Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation by Charles Keith

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By Charles Keith

In this significant new examine, Charles Keith explores the complicated place of the Catholic Church in glossy Vietnamese background. by way of demonstrating how French colonial rule allowed for the transformation of Catholic missions in Vietnam into extensive and strong monetary and institutional buildings, Keith discovers the methods race outlined ecclesiastical and cultural status and keep watch over of assets and institutional authority. This, besides colonial rule itself, created a tradition of spiritual existence within which relationships among Vietnamese Catholics and ecu missionaries have been much less equivalent and extra fractious than ever ahead of. in spite of the fact that, the colonial period additionally introduced remarkable ties among Vietnam and the transnational associations and tradition of world Catholicism, as Vatican reforms to create an self sufficient nationwide Church helped Vietnamese Catholics to reimagine and redefine their relationships to either missionary Catholicism and to colonial rule itself. very like the myriad innovative ideologies and struggles within the identify of the Vietnamese state, this revolution in Vietnamese Catholic existence was once eventually ambiguous, even contradictory: it demonstrated the principles for an self sustaining nationwide Church, however it additionally polarized where of the hot Church in post-colonial Vietnamese politics and society and produced deep divisions among Vietnamese Catholics themselves.

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Sample text

First, there was never a single state named “Annam” that governed the territories of modern-­day Vietnam; there were critical differences between the discrete regimes that governed the northern region of Tonkin, the southern region of Cochinchina, and the central region of Annam (the use of this term at the time to refer to both the central region and all three regions is another point of confusion). Although “Annam” was certainly a powerful cultural idea during the colonial era, it never held the normative legal status that would oblige the use of the term in a historical study.

Indeed, in most Catholic communities in these regions, the main structures of civil life in the village were often inseparable from religious ones. For example, virtually all villages in these regions had a council of notables, an association of elites responsible for managing the village’s relations with state officials, 26 chapter 1 adjudicating disputes, administering communal funds and lands, and managing other affairs. In làng đạo, the members of the council of notables often mirrored closely or were identical to the members of parish councils, bodies of prominent lay Catholics under the authority of the clergy who served as moral examples for the village and helped the clergy to organize ritual life.

Both administered sacraments of initiation (Holy Eucharist, confirmation, and baptism), healing (penance and reconciliation, extreme unction), and vocation (marriage). The only sacrament that local priests could not administer was holy orders, the ordination of a candidate for the priesthood, which was carried out by bishops, who were all European until 1933. Missionaries also heard confessions and performed marriages throughout missions, while local priests in theory only did so in their parish.

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