Monday, January 22, 2007

Milingo Madness for a Monday Morning

Some of you may be familiar with case of the renegade prelate, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, a deposed Zambian archbishop, who several years ago got married in a mass "Moonie" wedding to a Korean woman. After this silly and embarassing event, Pope John Paul II called on Milingo to repent and to abandon his illicit and invalid marriage, which is no marriage at all. At that time Milingo complied. So, you can see the interest in the story apart from the alliterative quality of the title.

The Canonical impediment that prevents Milingo and all in Holy Orders from licitly or validly entering into the holy state of matrimony is called a diriment impediment, which, according to Canon 1073, is an "impediment [that] renders a person unqualified to contract marriage validly". Following Canon 1078 §1, in most cases the local bishop "can dispense his own subjects residing anywhere and all actually present in his own territory from all impediments of ecclesiastical law except those whose dispensation is reserved to the Apostolic See". One diriment impediment reserved to the Holy See (i.e., the Pope himself must give the dispensation), according to Canon 1078 §2, 1/is "the impediment arising from sacred orders or from a public perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institute of pontifical right." This certainly holds true in the case of a bishop, who has the responsibility of maintaining communion with the Bishop of Rome. As Canon 375 §1 states "Bishops, who by divine institution succeed to the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance." §2 of this same Canon gets to the point of what I am getting at: "Through episcopal consecration itself, bishops receive with the function of sanctifying also the functions of teaching and governing; by their nature, however, these can only be exercised in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college."

This is true not only of bishops, but priests and deacons as well. If a deacon is to be married, he must be married prior to receiving sacred orders. Once in sacred orders, a deacon cannot remarry, even if widowed, without receiving a dispensation of the canonical diriment impediment outlined above from the Pope himself. Of course, in the case of bishops and priests of the Roman Rite, such a dispensation would never be granted, unless they had previously gone through the canonical process of being "laicized", in which case the permission is already granted. Laicization means one is no longer in the clerical state and, hence, does not enjoy episcopal or priestly faculties. However, like Baptism and Confirmation, the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to use a traditional metaphor, leaves an indelible mark. Hence, ontologically, one remains a priest, a deacon, though unable to function as one.

After abandoning his "wife" and returning to Rome, last year he left Rome once again and took up with his "wife". Later, in Baltimore, he ordained four priests who abandoned their priestly ministry to marry and had formed schismatic congregations, to the episcopate without papal mandate and formed what he calls a "Prelature" named, appropriately enough, "Married Priests Now"; in true Milingo fashion, not a lot of nuance there!

Anyway, Rocco reports this morning on An Exchange of Letters. The letter in question, dated 27 November 2006, was ordered written by the Holy Father himself in response to two letters from Milingo, it was written by, but undoubtedly personally approved by the Pontiff, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re to Milingo. The letter shows how important communio is for all Christians, but especially for someone who is a bishop.

The gravitas comes in the passage to the renegade archbishop, "you are aware that such actions will render you responsible before God loaded with such a grave sin, which will cut you away from the Church, and of course excommunication". It continues, "One day each one of us will have to render account before God for such actions which will be judged according to the truth."

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