Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Milingo Returns: The Sung Remains the Same

Appearing at a Washington press conference this morning after a week-long disappearance which puzzled the Vatican and gripped the Italian press, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo kickstarted his "independent Charismatic ministry" to reconcile married priests to the church, in concert with the breakaway African American Catholic Congregation (AACC).

In a conversation with Whispers, AACC head Archbishop George Stallings confirmed reports already circulating in Rome that Milingo intends to return to Maria Sung, the Korean acupuncturist he married in 2001 at a ceremony of the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification church. Milingo repeated earlier today that he has always considered Sung his wife, from whom, according to reports, he "would not be separated until death."

From Washington, Milingo will embark on a six-month speaking tour of the United States organized by the AACC. Below is the full-text of his statement at this morning's event at the National Press Club:

Ladies and Gentlemen…

We are dealing with a very serious matter that has affected the Catholic Church for many years. In the last 35 years since the International Catholic Synod of Bishops in 1971, the struggles surrounding celibacy have worsened. If in 1971, the church listened to the appeals of Bishops to offer celibacy as an option to those who would bind themselves to it for their entire lives, but let those called to be ordained priests, yet married, to fulfill their calling, then today we would not be harvesting straw instead of divine graces.

The seriousness of the matter was emphasized once again when the US Bishops raised the issue as we entered this third millennium. Once more the authorities in the Vatican waved it off, to the detriment of the church in USA and around the world.

Married priesthood has existed as early as the time of Moses, as we read in Leviticus that they were all married, the family of the High priest Aaron. Some argue that what was demanded in that priesthood was merely a legal purity. But when God demanded sanctity as a sign of being intimate with Him, this injunction of sanctity was still more applicable to priests: “Be holy, because I, your Lord, am holy.” Sanctity or holiness is the first requirement of any priesthood, married or celibate.

The Apostles ordained priests and bishops, regardless of their marital status. St. Paul ordained Timothy and consecrated him to Bishopric. He ordained the first Bishop of the Island of Malta, who was a married man. As St. Paul said to Timothy, the one condition he imposed upon a Bishop was to marry only once.

    “A Bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self controlled, decent, hospitable,, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.” (Timothy 3:2-3)

Some people will be surprised to hear of what became of Zacchaeus, the short man whom Jesus called down from a sycamore tree and then visited his house. He truly was converted with his whole family, and ended being consecrated Bishop of Caesarea Philippi. (History of the Church: Venturi).

Jesus shared fully with all his apostles, both married and non-married, all that was required to be an Apostle. He did not show favoritism to any of them. Even as He gave them responsibilities, He looked to each one’s capacity, and relied on each of them. The question of celibacy was not His preoccupation. I think that the demands presented by St. Paul to a candidate to Bishopric are more than sufficient for the life of a Bishop. Looking back to priesthood from which rank a Bishop comes the same demands are applied to the priesthood.

We hereby appeal to those Bishops who have been sent to the monasteries, condemned forever, never to appear any more to their faithful. Let them come out of their Catholic prisons and be reinstated, taking once more their pastoral responsibility among the married priests. Please let us know where you are, be in contact with us.

To those priests who may feel that by marrying they have stepped down or fallen short, unleash your burden of humiliation, exclusivity, and shame. Come among your fellow “sinners,” so considered, who were to be branded, and to be forgotten forever as weaklings. Come in, but never come with lamentations. Your burden has been loaded off, you come light, released from any weight of sinfulness. Become a Magdalene, a Paul, a Peter or Augustine, or one of the many others who never looked back to their struggling past. They all became outstanding saints, in spite of their former weaknesses.

To our beloved “Mother Church,” we beseech you to open your arms to these prodigal children who have longed to return home and have so much to offer. There is no more important healing than the reconciliation of 150,000 married priests with the Mother Church, and the healing of a Church in crisis through the renewing of marriage and family. The Church has nothing to lose by allowing priests the option to marry. Historically, out of holy marriages have come priests, popes, saints, and loving servants of God and the Church.

It is out of our love for our Faith and deep concern for its future that we proclaim this day, the end of mandatory celibacy, and the option for priests to sanctify the family as it was intended in the Garden of Eden, even as they fulfill their calling and ordination.

More details to follow.