In a dramatic act that has been widely praised as a heroic, decisive approach to defend the Church in Vietnam and to set the record straight, the Redemptorist Province in Vietnam sends an open letter to “patriotic” priests calling for their “priestly conscience”.

“I am calling to your priestly conscience toward the Church, your brothers and sisters in faith, and the poor people,” said Fr. Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, Chief of the Secretariat of Vietnam Redemptorist Province in an open letter dated Jan. 30, sent to Fr. Peter Nguyen Cong Danh, Chairman of the so-called “Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics”, a communist group setup in an attempt to establish a state-run Catholic Church in Vietnam.

The dramatic move occurred after a series of verbal attacks of the Committee against Hanoi Archbishopric and a large number of priests in Hanoi.

“It was obviously true that Hanoi authorities destroyed the crucifix at Dong Chiem, brutally beat faithful and religious, terrorized the church, and caused grave impacts on people’s lives. The parish, the Hanoi Archbishopric, bishops in North Province, and people from all walks of life raised their protest voice together,” Fr. Joseph Dinh wrote.

Despite all of these things, “the [newly born] Web site of Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics published an article titled ‘Peace returns to Dong Chiem’ in which the Committee did not side with the Catholic Church in defending for the truth. On the contrary, it joined state-run newspapers (Hà Nội Mới, An Ninh Thủ Đô... ) to distort the truth, and accuse Hanoi Archbishopric, and Redemptorists of Thai Ha Monastery,”

Two weeks earlier, in an attempt to deny the brutal attack against Dong Chiem parishioners, Vietnam government assigned a Catholic priest, yet a Party member, Fr. Phan Khac Tu, deputy chairman and general secretary of the Vietnam Committee for Catholic Solidarity, to reconstruct the story on the Saigon Liberated Newspaper on Jan. 14, claiming that “Vietnam always respects religious freedom.”

Fr. Phan even went as far as calling the government to punish his brothers and sisters in faith. “Anyone found committing wrongdoings in the name of religion must be strictly punished,” he said.

The call has been subject for public outrage and harsh criticism at home and abroad against the priest, some even suggested the abolishment of the prefix "Father" when addressing him.

Following the incident at Dong Chiem, the “Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics”, born in 1975, has just been hastily revived after years in ‘coma’.

It almost collapsed two years ago. In November 2008, after so many adjournments, its fifth meeting scheduled in 2005, took place in Hanoi on Nov. 19-20. One week prior to the meeting, a report by the state-run Vietnam News Agency stated that the fifth congress would take place “with the attendance of 425 delegates, including 145 priests.” However, at the conclusion of the congress, the number of attendees was intentionally not reported as it was only one digit figure.

Vietnam government has made urgent efforts for its revival. On the fateful date of the Dong Chiem incident, the Party appointed Fr. Phan the chief editor of the state-run “Catholics and People” magazine. A week later, a conference held in Hanoi from Jan. 13-14 to discuss urgent tasks that need to be done.

The afterward statement published on the “Catholics and People” magazine in issues 1740 and 1742, made no effort to hide the Committee’s agenda. It clearly stated that the “Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics” has tasked by the Party to “approach closely shepherds in the Vietnamese Catholic Hierarchy” and “report in a timely fashion to the Party, the government, and the Fatherland Front any issues” in order to build a better “collaborative atmosphere.”

A new Web site has been born hastily to “educate” Catholics on the Party’s policies. The site has angered Catholics with its smearing campaign against bishops, priests, religious and faithful who have involved in disputes against the government.

Fr. Phan also demanded that the Committee must be “an incorporated entity in the life of the Church”. So far, bishops have considered it a political movement outside the Church.

At the end of its first congress in December 1976, “patriotic priests” made no effort to hide its tasks: establish a Catholic Church loyal to the Party, not to the Pope. In the "Mass" to conclude the congress, the prayer for the Pope was intentionally ignored. The Committee has also used its “Catholics and People” magazine to attack Vatican, Pope John Paul II, in particular.

Facing their fierce attacks against the Church, a number of bishops have threatened disciplines against priests who participate in the Committee. However, so far no disciplinary action has been reported, probably due to the promise of The Party to unleash "a storm of grave consequences" upon prelates who dare to do so.

Thus, 35 years after the Communists takeover of South Vietnam, Redemptorists may be the first ones inside the country who dare to publicly condemn the Committee in order to defend the Church.