Pope Benedict XVI is visiting the USA this April where the Catholic Church has been hurting very lately, especially from pedophile sexual abuse suits against the clergy. The problem has put Rome under pressure to explain the future of the priesthood, and its canonical vows to clergy celibacy, seen largely as the cause of the sex scandals.
Under the cool of the pontifical diplomacy in the USA, however, a revolution greater than the Lutheran reformation of 1517 is brewing within the Church.
A married Archbishop excommunicated for marrying and for attempting to ordain four married Catholic priests as bishops in the United States, is taking the world Catholic establishment by storm.
The former head of the Catholic Church in Zambia, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, launched his autobiography Confessions of an excommunicated Man in Rome in January, saying his "marriage is a calling from God’ and that "the Roman Catholic doctrine that calls for celibacy as a requirement for priesthood has no Biblical support whatsoever."
Milingo may have been excommunicated by the Vatican, but he is taking back his defiance to Rome. His mission: To help other deprived priests to enjoy the bliss of married life while serving the Catholic Church.
Born in Zambia and ordained Archbishop at the early age of 39, Mlingo was always the enigma of Catholicism especially because of his special healing powers. For this, he was rebuked and put on a mental leash in Rome.
When in the 1990s he met the members of the all-accommodating religious movement of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, he found acceptance and something more exciting; marriage.
Mlingo’s marriage to a Korean spinster Maria Sung with the blessing of Sun Myung Moon became by far the single most serious threat to the Catholic tradition of celibacy for priests and a rallying point for fellow priests unable to openly demand for it.
In 2002 Bishop Mlingo was virtually incarcerated by the Vatican, held incommunicado while Maria Sung held vigil and fasting outside the Vatican, demanding for her husband. Milingo was to later denounce his marriage to Maria Sung using the denunciation as a ploy to get out of the clutches of the Vatican. He was later to surface in New York with his wife where he founded ‘Married Priests now!,’ a married priests’ movement. Stung by the recalcitrance, the Vatican excommunicated him.
Married Priests now!’ comes at an opportune time in Catholic history. The church has in the past decade been dogged by costly gay sex scandals that have resulted in legal challenges and compensations that have sometimes threatened to bankrupt dioceses, even in cash-rich America. It is estimated that the Catholic Church has paid $2 billion in damages and out-of-court settlements in the last 50 years or so. There were 691 new accusations in 2007 alone, according to an annual report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Marriage is certainly on the table to solve the sin of the catholic clergy. The agony of Rome is probably not so much because of this sort of salvation but the messiah who brings it; Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon and wife Hak Ja Hak Moon.
Reverend Moon and his wife have openly declared themselves Messiah, the returned Christ. They have also broken their own record in the Guinness Book of records for having married the most people at a single event. Last year in New York, they launched a project to have a parallel Abel-type U.N that would be constituted by representatives of religions and leaders of conscience. The Vatican does not recognize Reverend Moon nor does it endorse his movement.
The Moons teach that the dividing line between heaven and hell is how morally people use their sex organs. Bishop Milingo seems to have enjoyed his lesson extremely well and he has chosen to use his sexual endowment before he sees his Maker, the reason he and wife participated at such an event in 2001, thereby endorsing Moon’s cause.
Milingo, however, insists he has not left the Catholic Church and his movement is not a schism, but instead wants to bring back other married priests to a clergy-depleted Catholic Church. There is an estimated 150,000 such priests who have gone underground after getting married.
He contends there is space for married clergy in the church and no one is going to stop him and others sympathetic to his cause to occupy it. His organization ‘Married priests now!’ to help him achieve this goal is being embraced by many priests. Pope Benedict XVI’s promise to weed out pedophile priests will only hand Bishop Mlingo more recruits for his ‘Married Priests Now’ movement.
If the Vatican fights this popular movement they will be faced with more and more rebellion and possible alienation from millions of their faithful especially in Africa who disparage gay sex and instead support the idea of married priests. On the other hand, if they accept it, they will plunge into uncharted waters and have to endorse the marriage traditions of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Mlingo’s mentor.
If ever Bishop Mlingo is to pull off his stunt of making priests enjoy married life in the cassock, he will have to convince fellow bishops and other priests that a life of bums and bambinos may after all be the turn they missed on the road to the Kingdom of Heaven.