WASHINGTON -- Roman Catholic archbishop Emmanuel Milingo responded to the Vatican's threat of excommunication over his recent marriage by saying Wednesday that through his wife he had come to see "the other side of God's heart" and that the Catholic church should abandon its requirement of celibacy for priests.
"How can I now leave my wife?" Milingo asked. At a news conference in Washington, Milingo said he has begun conjugal life with Korean acupuncturist Maria Sung, to whom he was wedded in May by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
On June 17, the Vatican had issued a Public Canonical Admonition stating, "Should Archbishop Milingo not formally act by August 20, 2001, to fulfill what is required of him, excommunication reserved to the Holy See will be imposed."
According to the Rev. John Beal, a canon lawyer, this particular type of punishment can be lifted only by the pope. The admonition was signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican's congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
Calling himself still "a faithful Catholic who continues to pray the rosary and say mass every day," Milingo went on to say, "For 43 years as a celibate priest ... I only knew God as a male. Now, through my union with Maria, I have come to see the other side of God's heart, which is female."
He told his audience that "sanctified, faithful, monogamous marriage is not a step down from celibacy ... it has raised it to a new level of fidelity. It is now time for the church to take the same step."
Milingo accused the Vatican of playing a charade.
"Celibacy has become a façade, secret affairs and marriages, raping of nuns, illegitimate children, rampant homosexuality, pedophilia and illicit sex have riddled the priesthood. Christ is mocked, the devil laughs."
The archbishop reminded his audience that since the Second Vatican Council in 1960, some 120,000 priests had married and become "ex-clerics."
"They have become bastards ... (the church's) second-class citizens," Milingo said.
"What I have done, in obedience to God, is to provide a model," he said. "By combining the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which defines the priesthood, with the Sacrament of Matrimony, we will strengthen and renew its two parts."
The Vatican has also asked Milingo to disassociate himself from Moon and his Family Federation for World Peace & Unification. But the prelate insisted, "I did not join Reverend Moon's church." He said he was "a Catholic through and through."
But when a journalist asked Milingo about the charge by traditionalist Christians that Moon committed blasphemy by suggesting that Jesus was a failed Messiah, Milingo replied, "Death was forced on Jesus ... He was killed before he could finish realizing his plans."
The Rev. Levy Dougherty, a Pentecostal minister and executive director of the American Church Leadership Conference, denied the charge that Moon called himself Christ.
"He witnesses to Christ," continued Dougherty, whose group, which has links to Moon's Unification Church, organized the press conference in Washington.
"Moon believes in multiple messiahs, and that he is one of them. Messiah means 'anointed,' and that's not the same as Christ," he told a reporter.
The title, Christ, derives from the Greek work "Christos," meaning the Anointed One, as does Messiah, which is of Hebrew origin.
Milingo's consecration as archbishop is "ad aeternam," for eternity. Theoretically he could start his own denomination by ordaining men who would then be priests even in the Vatican's eyes, though not in communion with the Catholic Church.
"Do you think you might do that if the Vatican excommunicates you?" he was asked.
"I don't want to make a division," Milingo replied.
Why did he ask Moon, then, to find him a bride?
"This is his gift and his ministry," the archbishop said. "The Reverend Moon uses this gift to rebuild families."
"We are lifting up the first institution that God created in the Garden of Eden: the family which is in crisis in all societies," Milingo said. "It is a value we all share ... If the Vatican narrowly objects to this association, it has completely missed the spirit of reconciliation the Holy Father has instituted.
"In its arrogance it does not understand at all."
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