Vietnamese former fortune teller and ex-con suddenly ordained a Catholic priest

Bishop denies involvement in ordination that has gotten widespread attention in Vietnam
By RFA Vietnamese
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Vietnamese former fortune teller and ex-con suddenly ordained a Catholic priest Newly ordained priest Ho Hu Hoa [first row, third from right] in Vinh city, Vietnam, in early January 2023.
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A Vietnamese fortune-teller and ex-convict linked to a corruption scandal who recently became a Catholic priest has been suspended for allegedly falsifying documents needed for his ordination in the Philippines, a statement from the bishop of his diocese said.

Ho Hu Hoa has been banned from “performing sacraments and rituals within the Vinh Diocese,” said the dispatch from Bishop Anphong Nguyen Huu Long to all priests in the central-northern diocese.

Hoa’s sudden and mysterious rise to the priesthood has gotten widespread attention in Vietnam. 

He had been a feng shui consultant in the central province of Nghe An when he was arrested on bribery charges in 2019, after being implicated as having a minor part in a far-reaching corruption scandal. 

Hoa acted as a go-between for Sr. Lt. Phan Anh Vu and Lt. Gen. Nguyen Duy Linh, then the head of the Ministry of Public Security’s General Department of Intelligence. He delivered 5 billion dong (more than U.S. $200,000) to Linh on Vu’s behalf.

In November 2021, Hoa was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, the exact amount of time he was in pretrial detention. He was released at the end of the trial. 

About 13 months later, he was in the Philippines becoming a priest.

Legitimacy questioned

Several parishioners and clergy both from inside and outside of the Vinh Diocese were surprised at Hoa’s swift ordination and raised questions about its legitimacy. 

“To my understanding, the ordination for Mr. Ho Huu Hoa did not follow the necessary procedures and there was no probation period or verification,” a parishioner who requested anonymity for safety reasons told Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese Service. 

“In addition, given his criminal history, a thorough investigation should have been done before the ordination,” the parishioner said.

Priest Anton Le Ngoc Thanh, with the Redemptorist order, said the ordination was too fast.  

“According to Catholic law, it often takes six months to be promoted from a deacon to a priest. In special cases or urgent situations, some are ordained as both deacon and priest at the same ordination,” he said. ”Most Importantly, the ordination needs the blessing of an ordinarius or bishop.”

Also suspended for helping Hoa was fellow priest Nguyen Nam Viet, who had been the bishop’s chief of staff and chancellor. Viet had represented the Vinh Diocese at Hoa’s ordination and read a letter of authorization which was said to have been approved by the bishop but turned out to be fake.

According to Feb. 10 statement by the Bishop Long, he had not signed any letters approving Hoa’s ordination, nor was he involved in any way. He said that Viet had told him that his trip to the Philippines was for personal reasons.

Bishop Long’s disciplinary measures were too mild, especially for Nguyen Nam Viet for “serious violations of Catholic law,” said Priest Dinh Huu Thoai.

RFA attempted to contact Ho Huu Hoa and the office of the Vinh Diocese but received no response from either.

It was not immediately clear to RFA what Hoa or any other party had to gain by fraudulently fast-tracking his ordination.

Religious freedom activist Nguyen Van An said that Viet’s role in getting Hoa ordained were serious mistakes, if not violations. “These mistakes of Priest Viet have badly affected the reputation of not only Vinh Diocese but the whole Catholic Church,” An said. 

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.


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