Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation Hardcover – October 18, 2012
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2017
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From the Inside Flap
"In Catholic Vietnam, Charles Keith challenges a deeply entrenched body of flawed conventional wisdom about the modern history of Vietnamese Catholicism. Free from the biases and tendentious assumptions that distorted scholarship on the topic during the Vietnam War era and armed with a massive arsenal of difficult-to-access primary sources in French and Vietnamese, Keith provides the most thorough and even-handed historical treatment currently available of the Vietnamese Catholic community under French rule, while telling a gripping story about a fascinating but neglected political and cultural process that he calls Catholic decolonization.’ Beautifully written, exhaustively researched, and persuasively argued, Catholic Vietnam sets a new standard within the field." Peter Zinoman, author of The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940
In this nuanced, wide-ranging, and lively account, Charles Keith establishes how Vietnamese Catholics positioned themselves and were perceived over time. Challenging binary and orthodox narratives, Keith’s meticulously researched book successfully interrogates and ultimately debunks notions of Catholicism’s inherent foreignness to Vietnam. Catholic Vietnam provides very important and timely contributions to the histories of Vietnam, of religion, and of French colonialism.” Eric T. Jennings, author of Imperial Heights: Dalat and the Making and Undoing of French Indochina
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Along with Rhodes, Keith must deal with the other great French churchman in Vietnam's history, Bishop Pierre Pigneau de Behaine.
In 1771 fiscal mismanagement in the Nguyen territories sparked a rebellion by three brothers from Tay Son in Central Vietnam. Over the next 31 years they established their own short lived dynasty whose capital was Quy Nhon. Pigneau was then running a seminary for native priests in Ha Tien, a Chinese ruled Nguyen vassal state on the Gulf of Siam. By 1777 the Tay Son armies had driven the Nguyen lords from their capital in modern Hue, and down to Saigon. The Tay Sons armies followed, took Saigon, and massacred all the Nguyen lord families save Phuc Anh, a fifteen year old nephew who fled to Ha Tien, where he met Pigneau de Behaine before being forced to fell to Phu Quoc, and thence to Siam. Pigneau decided to support Nguyen Anh's cause, and over some very rocky years became his military advisor, eventually traveling to France with Nguyen Anh's infant son, Prince Canh, to obtain a treaty between France and the Nguyen Court promising freedom for Catholic missionaries in exchange for military support. When French officials failed to honor that treaty, Pigneau supported the Nguyen cause with his own money, recruiting some 300 military, naval, and armaments technicians out of India. The Nguyen fortunes changed after more years of hard fighting, and in 1802 Nguyen Anh became Gia Long, emperor of a reunited and expanded Vietnam. The importance of Nguyen Anh's modest 'French' support would later be exaggerated by both French colonial and Vietnamese nationalist historiographers to serve their own ends. Gia Long did live up to his promises to Pigneau, but he also took care to make his very conservative Confucian second son, Minh Mang, his successor. It was Minh Mang who would declare Confucianism Vietnam's state cult, and set in motion the anti-Catholic edicts that would trigger the 1858 Franco-Spanish expedition. (note: a thorough evaluation of Pigneau's role ant its distortions can be found in James P. Daughton's article "Recasting Pigneau de Behaine" published in "Viet Nam Borderless Histories", editors Nhunh Tuyet Tran and Anthony Reid, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 2006).
Judging Minh Mang and his successors Thieu Tri and Tu Duc requires a sympathetic eye. All three clearly wished to forge a unified Vietnam free of ethnic and religious diversity. But Vietnam's Catholics, the majority of whom lived in the Red River Delta and were administered to by Spanish priests, were no more prone to religious syncretism than the Pope. Edicts were passed which local officials often ignored. Priests who were expelled often returned. And Minh Mang measures regarding the ethnic Chinese and Khmer populations touched raw nerves. Ironically, it was the desecration of a dead warlord's tomb on Minh Mang's orders that touched off a civil war. In it's wake, Father Pierre Borie was was arrested. In November 1838 he was executed. Four months later, the First Opium War broke out in China, giving Vietnam's emperor more reason to worry about Catholics. Attempts to enforce the laws only led to more foreign intervention, demanding the release of imprisoned priests. One such mission even involved the USS Constitution. These led to more executions and in 1858 a Franco-Spanish expedition landed at Danang, thereby opening the door to French colonial control and, as Keith points out, unleashing a wave of pogroms in northern and central Vietnam targeting Catholics.
Keith's best work is laying out the changes that French colonialism brought with it. He makes clear that while Catholic communities were in many instances obliged to support the French for their own survival, they remained Vietnamese to the core. Prominent Catholics denounced the French intervention for what it was: A thinly disguised act of economic self-interest. And the Vietnamese clergy would come to resent their French religious overlords, who unlike earlier foreign missionaries did not live among as they did, but expected higher standards of living. And, to the great surprise of this reader, the Vatican took notice and set out to reform Indochina's Catholic missions and put the Vietnamese clergy in charge. This started in 1893 with Pope Leo XIII, and continued with Pope Benedict XV, who saw the ties between the missionaries and colonial regimes as "un-Christian" and called for expansion in the ranks and roles of local clergy. Pope Pius XI went one step further in 1933 and consecrated the first Vietnamese; Bishop Jean Baptiste Nguyen Ba Tong, much to the disgust of the French colonial officials. Pius XI followed this up in the coming years with the naming of more Vietnamese bishops, to include Ngo Dien Diems older sibling Thuc, who for perhaps the first time in any western writing, Keith presents on his own merits, and not merely for association with his brother Diem. The end result Vietnam's Catholics now stood up within the church to identify themselves as both Catholic and Vietnamese. Long simmering accusations against abusive European missionary superiors emerged, and reforms demanded. With literacy in Quoc Ngu now spread beyond the Catholic clergy, complemented by an increased literacy in French, Vietnam's Catholic elites reexamined their place in society. It would be inaccurate to say they discovered nationalism. The great many had always been nationalists in the sense that they viewed the world through Vietnamese eyes. But they could now reexamine the political regime that governed Vietnam and decide for themselves where Vietnam's future lay. Unfortunately, the worldwide depression, World War II, and it aftermath drew lines in the sand. Ho Chi Minh's declaration of Vietnamese independence was supported by the overwhelming majority of Vietnam's Catholics, and several took position in his first government.
Over the next five years, Catholic support for the DRV faded, particularly in the north, where its Communist nature had become obvious. The largest Catholic presence was in the lower Red River Delta, specifically the dioceses of Phat Diem and Bui Chu. In late 1949 the French sent in a Vietnamese Paratroop officer to give the Bishop Le Huu Tu of Phat Diem and his counterpart an offer they couldn't refuse: Recognize Bao Dai's Associated State of Vietnam or fight. The bishops accepted the offer grudgingly but continued making public proclamations demanding full independence. Then, in the summer of 1951 the Viet Minh launched an offensive against Phat Diem and Bui Chu that was only beaten back with heavy losses that made it apparent that the Catholic militias on their own were outclassed. This was followed by Pope Pius XII's 1951 encyclical condemning communism, which triggered a pastoral letter by 15 of Vietnam's bishops declaring it impossible to be both a Catholic and a Communist. And with this line etched in stone, the fate of North Vietnam's Catholics was sealed. Two-thirds of them would flee to the south, bolstering Ngo Dien Diem supporters and the Republic of Vietnam.