Saturday, January 5, 2019

Book Review: "Sede Vacante: The Life and Legacy of Archbishop Thục"

This book, again published by Apocryphile Press, is authored by Edward Jarvis who also wrote the book on the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB). While covering generally the same topic of "dissenting Catholics," the books take a decidedly different tone. Both groups are the legacies of bishops from countries with political upheaval who followed their own brand of Catholicism. Yet the Thuc book provides more insight on Thuc himself and, since Thuc had no successor to his office, lacks the focus required by the ICAB on detailing the history of an organization.

Jarvis does an excellent job of providing in-detail background of the Vietnam which raised and nurtured Thuc. His insights into Thuc's family life are useful at helping to understand Thuc's mindset. Jarvis is to be commended on this work because it is apparent that he worked hard to maintain objectivity. He provides a sympathetic picture of Thuc while also detailing his contradictory actions. I am also grateful that he did not delve deeply into the sacramental validity of Thuc's actions and let the reader decide for themselves (while providing theological and historical context to support validity if that is the reader's conclusion).

It is also helpful that Jarvis does not end the story with Thuc, who died in 1984. He continues the story by detailing information about current traditionalists who carry the Thuc lineage. Jarvis' grasp of church history and sacramental theology gives him the ability to weave the story together with clarity. I appreciated Jarvis' sharing part of his own history (such as where he studied) because it gave some insight into his interest in this distinct part of Catholicism. Because of his background, Jarvis is able to ask difficult questions of the Thuc-lineage inheritors, especially related to the consecration of bishops and the suitability of the consecrated.

This work will be helpful to anyone interested in the traditionalist movement. I owe Jarvis my appreciation for such through research and the consultation of many different sources. My only suggestion is that there are even more sources that could be incorporated. Thuc's life has been detailed by many contemporaries and several books and articles did not make the bibliography. Despite this, the book does not suffer from lack of clarity or detail. 

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