The Words of the Milingo Family

Zambia: Archbishop Milingo's Views On Celibacy

Sikota Wina
July 18, 2006
The Post (Lusaka)
Lusaka, Zambia

As the body of Pope John Paul II layout in St. Peters and a million mourners filed past, theologians predicted that among the more immediate questions which would face the new Pope was that of clerical celibacy, amidst demands for the rule banning priests from marrying to be dropped.

And this month Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who married in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church in 2001 but later returned to the fold, appeared in Washington and held a surprise news conference announcing his intention to persuade the Vatican to allow priests to marry.

Archbishop Milingo commands a special place in the hearts of the Zambian people. Born 13 June, 1930 in a village in Chief Mpezeni's area in the Eastern Province, he came from a Catholic family and herded cattle in his childhood.

He went to a Presbytery school at St. Mary's in Chipata, then to Casina Dedsa in Malawi and was finally ordained as a priest in 1958 and posted to Minga Mission. He was later to advance his studies at uiversities in Italy and Ireland, rising to the position of Archbishop of Lusaka in 1969.

Then one night in 1973 as he prayed, he heard a voice telling him to go and preach the gospel and pray for the sick. Thus began the healing sessions which he always conducted during the celebration of Mass.

Besides faith healing and exorcism sessions, he admits having stubbornly formed a habit of including elements more connected to the local Zambian traditional culture in the liturgical celebrations, a development that the Catholic Church at the time was not pleased with.

He started to introduce drumming and dancing during Mass for the offertory procession and translated most parts of Mass, including music, into local languages.

Other priests within his diocese started writing protest letters to Rome and fearing that he might cause a split in the Church, he was whisked of to Rome where he encountered the same problem as he was practically forbidden to celebrate Mass of healing all over Italy. He remained progressively isolated and ridiculed by many within the Church.

From there onwards, the story takes a dramatic turn with one thing leading to another. According to the Archbishop, he came into contact with the Unification Church in 1990 where he was allowed to conduct faith healing sessions which drew large crowds in Rome.

And he says it was at this stage that Reverend Moon assured him that if the Catholic Church did not accept him, they would accommodate him and through them continue his mission to preach the word of God. But as time went on and for the Moonies to guarantee his place to carry out his mission, the Archbishop was told that he must marry.

So on May 27, 2001 Archbishop Milingo married Maria Sung "out of emotion" as he was to claim later. "When marrying I did not do it out of affection or emotion. It was because I was to be given a place to preach and teach the word of God," he said. "My reasoning was that if this was the only way through which I had to preach, I had to take it."

They left for a honeymoon to South Korea and returned to live together in New York. Three months after the marriage, the couple were scheduled to visit Zambia to meet his relatives but before they could fly to Zambia, they needed to pay a courtesy call on the Holy Father in the Vatican.

According to Maria Sung, they landed in Rome on August 6 accompanied by their bodyguard whom they sent on an errand at the airport. But he took long to return so the Archbishop had to follow after him but he too never returned.

The next thing she saw on television that evening was the Archbishop reading out a letter intended for her in which he said the marriage was over and that from now on he would regard her as his sister.

The Church sent the Archbishop to Argentina for a retreat for prayers and reflection at the end of which he would return to Rome. = When it was over, Archbishop Milingo visited Zambia for reconciliation with Zambia's Catholic Church, and was received by thousands at a mammoth Mass for him when Catholics from all corners of the country thronged the Kabwata Parish to celebrate the reconciliation Mass for the man.

He told the crowds that he never had any intentions of marrying Maria Sung but it happened and the Lord had shown him how far he could go if left alone but had brought him back to the church.

"I received a light that is so strong and I am not guilty about this thing with Maria Sung. From the day the Pope said to me "In the name of Jesus come back to the Catholic Church" I knew that God himself had forgiven me, regardless of all this nonsense that has been said."

The Archbishop Milingo story could have ended there, but for his escape to Washington where he held a news conference announcing his intention to carry out a crusade to persuade the Vatican to allow priests to marry.

This forces us to go back to a defiant full page article published in The Post, August 8, 2001, in which the Archbishop explained his intricate life including his views on healing and the justification of his marriage to Maria Sung in which he quoted extensively from the scriptures to prove that God had made man and woman for purposes of marriage. The following is what he said:

"In 1974 God gave me a gift and commanded me as the Lord had commissioned His disciples to heal the sick, cast out devils and preach the gospel. I offered my gift to my Church and her flock but my Church rejected it and tried her best to bind me.

When Africans expressed our love for Jesus through our own cultural forms just as Europeans had long done through theirs, the Church leaders grew to mistrust me. Rome seemed unable to conceive that these spiritual gifts in its young African church could indeed be from God. They called me a witchdoctor and branded the peoples' response as "voodoo". They feared I would only be trouble in Africa and so they exiled me to Rome.

"Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has become scandalized by immorality. Celibacy, once a vital part of the church's spiritual purity and power, has become a facade. Secret affairs and marriages, illegitimate children, rampant homosexuality, pedophilia and illicit sex have riddled the priesthood to the extent that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has investigated the church for sexual abuse, and the Western media is filled with stories of lawsuits and scandals surrounding the church.

From such hypocrisy, how can priests be the sanctifiers of the community? Christ is mocked, the devil laughs and the church is powerless to overcome the onslaught of divorce, adultery and sexually transmitted diseases that plague society.

"And so I married not for mere personal satisfaction, not out of weakness or temptation, not secretly or shamefully, but in front of God and the world. The Lord has shown me the true purpose of marriage as the very reason He created man and woman.

Sanctified, faithful, monogamous marriage is not a step down from my vow of celibacy. It has raised it to a new level of fidelity. It is now time for the Church to take the same step. Men and women who are committed and faithful, parents who nurture and provide a moral example, loving homes where God is present and children are valued. These are the answers to the problems of the church and the problems of society.

"The Church's admonition includes the threat of excommunication if I do not meet three demands by August 20, 2001. In warning me, they arrogantly refuse to consider any of the issues that I have raised, or reflect upon what God may be saying to them.

They simply demand that I separate from my wife Maria Sung; disassociate with Reverend Moon and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification and declare fidelity to the doctrine and Ecclesiastical discipline of celibacy. .

On celibacy the Archbishop stated: "The Priesthood was not founded upon the doctrine or discipline of celibacy but upon sacraments. As a representative of Christ, the priest sanctifies the community and like Christ lives for the sake of others. When St. Peter called us all to be obedient in all we do, he quoted Leviticus (the book of Priests) saying "Be holy, because I am holy." Celibacy as an ecclesiastical discipline was instituted in the 12th Century. Prior to that, 39 Popes and countless priests were married.

"Thus celibacy was an expression of the sacrificial life and was meant to enhance and strengthen the sanctity of Priesthood. It is an appendage, it is not a root. Like the appendix in our abdomen, as long as it harmonizes with the whole, contributes and does not harm, it remains. But when it becomes infected, poisoning the organs and threatening the life of the body, it is removed.

In this way, celibacy which has become rotten and defiled is poisoning the sanctity of the priesthood, sapping the moral authority of the church and threatening its very life.

"Besides several scandals, more than 120,000 priests have left their Clerical positions over the issue of marriage since the Second Vatican Council in 1960. More than 40 million American Catholics have left the church during that time and even in a downsized church, more than 5,000 American diocese are without a resident priest."

He knew the criticisms leveled at him but justified every step he had taken: "what I have done, therefore, is in obedience to God and to provide a model. By combining the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which defines the priesthood, with the sacrament of matrimony, we will strengthen and renew the two parts while at the same time building a greater and stronger whole.

"So, I find myself having embarked upon an unexpected journey along an untravelled path. As surprising as the steps that God has led me to take may be, what is even more amazing is the great concern and anguish many have expressed concerning my fate and future.

But I ask those who have loved and prayed for me that your tears of sorrow be turned instead into tears of joy. I am indeed the happiest and most blessed of men, for God has heard my cry and answered my prayer."

One skeptic cynically referred to the above as Archbishop Milingo's Withenberg address, a reference to the thesis by Dr. Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) of the Reformation who in his address to the diet among other things defended his writings against the religious practices of the Roman Catholic Church as he saw it then.

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