Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D.
[Editor's foreword: There are occasions when questions come my way concerning the validity of the episcopal lineage of the late Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc. I once labored under grave doubts concerning this lineage, relying in large measure upon calumnious reports, spread, I should add, by men who I now recognize to be invalidly ordained to the Catholic priesthood and who were quite quick and loose with their "facts"on occasion so as to justify their own novel ecclesiastical situations outside of the approved structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism while "recognizing" the false "pontiff" as the Successor of Saint Peter. Indeed, my bias against the validity of the Thuc-line bishops was an obstacle to overcome as I researched the matter of sedevacantism, thanks to the words and deeds of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, in late-2005 and early-2006.
[Although the definitive collection of articles in defense of the validity of the Thuc-line was published by Father Kevin Vaillancourt in
The Answers, other works that preceded the publication of this book include Father Anthony Cekada's The Validity of the Thuc Consecrations and a letter written by Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D., in 2003. The swill being served up by some anti-Thuc forces is designed to blow smoke in the face of Catholic truth in order to make it appear as though only one group of Catholic bishops and priests is valid. The attitude of Extra Societate Nulla Salus for which the Society of Saint Pius X has become known over the past three and one-half decades pervades some anti-Thuc organizations.
[It is also the case, most sadly, that some laymen who have had no formal classroom training in Principles of Canonical Interpretation or in Canon Law believe that their own "reading" of Canon Law equips them to make definitive pronouncements on matters that they have never studied in a formal classroom setting, thereby convincing many people to deprive themselves of the Sacraments. This is nothing other than diabolical.
[As I have stated many times on this site, Canon Law was not one of my own fields of study during my time in seminary. I rely upon the expertise of others who are versed in this field as a result of their formal preparation. Obviously, this involves a judgment on my part, far from infallible, concerning which trained expert to trust. Father Vaillancourt's The Answers contains essays written by priests who have been trained formally in Canon Law and who have studied the matter of the Thuc line in great depth. It is they, not the self-styled "lay experts," upon whom we must turn for guidance on this matter.
[To serve as an antidote to the propaganda of the anti-Thuc agitators, I would like to present the following article by Father Stepanich, who, much unlike the lay "experts," has an earned doctorate in Sacred Theology, while at the same time urging doubters to order and to read Father Vaillancourt's The Answers, which is available in downloadable form via the link above and in book form from Our Lady of Guadalupe Press,
OLG PRESS. Also recommended as an antidote to the "home alone" propaganda that is making the rounds these days is Father Anthony Cekada's
[Please pass this article along to those you might know who have permitted themselves to be influenced by the anti-Thuc agitators mentioned in Father Stepanich's excellent analysis.]
THUC ISSUE NO LONGER CONTROVERSIAL
by Father Martin Stepanich
Dear Traditional Catholic (7-25-03)
It should be very revealing, as well as understandably quite shocking, for many traditional Catholics to realize that they have been deceived and misled regarding the true facts of the Thuc issue by certain highly-placed anti-Thuc agitators.
In your letter of July 7, you tell of your own experience and you express the conviction that none of the questioning of the legitimate status of Thuc-line bishops and priests would ever have happened if the whole dispute had not been created by anti-Thuc agitators among the clergy, who then spread their false story among their parishioners by way of their anti-Thuc writings and actions.
Appropriately enough, you conclude your comments by saying that the priests who stirred up all the controversy about the Thuc consecrations of bishops “really shot themselves in the foot.”
If any of the anti-Thuc bishops would realize how much they have discredited themselves by misinforming and misleading their unsuspecting followers!
There is no sound reason why the anti-Thuc controversy should continue. The Thuc issue ceased to be objectively controversial when all the facts became known and understood and then accepted by those of good will.
The first fact that we need to recognize and understand clearly in regard to the Thuc issue is the power of consecrating bishops, as well as of ordaining priests, which Archbishop Thuc possessed as a Catholic bishop, a power which he never lost, nor could lose, neither on account of signing the questionable Vatican II documents, nor for at first consecrating unworthy men as bishops. No bishop can lose his power of consecrating bishops for any kind of reason, such as, for example, losing the faith or joining the freemasons or other anti-Catholic subversives.
This should be no surprise for properly instructed traditional Catholics who learned probably already in their catechism days, that a man ordained as a Catholic priest becomes a priest forever. The pertinent Scriptural passage about the eternal priesthood that true Catholic should have no trouble remembering is the well-known; “Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech” (Psalm 109,5).
In dealing with the Catholic priesthood, we are dealing with something divinely established, not with something established by man. The everlasting power given to priests is given to them by God, not by man. The indelible mark, or character, of the priesthood, received at ordination, belongs to the Catholic priest by the will of God, not by the will of man, and it belongs to the priest forever. Just as the indelible mark received at Baptism belongs to the Baptized Catholic forever.
We are speaking here of matters clearly pertaining to the Catholic Faith and which cannot be doubted, nor questioned, nor denied without the risk of incurring the guilt of heresy.
When a priest becomes a bishop, he retains the indelible mark of the priesthood as well as the powers that go with the priesthood. But, as a bishop, he now has additional powers, the powers that go with the fullness of the priesthood. With these additional powers, he can no consecrate bishops and ordain priests, as well as confer the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Those traditional Catholics who have at their disposal some reliable traditional Catholic religion book, or maybe an advanced Catholic catechism, or even a reliable theology book, would do well to turn to the pages that deal with the sacrament of Holy orders and re-educate themselves as to the nature and powers of the Catholic priesthood.
Just to take one example of a good traditional advanced catechism, we can recommend Deharbe’s Catechism, first published in German long ago by Father Joseph Deharbe, S. J., and then translated into English early in the 20th Century.
The fortunate thing about the English edition of Deharbe’s Catechism is that it was reissued in 1998 by Omni-Christian Book Club of America (P/O/ Box 900566, Palmdale California 93590-0566 – Phone (661) 274-2240).
On page 303 of the 1998 edition of Deharbe’s Catechism, the question is asked: “Can a Priest be deprived of his ordination?” The correct answer given is this: “No, he can as little be deprived of Ordination as of Baptism, because it imprints an indelible character upon the soul.”
And then Father Deharbe continues: “A Priest therefore, or a Bishop, cannot be deprived of the powers which he received in his Ordination or Consecration, to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and to offer up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to administer Confirmation, Extreme Unction, and Holy Orders.”
Knowing the everlasting nature and power of the Priesthood, no genuine Catholic of good will could honestly persist in holding that Archbishop Thuc’s Consecrations of Bishops were doubtful, or even outright invalid. Because the power of the fullness of the Priesthood is everlasting, there can be no argument, no questioning, no controversy about the undoubted validity of the Thuc consecrations of Bishops.
You would think that the anti-Thuc militants saw that they had no other choice but to go silent and stop their anti-Thuc campaign. Yet, believe it or not, they did not stop trying to discredit Archbishop Thuc and the Thuc-line Bishops and Priests. Being the “geniuses” that they are, they had a dream. The dreamt that they could finish off the Archbishop by spreading around the made-up story that he was feeble-minded and therefore incapable of using his power of Consecrating Bishops validly.
But that didn’t work. Thinking Catholics could at once object that neither Bishop Guerard des Lauriers, nor Bishop Carmona, nor Bishop Zamora complained that Archbishop Thuc was feeble-minded when he consecrated them. They saw that the Archbishop what the Pontifical Ritual required as to matter and form and intention. When the Consecration ceremonies were completed, these three men knew that they were validly consecrated Catholic Bishops. So in due time they proceeded to do what Catholic Bishops are empowered to do. That is, they consecrated other Bishops, and it was from them that the American line of Thuc Bishops developed.
Where were the anti-Thuc dreamers when Archbishop Thuc was consecrating Bishops Guerard and Carmona and Zamora? They were in faraway anti-Thuc dreamland. That’s where they were.
While anti-Thuc agitators are unable honestly to deny the validity of the Thuc consecrations of Bishops, they imagine they have a legitimate argument against the Archbishop when they declare that his consecrations were unlawful, or illicit, since he had no papal mandate or permit to consecrate Bishops.
But the anti-Thucs made a big mistake, in regard to the supposed unlawfulness of the Thuc consecrations, in failing to stress the fact that Archbishop Thuc did not do his consecrations before the Vatican II disaster, when things were still in proper order at the Vatican and the Church in general. He, on the contrary, did the consecrations without a papal mandate after the Vatican II apostasy from the traditional Catholic faith and practice had set in and after disorder and confusion prevailed everywhere, having had its beginning at the very top of the Church hierarchy.
What the anti-Thuc need to realize is that when a human law, or decree, like the papal mandate for the consecration of Bishops, can no longer be enforced and the one who would normally issue the papal mandate has himself deserted the True Faith, the Divine Law nevertheless still remains in force and always will remain in force.
The Divine Law about which we are speaking is the law that demands that the work of saving souls must by all means continue, despite the Vatican II apostasy. For that, Bishops and Priests are needed to make available the means of grace for the faithful. That is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments, which are the principal means of grace, must be made available to the faithful, while at the same time the True Catholic Faith must by all means be taught whole and entire, and kept alive among the faithful.
As the anti-Thucs can plainly see, it was because of the Vatican II apostasy from the True Catholic Faith that Archbishop Thuc saw that he could not go by the human law demanding a papal mandate for consecrating Bishops. But he could, and he did, obey the Divine Law demanding the continued work of saving souls. He was fully justified before God in obeying His Law, and he had he necessary jurisdiction to do so by virtue of Divine Law.
Traditional Bishops and Priests who have proceeded from Archbishop Thuc are likewise fully justified before God in preserving the True Faith among traditional Catholics, and providing for them the necessary means of grace. The traditional “emergency jurisdiction” long granted by the Church in cases of urgent need is based upon the Divine Law that demands that the necessary care of souls continue.
A much-needed article, dealing with the issue of traditional priests conferring the Sacraments legitimately in these confused times, has recently been issued by Father Anthony Cekada (
The Validity of the Thuc Consecrations). In the article, Father Cekada puts forth his main theme in these words: “Divine Law obliges rather than forbids us to confer Sacraments.” Traditional Catholics would do well to obtain a copy of the article from father Cekada, and then read it carefully and accept Father’s unquestionable conclusions.
For all anti-Thuc agitators who have kept stirring up the storm of controversy over the Thuc consecrations, and against the Thuc Bishops and Priests, the message has long been loud and clear: “Peace! Be still!”
Pax et Bonum!
Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D.