Archbishop Milingo, 76, first grabbed international attention when he was publicly married to Maria Sung in 2001 by cultic sect leader, Sun Myung Moon, in spite of the ordination promises Milingo made to live a life of celibacy and obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Four months later, after a personal appeal from Pope John Paul II, the archbishop renounced his attempted union to Sung and apologized for causing scandal. Milingo was setup with housing for his retirement, but earlier this year suddenly fled Rome. This past July he reappeared in the United States to announce his renewed plan to change Church rules on celibacy through protest.
Milingo and his renounced wife Sung have now joined forces with other vocal Catholic dissenters to form, “Married Priests Now!” This week Milingo attempted to boost membership in his club by inviting married, former Catholic priests and their wives to a convention in Saddle Brook, NJ.
Archbishop Myers, in whose archdiocese the event is taking place, says Milingo has again broken the Church’s trust.
“His actions fly in the face of what we all believed was an honest reconciliation with Pope John Paul II several years ago and certainly will cause much distress to all who understand that his actions are contrary to the teaching and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church,” Myers said in a statement. “That he has again chosen not to honor his word and his ordination promises is most unfortunate.”
Archbishop Myers recalled the Church’s long held teaching and practice concerning celibacy. “Those of us who answer the call to Holy Orders in the Latin Rite Church give ourselves entirely to God,” he said.
Though the Church’s stance on priestly celibacy is a “discipline” which could someday be changed (unlike its teaching on the ordination of women), the Church maintains that celibacy has a profoundly positive impact and is not something that an individual priest or bishop can decide to forgo.
“Chaste celibacy … permits the priest to dedicate himself completely to a new life of service. It is a gift to God, the Church and her people, freely given,” he explained.
Archbishop Milingo said Sunday that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, has demanded that he send a letter of repentance by Oct. 15 to Pope Benedict XVI or face "canonical suspension," reported The Associated Press.
"Your behavior, activities and public statements during these past few months are completely contrary to the obligation of every bishop," Cardinal Re reportedly wrote in the letter, reported the AP. "In the name of Jesus Christ, I beg you to reflect seriously on your behavior and all its consequences."
Archbishop Myers, echoed the Cardinal’s words, saying that prayer would be his resort, “I can only pray that Archbishop Milingo will soon rediscover the core of his own priestly promise of celibacy, and work then to undo the confusion and sorrow he is causing with his current actions.”
Archbishop John Myers of Newark said he was “greatly saddened by the recent words and actions” of a retired African archbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, who has burst back into the media spotlight. Milingo, who broke his own ordination promises as well as personal promises he made to Pope John Paul II, is holding a convention for married priests this week in the middle of the Archdiocese of Newark.