Letter To Pope John Paul II
Nguyễn Mạnh Quang
Pope His Holiness
Date: September 19, 1999 (*)
HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
Throughout the last decade, we were very optimistic about several beautiful marks you have made in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1992 Your Holiness publicly acknowledged that the Roman Catholic Church had been wrong in the case of Galileo Galilei (1), and towards the end of 1994 Your Holiness called on Catholics to adopt a penitential stance before entering the third millenium (2). These noble acts of contrition gave people all over the world great delight and the belief that they were only initial steps in Your Holiness’s entire scheme to investigate all the sins committed in the name of Christ by the Church during the past two milleniums. We were very much delighted by the fact that up to 1998 Your Holiness had made a total of ninety-four official apologies to various nations victimized by the Church (3). Furthermore, in recent years Your Holiness and a number of Catholic leaders have often advocated campaigning for democratic and human rights for the poor peoples who are writhing under dictatorial powers. Even much greater delight was brought about by Your Holiness’s July 1999 assertion that:
(i) Heaven is not an abstraction nor a physical place amid the clouds, but a living personal relationship with the Holy Trinity (4).
(ii) Hell is not a punishment imposed extremely by God, but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life (5).
On September 1st, 1999, Your Holiness made a public apology “for all the misdeeds, injustices, and violations of human rights committed by the Church in the past” (6). And most recently, on Friday, December 17, 1999, when President Vaclav Havel of Czecho-slovakia visited Rome, you apologized to the Czech people for the Church’s burning of Father John Huss at the stake in 1415(7).
This has filled us with overwhelming exultation and bolstered up our confidence in the Church’s serious willingness to defend and fight for democratic and human rights of the unfortunate people of countries that are still under oppressive dictatorial rule. It has also convinced us that your sincere repentance will impel the Church to take into account the untold misery and suffering inflicted on the Vietnamese nation for over a century as a consequence of the Church’s imperialist policies and other sins.
Your Holiness, the wisdom of our ancestors lies in the saying “Weeds cannot be effectively eradicated if they are not thoroughly uprooted”. Your Holiness and the Church must have realized that it was her imperialist policies and other concomitant wrong doings that led to all the “historic sins committed by her children” in victimized countries. Thus, mere apologies and penitence, are not only futile but also utterly worthless. In order to fight effectively for democratic and human rights for the unfortunate peoples under authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, the Church must, first and foremost, make herself an exemplary democratic institution. This may be done by democratizing all her political and governmental machinery, and straightforwardly and unequivocally denounce her long-standing bellicose imperialist policies. To these ends, the Church must initiate a thorough revolution from the top echelons within the Vatican down to the grass-roots units in remote villages or communes in the countryside.
In order to implement the above-mentioned revolutionary undertakings, we solemnly propose that Your Holiness (a) democratize all the organs of the Church’s government structure, (b) abolish whatever is undemocratic, backward, feudal and outdated, and (c) delegate the Church’s representatives to the victimized countries to negotiate compensation and seek forgiveness. The following is a number of proposals in detail that we respectfully beseech Your Holiness to consider and to implement as soon as possible for the sake of the Church’s prestige.
I. APROPOS OF THE PAPACY AND THE RULING MACHINERY
l. For the democratization of all governing bodies of the Vatican, elections need to be organized to select people for the office of Cardinal, Archbishop, and Bishop, each for a term of office that is restricted to a number of years. If necessary, a term limit should be imposed on people holding these offices.
2. Abrogate all rituals that are inappropriate to a free and democratic society, for example, the rituals of kings kissing Cardinals’ feet, believers kissing missionaries’ shoes or sandals and bishops’ rings.
3. Desist using language and terms that smack of haughtiness, deception, contempt, insolence, self-righteousness, e.g. “cong giao” (public religion), “ta giao” (evil religion), “di giao” (heresy), “tro lai dao” (“returned to the Church” for converteds), “Chua chon” (chosen by God), “lam sang danh Chua” (glorify God/Christ’s name) for those who support the Church, “chong Chua” (anti-Chirst) for those who are considered as against the Church, etc., and feudal-sounding forms of address that degrade Christian believers. Whatever position and office one holds, one has no right to assume the position of and call themselves “cha” (father), and address believers as “con” (Child/Children).
II. APROPOS OF POLITICAL POLICIES
AND AMORAL STRATEGIES FOR THE DISSEMINATION OF CHRITIANITY
1. Solemnly decree the immediate abolition of the “Church powers above State powers” doctrine.
2. Solemnly decree the immediate abrogation of the political doctrine based on St. Thomas Aquinas’s (1225-1274) theological power theory, which claimed that rulers are chosen by God and, therefore, they are not supposed to be toppled by the people’s revolutionary uprisings even though they are corrupt and tyrannical.
3. Publicly condemn the Church’s decrees of 1449 (which ordained the use of armed forces to invade non-Christian territories and force the conquered peoples to convert to Christianity), 1452 (which allowed the Church’s henchmen to enslave the conquered nations), and 1493 (which divided the world into two parts, one of which was then granted to Spain, the other to Portugal). Issue a decree abrogating all the said decrees and assuming responsibilities for all the consequences brought about by them to the victims.
4. Issue a decree unequivocally condemning Pope Pius VII’s message of April 29, 1814 to the Bishop of Troyes, and condemming Pope Gregory XVI’s (1830 – 1846) proclamation - that “freedom of press is the most detrimental, terrible and disgusting…”, and solemnly pledging to honor freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of press, etc. as do all democratic states in North America and Western Europe.
5. Solemnly decree the repeal of the Church law whereby non-Christian people are required to go through absolution rituals (e.g., to be baptized), prior to marrying their Christian lovers.
III. APROPOS OF WHAT THE CHURCH HAS DONE TO THE VIETNAMESE NATION
1. Publish an official document solemnly acknowledging that the Church was wrong when embarking on acts that violated the national security and sovereignty of Vietnam ever since the first half of the 16th century. These wrong doings consisted of:
a). Espionage activities through which strategic intelligence information was collected and sent back to the Vatican and the French colonialists (8)
b). Enticement of paupers, gangsters, and dissidents into converting to Catholicism, in fact for the purpose of recruiting them into rings of resident spies, who later provided inside support to the Vatican-French allied expeditionary forces when they came to invade Vietnam,
c). Dispatch to Vietnam of professional spies under the guise of missionaries to organize and run espionage activities. These spies later returned to Europe and even went to Paris in order to campaign for French troops to be sent to invade Vietnam. This campaign consisted of:
i. Alexandre de Rhodes, a priest who campaigned with King Louis XIV in Paris in the 1650’s,
ii. Pigneau de Behaine, a bishop who took Prince Canh, aged 4, to Paris in the mid-1780’s for a campaign with King Louis XVI for reinforcements to help Nguyen Anh fight Tay Son,
iii. Pellerin, a bishop, Legrand de Liraye, a priest, and Huc, a priest, who came to Paris in the 1850’s to persuade Queen Eugenie and Napoleon III to send troops to invade Vietnam,
iv. Urging and aiding Bishop Pigneau de Behaine in his blatant interference in Vietnam’s internal affairs, particularly the procurement of French military aid to help Nguyen Anh in his fight for the throne against Tay Son, paving the way for the subsequent invasion of Vietnam by the French,
v. Complicity with the French in scheming for the re-establishment of French occupation and colonization of Vietnam by appointing Thierry d’Argenlieu, a Catholic priest, High Commissioner/Governor of Indochina in August 1945 for the purpose of seeking inside support and collaboration from the Vietnamese Catholics.
vi. Complicity with French General De Lattre de Tassigny in instructing the Council of Bishops of Indochina. This council consisted of 14 Archbishops and Bishops: John Dooley (chairman), Jean Baptiste Chabatier (of Pnom Penh), Ngo Dinh Thuc (of Vinh Long), Jean Cassigne (Sanh, of Saigon), Marcel Piquet (Loi, of Qui Nhon), Jean Marie Maze (Kim, of Hung Hoa), Anselme Tadde Tu (i.e. Le Huu Tu, of Phat Diem), Pierre Marie Chi (i.e. Pham Ngoc Chi, of Bui Chu), Jean Baptiste Urrita (Thi, of Hue), Dominique Hoang van Doan (of Bac Ninh), Joseph Marie Trinh Nhu Khue (of Hanoi), Fr. Felice Perez (Hien, of Hai Phong), Fr. Bernard Illomera (Yen, of Thai Binh), Paul Renaud (Ai, of Kontum). It was held from Nov. 5 to Nov. 10, 1951 to agree on and issue a statement ordering all the Catholics in Indochina to oppose the Viet Minh Front-led Resistance against the imperialist-colonialist Vatican-French Alliance.
2. Issue an official statement unequivocally condemning the following works:
a. “Day Four” chapter (on the Church’s teachings) of the work “Catechism in Eight Days” (because of its libelous and defamatory content against the gods of the traditional Vietnamese religious beliefs),
b. The biblical book “The Daily Lessons from the Bible” published by the Saigon diocese in 1971 and endorsed by Archbishop Nguyen van Binh on March 19, 1971. This book refers the Vietnamese people as “the barbarians”. This book contains several extremely uncivilized and belligerent language, such as “completely destroy the religion of the Buddha god” (pha tan dao but than). We implore Your Holiness to ban the two books.
3. Issue an official statement acknowledging the Church’s fault in inducing Vietnamese Catholics “not to acknowledge the power and law of the Vietnam State”, and in teaching them that “the Pope in Rome is their only and supreme king” and therefore “they have to subject themselves to the Vatican only” (9). Such teachings effectively destabilized the then Vietnam society, thus enabling the Vatican-French Alliance to ‘fish in the troubled waters’ - to conquer Vietnam easily and establish colonial rule.
4. Issue an official statement solemnly acknowledging two serious mistakes committed by the Church under Pope Pius XII’s (1939-1958). One was in asking the American government to help rescue Vatican-French allied troops under siege at the Dien Bien Phu fortified outpost since early 1954 by using atomic bombs to break the siege (fortunately, the American government refused). The other was in campaigning with the American government for assistance in putting Ngo Dinh Diem into power in the Republic of (South) Vietnam, who served as an instrument for the Vatican to carry on her scheme to Catholicize South Vietnam.
5. Issue an official statement solemnly acknowledging that during the 1862 - April 30, 1975 period the Church has collected an enormous amount of wealth from the Vietnamese nation, as presented in the book “Thuc Chat cua Giao Hoi La Ma” (The True Nature of The Roman Catholic Church).
6. Issue an official statement solemnly asking the Vietnamese people pardon for the above-mentioned sins, and acknowledging that those wrong doings have plunged them in incessant, catastrophic misery and suffering, whose long-lasting effects have lingered on to-date like deep and painful wounds impossible to heal.
7. Issue an official statement repealing the Church’s 6-19-1988 decree, which sanctified 117 Vietnamese and European persons, and acknowledging that the sanctification of these people was a grave mistake. We beg Your Holiness to affirm that these fanatic criminals were so stupefied that they committed high crimes against their fatherland. Thus, the withdrawal of the decree will appease the anger of the majority of the Vietnamese people at the Church.
8. Set up a commission to consider and negotiate with the Vietnamese government the return of all properties (including cultural and religious institutions) and the compensation for the damage caused by all the Church’s activities in Vietnam since the first missionary sent to Vietnam in 1533. To guarantee impartiality, this commission should be constituted of progressive intellectuals, who are knowledgeable about Vietnam affairs but not closely associated with the pre-1954 colonial rule and the Ngo Dinh Diem regime. The study of this committee should also include a compensation of the property and money taken away by the French missionaries and the Diem government (Eighteen billion dollars, mentioned in the book “Our Own Worst Enemy” by William J. Lederer, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 1968, p. 165).
There have been fanatical Vietnamese Catholics who hold that “Even if in fact there were wrongs done to the Vietnamese people, they were only the work of individual Catholics or Catholic missionaries, not the Church. And as the Church had nothing to do with those wrongs, there is no need for her to apologize to anybody.” We believe that Your Holiness are keenly aware of the Church history, and that, more than anybody else, Your Holiness are aware of Your Holiness’s as well as the Church’s responsibility for the catastrophic sufferings inflicted on victimized countries by “her children”. It must have been very clear to Your Holiness that all the wrong doings, even though committed by fanatical, over-zealous Catholics, are as much the Church’s as Your Holiness’s own responsibilities because they were perpetrated along the line of the Vatican’s 1449 and 1452 directives and decrees. As a result, Your Holiness have resolutely and courageously admitted to the Church’s past misdeeds and publicly apologized to the victims regardless of possible impediment and objection from the conservative camp within the Vatican. It is common knowledge that the problem with fanatical fundamentalists, is that they are unable to understand thoroughly the history and past deeds of their Church.. Under these circumstances, how can fanatical Christian fundamentalists grasp the lofty significance of Your Holiness’s repeated acknowledgements of the Church’s past misdeeds and apologies to the victims?
Your Holiness have courageously overcome innumerable difficulties and obstacles, particularly Your Holiness’s own pride, to acknowledge the Church past wrongs and apologize to the victims. Your Holiness have done what your predecessors were unable to do. No wonder Your Holiness have been acclaimed as the greatest Pope in the Church history. Unfortunately, in reality what Your Holiness have accomplished so far have been “mere utterances”. We believe in the saying “Actions speak louder than words” and trust that Your Holiness do, too. The countries that were victimized by the Church have been looking forward to concrete actions from Your Holiness and the Church to alleviate the victims’ resentment and animosity against her. Without the follow-up actions, people of the world cannot help doubting the Church and the following questions will inevitably be raised:
1. How can the Church fight for freedom and democracy for people of the world while the Vatican adopts a absolute sacerdotal monarchy with rituals that smack of feudalism, and use forms of address and language that are extremely impertinent, uncivilized and degrading?
2. How can the Church fight for human rights or ask that human rights be honored while it is the Church that violates the human rights of those belonging to other religions? This is evidenced by the fact that the Church forces non-Christian people to renounce their own religion and be converted to Catholicism before they can get married to their Christian lovers.
3. How can the Church honor freedom of thought and freedom of the press while the Church has not publicly and solemnly denounced Pope Gregory XVI’s (1831-1846) condemnation of freedom of the press as “the most detrimental and disgusting”?
4. How can the Church honor freedom of religion when she still condones the use “The Catechism in Eight Days” of Alexander de Rhode’s book, and the “The Daily Lessons from the Bible” by Saigon diocese as mentioned above?
5. How can the Church fight for justice for all when she still maintains a high-handed attitude and refuses to negotiate with the authorities of countries victimized by the Church (among which, Vietnam) to reach an agreement on compensations for the damage done?
A proverb has taught us that a single instance of failure to keep his words is enough to cause a person to lose his entire creditability. Our experience with Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem, a protégé of the Church, has rendered us very sensitive to and wary of words. As President of the Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem has gone back on his words and betrayed Emperor Bao Dai, his American supporters, his old friends, the Buddhists, the opposition, and the people of South Vietnam as many as 13 times. Furthermore, as Your Holiness must be well aware of, in the past the Church delegated missionaries to Africa, America and Asia to claim freedom of religion and the right to disseminate Christianity. In the meanwhile, the Church outlawed this freedom in areas under her control in Western and Southern Europe. As a result, the Church became notorious with her Inquisition sending over 11 million followers of other religion to their death.
“Repentance must accompany Penance”. We sincerely and urgently beg Your Holiness to consider the above aspirations and materialize your honest repentances by actions to relieve the anger and hatred nurtured by the people of the countries victimized by the Church through her past wrongs that Your Holiness have acknowledged and apologized for. This type os actions will prevent people’s remittance of former President Nguyen van Thieu’s statement: “Don’t believe what they say, watch carefully what they do instead”. Only by such actions can the Church save her prestige. May God bless you.
Nguyen Manh Quang
A person from one of the nations victimized by the Roman Catholic Church
7205 N. 25th Street
Tacoma, WA. 98406
CC: All Nations and World Agencies.
(1) “Giao Hoi Cong Giao Da Nhin Nhan Sai Lam Trong Vu An Galileo”. Chinh Nghia Weekly, No. 146, Nov. 7, 1992.
(2) Paula Butturini, “Pope Wants Catholic Church To Confess Its Sins”. Houston Chronicle, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 1994.
(3) Chu Van Trinh & Tuong Minh, “Roi Mat Na” (Fallen Mask ). Tavares, Florida: Ban Tu Thu Tu Luc, 1998, back cover page.
(4) Hoc Hoi Giesu Kito Phuc Sinh. Tuyen Cao 8, Article 1, page 2. Và link bài báo tiếng Anh http://www.ncregister.com/... a_place_says_pope
(5) Jude Webber. “No Fire or Brimstone, But Hell’s Real, Pope Says.” Houston Chronicle, July 29, 1999, p. 26A.
(6) “Duc Giao Hoang Jean-Paul II: Giao Hoi Cong Giao Se xin Loi ve Qua Khu”. Nguoi Viet Tay Bac, No. 807, Sept. 7, 1999.
(7) “Pope John Paul II apologized…” The News Tribune (Tacoma), Saturday, December 18, 1999. This is an excerpt from the article: “Pope John Paul II apologized Friday for the “cruel” execution of Jan Hus, a Czech religious reformer who was burned at the stake in 1415. The apology was timed for the visit from the Czech president, Vaclav Havel, who donated the Christmas tree outside St. Peter’s that is to be lighted today.”
(8) Avro Manhattan, “Vietnam, Why Did We Go?” Chino, CA: Chick Publication, 1984, p. 139.
(9) Nguyen Xuan Tho, “Buoc Mo Dau Cua Su Thiet Lap He Thong Thuoc Dia Phap O Vietnam (1858-1897). Published by the author, 1995, p. 17.
(*) January 10, 2000: Translated from Vietnamese version and updated the latest apology of the Pope.
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