. A certain priest had lost his faith and had joined a forbidden society, after which time he began to perform his priestly duties in an external manner only. He religiously observed the correct and exact performance of the matter and the form in the sacraments he administered, but inwardly he intended not to do what the Church does and what Christ instituted. The solution of the case declares that the sacraments conferred by the priest were null and to be repeated absolutely.” (The Dogmatic Theology on the Intention of the Minister in the Confection of the Sacraments by Rev. Raphael De Salvo, O.S.B., S.T.L. 1949, referencing Casus Conscientiae, Vol. II, p. 14, Casus 7, Augustin Lehmkuhl, 1903)
There are two notable points of interest here.
Firstly, Lehmkuhl makes no exception for validity regarding any of the Sacraments: “the sacraments conferred by the priest were null.” Every Sacrament that this priest ostensibly confected since his membership in the secret society was invalided. None of them took place.
Secondly, and more importantly, he declares that all of the Sacraments conferred by this priest to be repeated “absolutely.” In stating that they are to be repeated “absolutely” rather than repeated “conditionally,” Lehmkuhl is making it clear that he considers the Sacraments conferred by Fabricius, since his membership in a secret society, to be not simply doubtfully valid, but rather certainly invalid. For according to Church law, if there was a prudent doubt as to their validity, then they would be repeated “conditionally,” not “absolutely”:
“The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Orders which imprint a character cannot be received a second time. If, however, there is a prudent doubt whether they have been conferred at all, or whether they were validly conferred, they may be conditionally repeated.” (Canon 732)
3) Historical Precedence?
The pro-validity group often cites the case of Talleyrand (a Masonic bishop of 18th century revolutionary France) as proof of the validity of Masonic Sacramental Orders. Talleyrand, along with two co-consecrators, consecrated bishops for the new Constitutional Church of the French revolutionary government in 1791. Of interest is when Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed the Concordat of 1801, in which Concordat Pius VII did not (at least publicly) require the “re-consecration” of the bishops of the Constitutional Church before assigning them to their respective dioceses. Because of this, the pro-validity group argues that Talleyrand demonstrates that if not in doctrine, then at least in practice, the Church accepts Masonic consecrations as valid.
That Talleyrand was a scoundrel is beyond question. But to draw from his history the conclusion that Masonic consecrations are deemed valid by the Church is nothing more than wishful thinking. There are actually many possible explanations as to why the Constitutional bishops were not publicly re-consecrated besides the pro-validity group’s “Masonic Orders are therefore valid” conclusion. For example:
These are but a few of the possible explanations as to why the Church didn’t require a public re-consecration of the Constitutional bishops.
But, in fact, there is no need to “divine” the Sacramental intention of Talleyrand when he consecrated bishops for the Constitutional Church, because unlike Liénart, Talleyrand left us written evidence of his intention:
“He only remarks that in 1790 France was in danger of becoming presbyterian [i.e., a Church with priests but no bishops] if nobody could be found in the episcopate to invest a constitutional prelate with the bishop's office, ‘for in that case France might have been lost forever to Catholicism, the hierarchy and rites of which are in harmony with the monarchical system.’” (Talleyrand, Lady Blennerhassett, 1894; quoting from Talleyrand’s Memoirs)
So Talleyrand wrote in his memoirs that his intention in performing these consecrations was to preserve Catholic apostolicity in France, not to destroy the Church. Considering this, it is of course no surprise at all that the bishops he consecrated were not conditionally re-consecrated. In fact, it would have been contrary to Church law to have done so.
So we see that the Talleyrand case does not demonstrate that the Church considers Freemasonic Sacramental intention to be valid. His case actually brings no light to this issue at all.
Mention is also made of Cardinal Rampolla as evidence to support the contention of the presumed validity of Masonic Sacraments. It is claimed that 40 American bishops between 1896 and 1944 can trace their consecrations back to two bishops, namely Martinelli and Merry del Val, both of whom were consecrated by Freemason Cardinal Rampolla. It is therefore argued that if Masonic Orders must be considered as doubtful, then Martinelli and Merry del Val would also have to be considered as doubtfully consecrated, along with the 40 American bishops of their lineage. The consequences of this would be enormous.
But many of the same questions can be asked of Rampolla as those asked of Talleyrand. Does anyone know, for instance, that after the post-mortem discovery of Rampolla’s Masonic membership that the Church didn’t quietly do her incumbent duty of investigating his affairs and made any corrections deemed necessary? Is it known that the co-consecrators present at Martinelli’s and Merry del Val’s consecrations didn’t understand that a “co-consecrator” is more than just a potted plant and did their incumbent duty of “co-consecrating”? Among the three bishops present at the consecration of a bishop, the principle consecrator and the two co-consecrators, all that is required for a valid consecration is that one of the three performs his duty at the very few essential parts of the consecration.
Also consider that Merry del Val, who held the powerful office of Cardinal Secretary of State under Pope St. Pius X, was reputed to be both a very holy prelate (his cause for canonization was introduced in 1953) and a very competent one. Is one supposed to believe that a prelate of his stature and influence would have allowed Rompolla’s Masonic membership to go uninvestigated, especially since Rompolla was the bishop who consecrated him?
I will admit that I don’t know the answer to the above questions, but neither does anyone else, and that’s the problem with the pro-validity group's position. Conclusions are reached by them based on the absence of knowledge to the contrary. That this methodology is flawed should be self-evident to all.
An argument is also made that if we must consider Masonic Sacraments as doubtful, then that could translate into vast numbers of people, at least in certain locations, of receiving questionable Sacraments for perhaps hundreds of years. Such a conclusion is alleged to be a “manifest absurdity.”
But the idea that God would punish an entire nation for its sins by withdrawing the Sacraments from it is not a manifest absurdity, rather a historical fact that cannot be denied - in fact, He has done so many times throughout the history of the Church, as any student of Catholic history will tell you. So the notion that God might have inflicted such a punishment upon mankind through the agency of Freemasonry is not evidence of a manifest absurdity at all. God punishes guilty man by whatever instrument He so chooses; and this kind of “manifest absurdity” reasoning would ultimately lead us to reject everything from the Biblical account of the deluge all the way to the historical fact of Vatican Council II as “absurdities.”
One will notice how the pro-validity group has altogether avoided the Church’s doctrine of the necessity of choosing the safer course in doubtful Sacraments. Ignoring this doctrine, as with any of the Church’s doctrines, is a perilous thing to do. And in applying this doctrine to the facts surrounding Liénart and Lefebvre, I cannot see how one can get past the fact that the necessary requirement of moral certitude is lacking in both of them. According to Catholic doctrine, therefore, at least in the practical order of things, we must reject these consecrations and proceed as if they had never taken place.
Talleyrand is dead. Liénart is dead. Marcel Lefebvre is dead. Bishop Thuc is dead. You and I are next. A sobering reality that I hope bears heavily upon what we profess and say – we will be judged on both counts.
The question of the validity of Marcel Lefebvre’s or Bishop Thuc’s Orders has no direct bearing on me whatsoever. I simply believe that many have been misled regarding the Orders emanating from both of these men, and this article was written in an effort to correct that. On my part, if I am mistaken about anything that I’ve written, I will gladly make the necessary corrections along with my apologies. On the part of those who defend the validity of the Orders emanating from Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Thuc, if they are mistaken about their position on this issue, playing ostrich or defending themselves at all costs is not the solution. All that matters here is the truth, and if we find ourselves in conflict with it, as sometimes is all too human, the only solution is to recognize the error and to take whatever corrective measures are necessary. Only by doing this will God and His Church be served and our own salvation not be imperiled.
“The Church will be punished because the majority of Her members, high and low, will become so perverted. The Church will sink deeper and deeper until She will at last seem to be extinguished, and the succession of Peter and the other Apostles to have expired. But, after this, She will be victoriously exalted in the sight of all doubters.” St. Nicholas von Flue_____________________________________
Bishop Joseph Marie @ bishopjosephmarie.org