WASHINGTON -- If God gives someone the power to cast out demons, it stands to reason that the exorcist will be able to tell the difference between spirit possession and other problems, a controversial religious leader told United Press International.
"Any exorcist inspired by the Holy Spirit is not going to chase any devil when there is no devil," Emmanuel Milingo said during a wide-ranging interview in New York City Tuesday afternoon.
"We are able to discern if God is with us."
But Father C. John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, disagrees. "That's absurd," he said in a telephone interview. Asked whether it's possible that Milingo has a gift, he said: "That's something I don't know, and he doesn't know."
He likened Milingo to "some notorious Pentecostal evangelical minister" who "blows people down on stage by the dozens."
Based on Milingo's disobedience to church authority, McCloskey believes the Zambian archbishop does not have a special gift.
In 1969 Pope Paul VI consecrated Milingo bishop of the Archdioceses of Lusaka, capital of Zambia. On April 3, 1973, by his account, Milingo discovered -- almost by chance -- that he was blessed with the charisma of healing.
"As I obeyed God as his instrument, countless miracles took place," Milingo said.
In 1982, however, the Vatican ordered Milingo to return to Rome, where he endured 14 months of enforced isolation before he was allowed to meet with Pope John Paul II. He said that during this time he was subjected to four sessions of hostile questioning by a church commission. His interrogators denied that his was a gift from God and accused the archbishop of practicing the dark arts of superstition he had learned from his "witch doctor's" family.
Milingo's answer, then and now, was reference to the scriptural admonitions to know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:44).
On August 6, 1983, the semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported that Pope John Paul II had "accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Lusaka." At the same time, the pope named Milingo as his "special delegate" for the Vatican agency that coordinated pastoral care for refugees, immigrants and gypsies. In 1999, he was quietly removed from that post.
During his years in Italy, Milingo continued to practice faith healing and exorcisms in various parts of the country. These activities were not always well received by local bishops.
"Some of the bishops can't stand exorcism -- can't stand any mention of the devil. Bishops!" Milingo said incredulously.
But administrative matters might also come into play. Church rules state that bishops designate one official exorcist per diocese, and the identity of that priest -- who comes under the bishop's authority -- is not revealed lightly.
Scripturally, however, Milingo seems to be on solid ground. Matthew Chapter 10 enjoins the 12 apostles and 72 disciples to go heal the people and cast out devils, Milingo said.
On April 1, 1996, Catholic World News reported that Milan's Cardinal Carlo Martini had asked Milingo, in a private letter, to stay out of his diocese. Milingo told reporters he would comply with that request. In 1999, the Vatican limited the use of exorcism, revising its guidelines on the subject for the first time since 1614. Many speculated at the time that Milingo and his charismatic style had prompted that revision.
In November 2000, the pope's chief of doctrine, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, signed an order banning exorcisms and healings during the celebration of Mass. This February the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeffrey Fleishman reported that Milingo, 71, was celebrating Masses "in villas and fields," laying hands on the sick and praying for the removal of such diseases as cancer and AIDS. A congregant told Fleishman that Milingo recently had cast out a devil from her friend.
The archbishop now has made what could be his final break from the Vatican but not, he insists, from the Roman Catholic Church. On May 17 in New York City, he married Maria Sung, 43, a South Korean doctor of acupuncture. Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly known as the Unification Church), officiated at the wedding of some 60 couples.
UPI is owned by News World Communications, a company established by Rev. Moon.
The policy of priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church is not doctrinal but the result of an administrative decision. For more than 1,000 years, priests were allowed to marry. And, of course, St. Peter, the first pope, was married.
During the past 40 years, the church has released many priests from their vows of celibacy. Those priests relinquish their clerical duties and go on to marry. But bishops, who have the power to ordain priests, are another matter.
Milingo asked why, after his decades of service to the church, the Vatican could not bless his decision to marry.
According to Catholic doctrine, the ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony are the bride and groom, not the officiating priest. But McCloskey said it also is doctrine that the church witnesses a Catholic marriage.
The priest said that one of the main reasons Milingo has been excommunicated is that any Catholic who "attempts marriage outside of the church does not contract marriage."
Milingo told UPI that he doesn't believe in excommunication. "All of the conditions of being a Roman Catholic are fulfilled in me," he said. He added that the church has never found fault in any of his 22 books.
Milingo, too, believes that a proper marriage must be witnessed and approved because it is "a social sacrament." He noted that his parents in Africa had been married according to "customary law" under the supervision of tribal elders.
In a prepared statement, Milingo wrote: "I have asked Father and Mother (Mrs.) Moon to arrange and consecrate my marriage because of my respect for the special anointing that God has given them for the building of God-centered marriages and families." The archbishop told UPI that he had not broken his vow of celibacy because it "had served its purpose" and "marriage is the law of nature." He said, "At 71, I have realized the importance of marriage and its value before God in the transmission of love." Asked if he and Sung saw babies in their future, he replied that they hope for children. In 1996, Milingo made a controversial statement to the effect that Satanists were at work in the Vatican. He softened that position Tuesday but called attention to changes made to the sacraments since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965. "Aren't you protecting the devil," he asked, when "the formula of baptism is no longer as it was before" and priests are no longer ordained exorcists? McCloskey confirmed that the exorcism function performed at baptism has been removed "in a formal sense, because you don't need it. The very definition of what baptism is (is) you're casting the devil out of the child." McCloskey said that the practice was a liturgical "accretion" the church had picked up along the way. Until Vatican II, exorcism was considered one of the four minor orders of the Western Church. All priests were made exorcists as part of their ordination process. Moreover, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the early church did not confine the practice to clerics but even to "the simplest and rudest of the faithful." McCloskey made the same point, but said exorcism is a very serious business that can involve not only moral problems but also physical danger. The ordination of all priests as exorcists was another "accretion," he said. He said the sub-orders were never regarded as sacraments, but rather "sacramentals that were attached to becoming a deacon." Milingo told UPI, "When we speak of exorcism, we are considering the Devil as a parasite." He said that he might work with American Pentecostals and other denominations that do a lot of exorcism. The former prelate said that Pope John Paul II always has been gentle, kind and interested in his work. Those close to the pontiff give him false information and most of the time make decisions "according to themselves" under a misinterpretation of the principle of co-responsibility.
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