Earlier this month, Radio Cristiandad posted a monograph by Fr. Basilio Méramo, a former member of the SSPX, in which he extensively quoted from "Two Bishops in Every Garage" and thereby revived the question of Thục's "cordura" (= sanity, good sense). Based on that exposition, Fr. Méramo judged the exiled archbishop's consecrations to be "really, objectively, and positively doubtful" (dudosas real, objetiva y positivamente). The whole sordid history from Palmar de Troya through des Lauriers and Carmona, he concluded with exasperation, must have been but a great lunacy or a tale told by madmen ("Qué es todo esto sino una gran locura, o un cuento de locos").
PL has no intention, today or any day, of weighing in on either side of the issue of Thục's mental competence. In our minds, we put that question to bed back on April 9, 2016, when we argued in favor of the sedes' securing multiple lineages as a way to eliminate doubts about their validity (click here). That approach is certainly a far better alternative than waiting for the other shoe to drop should alarming new facts come to light. Therefore, to put it bluntly, for all we care, Thục could've been crazier than an outhouse fly.*
With the exception of the SSPV and a few others, most sedes would agree, even if begrudgingly, that the uprooted archbishop was lucid when he performed the "consecrations" that established many of Sedelandia's sublineages. In which case, it would not be out of line for PL to assume these partisans would likewise assert that Thục's wits were never impaired.
For these sedes, it would be an exceedingly dangerous policy to allow that Thục drifted in and out of lucidity over the course of his exile from his native Vietnam. If they did, couldn't an adversary like PL allege the archbishop may have been suffering from one of his loony episodes when he conferred orders on Carmona and Zamora but not when he "consecrated" des Lauriers? Far more convenient is it to explain away — say, by citing "distractions" or "deception"** — what "Peregrinus" aptly termed "The Palmar Fiasco." If you took that escape route, you'd altogether avoid impugning Thục's mental stability, wouldn't you?
Hence we'll take a risk today and presume the sedes of the SW Ohio/B'ville cult would also uphold (1) Thục's judgments about whom to "consecrate" and (2) his motives for agreeing to perform a "consecration." In other words, we think they'd say the archbishop knew what he was doing. Furthermore, it's not unreasonable to suppose that the cultists might in addition argue his offer of consecration to any individual resulted from prudent deliberation, informed by his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from which he earned three doctorates (philosophy, theology, canon law).
All this speculation brings us to the problem of Big Don's Liénart liability, over which so many cult freaks wet their beds every time it appears on PL. To be entirely forthcoming, the Readers don't consider the disadvantage of Liénart-conferred orders to be as grave a threat to validity as is Dubious Dan's one-handed sacerdotal "ordination." Nevertheless, we do believe the Lowly Worm should have gotten himself fixed before Junior's recent Sacrilege in the Swamp — for safety's sake. (The Kid should be forever grateful to Geert Stuyver for saving his bacon.)
For the present, though, we don't propose to revisit our moderate discomfort over the Liénart problem. Instead, we'd like to share Archbishop Thục's view of the matter. His Excellency "speaks" to us in a handwritten letter to Lefebvre, sent after he had heard of the SSPX founder's ill health. (The letter is available on the Today's Catholic World [TCW] blog here.)
Although we're not forensic analysts, nevertheless, summoning our paleography skills, we compared the handwriting of the letter to that of the 1981 consecration certificate Thục issued (available here). After a close inspection, we satisfied ourselves that the same person wrote both documents. A note (here) posted by the TCW blog affirms its authenticity, so you don't have to take PL's word for it.
On the web site, you'll find a not-altogether-satisfactory translation appended to the image of the letter. Consequently, for ease of reference, below we supply an almost slavishly literal version for the portions of the text that interest us today. (We don't want you to think we're loading the dice with too free a rendering.) Since the crabbed handwriting becomes at times difficult to decipher, we'll first provide a transcription of the French original (as we read it — we'll gladly consider other readings, since we've been contracted to prepare an annotated transcription of the entire letter):
❡2 Vous avez été consacré Evêque par le Cardinal Liénard [sic, as we read the written name]; or ce Cardinal n'avait jamais crû [sic] à notre Religion, — donc votre consécration par lui a été [our best guess] nulle.
❡3 Je suis prêt à vous consacré [sic] évêque ou bien trouver un évêque qui se charge de vous consacrer secrètement.
(❡ 2) You were consecrated Bishop by Cardinal Liénart; but this Cardinal had never believed [reading cru for crû] in our Religion, — therefore your consecration by him was null.
(❡ 3) I am ready to consecrate [reading consacrer for consacré] you bishop or else find a bishop who may take it upon himself [reading a non-assertive relative clause] to consecrate you secretly.Two features strike us immediately about ❡2. First, the unmistakable syllogistic frame, to wit, the telltale conjunctions or (but) linking a premise and donc (therefore) introducing a conclusion. Second, the assumptive tone (which continues in ❡3): Thục doesn't hedge his declaration in the slightest. Taken together, both features conclusively indicate the letter was written with the presumption (1) that Liénart's faithlessness was common knowledge among high-level churchmen and (2) that Lefebvre was as aware of his principal consecrator's radical defection as was Thục.
The purpose of Thục's missive, then, was not to inform Lefebvre of his troubled holy orders. Lefebvre already knew of the problem. Instead, Thục wrote in order to (1) counsel him in Christian candor to accept undoubtedly valid episcopal orders and (2) offer his own services to that end. It may be worth noting that later in the letter he suggests Lefebvre be ready to re-confer the priesthood on the clergy he had but lately ordained or find another bishop to do so.*** (Gee-whiz, sounds almost like what the Readers have been trying for years to get "One-Hand Dan" to do!****)
So, then, what does all this come down to? In our mind, it boils down to two mutually exclusive questions:
(a) Was Thục a malformed, crazy, old geezer sputtering nonsense (and hence unfit to consecrate anyone ever)?
OR(b) Did the "saintly" — as Dannie once called him — archbishop think there was something to the Liénart liability, which would move a prudent man to obtain conditional orders?
It's really a no brainer.
* Those of you who read Spanish might be interested in Fr. Méramo's take (and his takedown of shape-shifting Checkie and Big Don). For his article, click here.
** As we heard the Cheeseball once say in a 2011 interview (min. 19:25 and 19:34).
*** The TCW blog's English version does not translate the clause to which we refer, so you will have to consult the handwritten letter to verify. To assist you, here's our transcription of the French, the missing text in bold: ❡ 4 Quant aux ecclésiastiques que vous aviez fait prêtres naguère, vous seriez prêt à leur conférer la prêtise, ou trouver un Evêque [uncertainly reading upper-case e], par exemple moi-mêm[e] à les consacrer.
**** It may be unfair to judge from such a brief, hastily composed note, but Thục was definitely wrong in only recommending Lefebvre's re-consecration as a bishop. Lefebvre's 1929 priestly orders, which Liénart also conferred, constitute the real stumbling block. If Lefebvre had been ordained to the priesthood by someone other than Liénart, the 1947 suspect episcopal orders conferred by principal consecrator Liénart would have been saved by one or both of the co-consecrators, Bishop Alfred-Jean-Félix Ancel and Bishop Jean-Baptiste Victor Fauret.
However, if Lefebvre were not a valid priest at the time of his 1947 consecration, then the co-consecrators, their unchallenged validity notwithstanding, most likely did not confer orders. As Noldin wrote in his Summa Theologiae Moralis, "It is more commonly affirmed, that when the priesthood has not yet been conferred, the episcopate cannot be validly conferred (communius affirmatur episcopatum, nondum collato sacerdotio, valide conferri non posse)."
To fully cure Lefebvre's Liénart liability, Thục should have offered to re-confer both sacerdotal and episcopal orders. But then perhaps the wise, old archbishop was just using a kind of shorthand and intended all along to fix his colleague completely.