My Dear Brothers and sisters,
I, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, find myself having embarked upon an unexpected journey along an untraveled path. As surprising as the steps that God has led me to take may be, what is even more amazing is the great concern and anguish many have expressed concerning my fate and future. But I ask those who have loved and prayed for me, that your tears of sorrow be turned instead into tears of joy. I am indeed the happiest and most blessed of men, for God has heard my cry, and answered my prayer.
My story is simple. As a boy tending cattle in my native Africa, God called me to His service, and drew me to the bosom of my Mother, the Catholic Church. I served her with sincerity, and sought to love God by loving people. In 1974, God gave me a gift, and commissioned me as the Lord had commissioned His disciples: to heal the sick, cast out devils, and preach the gospel [Luke 9:2]. I offered my gift to my church and her flock. Many people eagerly responded, receiving this spiritual gift from God. But my church rejected it, and tried her best to bind and restrict me.
It was not only me who was impugned. When we Africans expressed our love for Jesus through our own cultural forms, just as Europeans had long done through theirs, the church leaders grew to mistrust me. Rome seemed unable to conceive that these spiritual gifts in its young African church could indeed be from God. They called me a "witch doctor," and branded the people's response as "voodoo." I was scandalized with false charges and wild rumors, and though each was disproved one-by-one, I was exiled to Rome. They feared I would only be trouble in Africa. They were sure I wanted to be the "African messiah," and projected their own arrogance and lust for power upon me. Then, as now, I have no concern for position or power, but only seek to do the will of God.
When I finally met the Holy Father, after 14 months in limbo, he encouraged my charisma and promised to protect it. But lo and behold, as I held mass and healing services in Europe, the same powerful phenomena occurred. This time, however, it was not the African church, but Italians, Spaniards, and people of many lands who responded. While the people received these gifts with humble gratitude, and I thanked God for His goodness, the powers that be could only see me as a problem and a threat. I was banned from saying mass in churches, blocked from meeting the Holy Father, and finally bound and restricted such as to put me on the shelf.
Even while the church that I love treated me as a stranger, exiling me and ultimately placing shackles upon my ministry, I never raised a hand against her. I loved her all the more, and tried my best to exorcise not only the devils at work amongst the people, but those entrenched in the highest places as well. But the more God used me and the more people responded, the more my own church opposed me, and punished any who would assist me. Finally, blocked from ministry and removed from my duties, it seemed I had nowhere to go but back to my village. But still, the command of Jesus resounded within me: "...heal the sick... cast out devils... preach the gospel." What was I to do?
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has become scandalized by immorality. Celibacy, once a vital part of the church's spiritual purity and power, has become a fašade. Secret affairs and marriages, illegitimate children, rampant homosexuality, pedophilia and illicit sex have riddled the priesthood to the extent that the UN Commission on Human Rights has investigated the church for sexual abuse, and the western media is filled with stories of lawsuits and scandals surrounding the church. From such hypocrisy, how can priests be the sanctifiers of the community? Christ is mocked, the devil laughs, and the church is powerless to overcome the onslaught of divorce, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases that plague society. In my own native Zambia, the death rate is more than 4 times the birth rate due to AIDS. From where shall healing come? The church's charade must end; immorality must be purified; we must be honest.
And so I married - not for mere personal satisfaction, not out of weakness or temptation, not secretly or shamefully, but in front of God and the world. The Lord has shown me the true purpose of marriage, as the very reason He created man and woman [Matthew 19:4]. Sanctified, faithful, monogamous marriage is not a step down from my vow of celibacy... it has raised it to a new level of fidelity. It is now time for the church to take the same step. Men and women who are committed and faithful, parents who nurture and provide a moral example, loving homes where God is present and children are valued: these are the answer to the problems of the church and the problems of society.
As a faithful Catholic who continues to pray the rosary and say mass daily, I still love the Catholic Church with all my heart. I am fully aware that my marriage as a bishop of the church is difficult for many to understand. The Vatican publicly warned that my actions had alienated me from the church. But I have been made a stranger and an exile long before this. They asked me to reflect, said they were waiting to hear from me, and promised to speak with me privately before any public sanction [ZENIT, May 28, 2001]. Although I remained in prayer and seclusion for 40 days following my marriage, I wrote to the Holy Father three times asking to meet with him to find my place in the church that I love. I remained celibate during this period, to consecrate my marriage and wait upon his response. I provided fax and phone numbers, and a mailing address, but received no response. Though I have confirmed that at least one of these letters was received and acknowledged, the Vatican has remained stubbornly silent. My friends close to the Holy Father have assured me that none of my letters were ever given to the Pope, and those around him have indicated they have no intention to do so.
Now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a warning and an ultimatum. They falsely claim to have determined that I could not be contacted, though they ignored my letters, and never once asked ANY of my former staff, my lawyer or others whom they have dealt with regularly, how to find me. I have reached out in good faith, but they have broken their promise, and issued a public canonical admonition. And so I must answer them publicly. I am ready to reflect together with them on the meaning of my actions. It is they who left me no place in the church that I love, long before this dramatic moment. But I now ask openly for what they have privately denied me for years: an audience with the Holy Father, whom I love and respect.
Their admonition includes the threat of excommunication, if I do not meet three demands by August 20, 2001. In warning me, they arrogantly refuse to consider any of the issues that I have raised, or reflect upon what God may be saying to them. They simply demand that I:
How can I now leave my wife, whom God gave to me, with whom I have now begun conjugal life, and to whom I have pledged fidelity before Him. Genesis 1:27 says that the image of God is male and female. But for 43 years as a celibate priest, despite my sincerity and devotion, 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. As a married person, I feel complete, and I understand what it means for two to become one flesh. Only now I understand Genesis 5:2, which says: "Male and female He created them. He blessed them and gave them the name 'man' when they were created."
When Jesus said that two are to become one flesh, the Lord conveyed the sacredness of sexual union. In the center of sex, the physical union of man and woman in marriage, God is present as the third person. He is the bond, and three become one, a reflection of the Holy Trinity. Through this holy union God, the creator of humankind, transmits His love to the whole human race. In a fallen world that has defiled the purity of love, the Catholic Church has protected it through celibacy and chastity during its 2000-year providence. But for what purpose, and to what end have we protected it? Now as we enter the 3rd millennium, celibacy has fulfilled its purpose, and must give way to the establishment of Godly marriage. None are better prepared to fulfill this high and holy calling than celibate priests and nuns. This can never be experienced through the illicit and unbridled passions that are now played out in secret. Only in blessed marriage, consecrated by God, can one understand the meaning of, "It is not good that man be alone, I will make him a helpmate [woman] fit for him" [Genesis 2:18].
It is the same God who has remained with me throughout persecutions and trials, who has now led me to this holy union and made it possible for me to meet His "other side," and be completed. I have not fallen down, lost my way or broken my vow. I have not watered down my chastity, but rather uplifted it by embracing it in another form. By our forty days of abstinence and continence after our marriage, we consecrated our love for God first, establishing not a mere physical union between man and woman, but rather a communion of two persons with God's participation. That is why I have no remorse for what I have done, and have no intention of retreating from it.
In the first place, I did not join Reverend Moon's church. Through the Family Federation and the American Clergy Leadership Conference I am associating with Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and other faiths. The institution we are promoting is not Reverend Moon's church, or anyone else's, for that matter. We are lifting up the first institution that God created in the Garden of Eden: the family, which is in crisis in all societies. It is a value that we all share, and a foundation of love, morality and stability that we all need. If the Vatican narrowly objects to this association, it has completely missed the spirit of reconciliation that the Holy Father has instituted. In its arrogance, it does not understand at all.
I am a Catholic through and through. Why, then, did I ask Reverend and Mrs. Moon to marry me? It is they who have shown me the meaning of marriage more deeply than anyone, such as to bring me to a deeper understanding of my own Catholic faith. In the process, they never asked me to change my religion. In fact, they have supported my Catholic ministry, and seek to provide a platform for me to finally do the work that God has asked me to do: heal the sick, cast out devils, preach the gospel. It is the Catholic Church, or some who wield power in its name, who have already discarded me like an old toy, and now like a jealous child want to possess the toy only because another seeks to play with it. Why, after placing me on a dusty shelf, are they now so interested and concerned about where I go and what I do? I was meant to do my mission in the Catholic Church... I still seek to do so. But after closing the door on my ministry and seeking to lock up my gift, why are they upset that God has opened for me another window?
Why did I ask Reverend Moon to help me find my bride? This is his gift, and his ministry. When I used my gift for the sake of helping the people I was misunderstood and perceived as a threat. When Reverend Moon uses his gift to rebuild families, it is no surprise that he is misunderstood in the same way. When I shared his ideas of the divine purpose of marriage and the sacredness of sex as a Catholic Bishop to Catholic families, many wept, reconciled, and renewed their Catholic faith. But when I acknowledge and give credit to where these teachings come from, they are suddenly condemned. I have been fighting this battle for 30 years. To claim that someone else's influence has suddenly changed me is to avoid the real issues.
The priesthood was not founded upon the "doctrine" or "discipline" of celibacy, but upon the sacraments. The priest is referred to as "Alter Christus," the "other Christ. As a representative of Christ he sanctifies the community, and like Christ lives for the sake of others. When St. Peter called us all to be obedient in all we do, he quoted Leviticus (the book of priests), saying "Be holy, because I am holy" [Leviticus 19:2].
The Sacrament of Holy Orders (the priestly sacrament) defines and determines this holiness. Celibacy as an ecclesiastical discipline was instituted in the 12th century. Prior to that, 39 Popes, and countless priests, were married. This celibacy was an expression of the sacrificial life and was meant to enhance and strengthen the sanctity of priesthood. It is an appendage, it is not the root.
Like the appendix in our abdomen; as long as it harmonizes with the whole, contributes and does no harm, it remains. But when it becomes infected, poisoning the organs and threatening the life of the body, it is removed. In this way celibacy, which has become rotten and defiled, is poisoning the sanctity of the priesthood, sapping the moral authority of the church and threatening its very life. Besides the scandals previously mentioned, more than 120,000 priests have left their clerical positions over the issue of marriage since the Second Vatican Council in 1960. More than 40 million American Catholics have left the church during that time, and even in a downsized church, more than 5,000 American dioceses are without a resident priest.
Yet the church will not acknowledge this poison of immorality, but rather covers and defends it. Desperate to maintain its position and authority, it has lost all perspective, and is ready to sacrifice the whole for the sake of the appendage. This is blindness; this is madness. If anyone is brainwashed, it is those who will protect pedophiles and rapists, cover up crimes and sweep unrighteousness and sin under the carpet for the sake of their church.
What of the poor Priest, wracked with guilt, a shell of hypocrisy now given to moral ambiguity for self-justification? That which was supposed to be the strength of his spiritual life, celibacy, has become a millstone around his neck, such as to drag him to hell. What of the dear sisters who have had babies in secret, or even abortions? What of the 120,000 married priests, who are in fact not ex-priests, but ex-clerics, having been removed from their priestly duties. They, too, love their church, but have become its bastards... its second-class citizens.
What I have done, in obedience to God, is to provide a model. By combining the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which defines the priesthood, with the Sacrament of Matrimony, we will strengthen and renew the two parts, while at the same time building a greater and stronger whole. This is what God is asking at the end of 2000 years of the Catholic faith. As we enter the third millennium, the church's ability to respond to God's providence will determine its usefulness to His plan and its destiny in His will.
Countless times in the history of our mother, the Catholic Church, a stiff-necked, blind, and even corrupt leadership were unable to hear God's call, and God chose unexpected voices to cleanse and renew it: St. Francis of Assisi, St Joan of Arc, and more. At times the church opposed, excommunicated, or even killed its reformers: Salvanarolo, etc. Too many times the church has been unaware of the historical time and the providential moment, only to be embarrassed later, as with Galileo, Martin Luther, and others. This is precisely such a moment.
Once again I ask my friends, supporters, and brothers and sisters in Christ: do not fret or cry for me or my future, for I am truly in the midst of God's grace, blessing and guidance. After nearly 30 years of struggle and suffering, He is showing me the way. I desperately pray that the work he has given me can be fulfilled through the Holy Catholic Church. But that is to be decided by others, not by me. In any case, I now know that He has not forsaken me, and that He will use me as He intended.
Let us pray, rather, for the future and fate of the Catholic Church, which God has deeply loved and patiently laboured for through centuries. Its fate will not be determined by its financial or political might, nor even its doctrinal authority, for the law of love encompasses all the law and all the prophets, and is greater than canon law. It is love, humility, faith, and purity that will determine whether the church responds to the voice of tradition and worldly power, or the voice of God. That will determine whether the church will be the moral and spiritual leader in establishing the Kingdom of God, or will cling, like the Pharisees of old, to its laws and traditions, and stand in opposition to the will of God.