Catholic World News News Feature

African prelate consecrates married bishops, causing new schism September 25, 2006

Defying a warning from the Vatican, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has ordained four married men as bishops, causing a new split within the Catholic Church.

By ordaining bishops without the approval of the Holy See, Archbishop Milingo has drawn an automatic excommunication for himself and the men he ordained.

The ordination ceremony held in Washington on September 24 was valid, although illicit. Rev. George Stallings, a suspended priest of the Washington archdiocese who was one of the four men ordained by the African archbishop, promptly announced to reporters that the four men are "validly ordained Catholic bishops."

The possibility that Archbishop Milingo would create a fresh schism in the Church by consecrating bishops had clearly troubled the Vatican. The African prelate-- who has not held a pastoral assignment since 1983, because of Roman concerns about his erratic behavior-- had recently received a letter from the Congregation for Bishops, warning that he faced imminent suspension if he continued his public campaign for acceptance of married priests.

Archbishop Milingo first caused concern at the Vatican in the 1970s, when, as a young bishop in Zambia, he began conducting "healing services" that prompted some complaints that he was acting as a "witch doctor." In 1982 he was summoned to Rome, and eventually pressured to resign as Bishop of Lusaka. Since that time he has been living in Italy, where in 1996 complaints from Italian bishops about his impromptu "healing services" in various diocese prompted a new disciplinary caution from the Vatican, instructing him not to hold services without the approval of the local bishop.

Archbishop Milingo's most spectacular departure from orthodoxy came in 2001, when he announced his adherence to the Unification Church, led by the self-proclaimed Korean messiah, Sun Myung Moon. In a mass wedding ceremony in New York, he took a Korean bride, chosen for him by Rev. Moon. In August of the same year a repentant Archbishop Milingo returned to Rome for a personal meeting with Pope John Paul II, renounced his attempted marriage, reaffirmed his Catholic faith, and disappeared for a year of reflection and prayer.

This year, after his disappearance in June, the archbishop surfaced in Washington, DC, on July 12, in the company of the self-proclaimed Archbishop Stallings, who now heads a sect known as the African-American Catholic Congregation. In an appearance with Stallings at the National Press Club, Archbishop Milingo called for an end to priestly celibacy. The African archbishop later revealed that he had returned to the Korean woman he sought to marry in 2001. He is now living near Washington, devoting his time to the campaign for married priests.