They finally got around to it: Milingo dismissed from the clerical state

In the "It’s About Time" folder, comes this news from VIS about the dismissal of Emmanuel Milingo from the clerical state:

For a number of years the Church has followed with great concern the difficulties caused by the regrettable conduct of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. Many attempts have been made to bring Archbishop Milingo back into communion with the Catholic Church, including the consideration of suitable ways to enable him to exercise the episcopal ministry. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were directly involved in those efforts and both Popes personally followed the case of Archbishop Milingo in a spirit of paternal solicitude.

In the course of this unhappy series of events, Archbishop Milingo became irregular in 2001 as a result of his attempt to marry Mrs. Maria Sung, and incurred the medicinal penalty of suspension (cf. Canons 1044 § 1, n. 3; 1394 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law). Thereafter, he headed certain groups calling for the abolition of clerical celibacy and gave numerous interviews to the media in open disobedience to the repeated interventions of the Holy See, creating serious upset and scandal among the faithful. Then, on 24 September 2006 in Washington, Archbishop Milingo ordained four Bishops without pontifical mandate.

By so doing, he incurred the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae (Canon 1382) which was declared by the Holy See on 26 September 2006 and is still in force today. Sadly, Archbishop Milingo has shown no sign of the desired repentance with a view to returning to full communion with the Supreme Pontiff and the other members of the College of Bishops. Rather, he has persisted in the unlawful exercise of acts belonging to the episcopal office, committing new crimes against the unity of Holy Church. Specifically, in recent months Archbishop Milingo has proceeded to several other episcopal ordinations.

The commission of these grave crimes, which has recently been established, is to be considered as proof of the persistent contumacy of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. The Holy See has therefore been obliged to impose upon him the further penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

According to Canon 292 of the Code of Canon Law, the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state, now added to the grave penalty of excommunication, has the following effects: loss of the rights and duties attached to the clerical state, except for the obligation of celibacy; prohibition of the exercise of any ministry, except as provided for by Canon 976 of the Code of Canon Law in those cases involving danger of death; loss of all offices and functions and of all delegated power, as well as prohibition of the use of clerical attire. Consequently, the participation of the faithful in any future celebrations organized by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is to be considered unlawful.

It must be pointed out that the dismissal of a Bishop from the clerical state is most extraordinary. The Holy See has felt obliged to act in this way due to the serious consequences for ecclesial communion resulting from repeated episcopal consecrations carried out without pontifical mandate; nevertheless, the Church hopes that Archbishop Milingo will see the error of his ways.

As for those recently ordained by Archbishop Milingo, the Church’s discipline in imposing the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who receive episcopal consecration without pontifical mandate is well-known. While expressing hope for their conversion, the Church reaffirms what was declared on 26 September 2006, namely that she does not recognize these ordinations, nor does she intend to recognize them, or any subsequent ordinations based on them, in the future. Hence the canonical status of the supposed bishops remains as it was prior to the ordination conferred by Archbishop Milingo.

At this moment, as the Church experiences profound sorrow for the grave acts perpetrated by Archbishop Milingo, she entrusts to the power of prayer the repentance of the guilty party and of all those who – be they priests or lay faithful – have in any way cooperated with him by acting against the unity of Christ’s Church.


You might remember the WDTPRS official parodohymnist gave us a song about Milingo some time ago:

It is to the tune of the famous song in The Sound of Music:

How do you solve a problem like Milingo

He sneaks around and can’t be found,
Until he’s on TV…
He takes a Moonie for a wife,
Embracing heresy;
And underneath his mitre,
Seems his lost his sanity.
I heard him once professing Docetism.

He’s always breaking canons
But his penitence is real
He’s always late for everything
Except for every meal
I hate to have to say it
But I very firmly feel
Milingo’s even worse than Charlie Curran!

I’d like to say a word in his behalf
(then say it, Sr. Margaretta)
Milingo makes me… laugh.

How do you solve a problem like Milingo?
How do you make a bishop keep in line?
How do you find a word that means Milingo?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

If bishops are dogs, Emmanuel is a dingo Which even a German Shepherd couldn’t tame.
So how do you make him stay
And shut up for just one day?
How do you keep a crosier from his hand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Milingo?
How do you keep a Moonie’s feet on land?

When I’m with him I’m distressed
Things he blesses don’t seem blessed
And you never know what stunt he’s pulling next He’s defiant as M. Luther Wacky as Rosemary Reuther He’s a bishop! He’s a nutcase! He’s a wreck!

He’s a Gnostic without Gnoss
Like a crosier sans a cross
He could make a Trappist hermit scream out loud He is funny, he wild Pray his wife is not with child!
He’s a headache, he’s amusing
He’s a looooooon

How do you solve a problem like Milingo?
How do you make a bishop keep in line?
How do you find a word that means Milingo?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you’d like to tell him:
Celibacy’s not just a papal whim
So how do you make him stay
And shut up for just one day?
How do you keep a crosier from his hand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Milingo?
How do you keep a Moonie’s feet on land?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ipadre says:

    How very sad! I pray for the poor soul. Being called to to the fullness of Holy Orders and walking out on your bride, the Church. God have mercy on him. I only pray he is truly off his rocker, or he has a massive conversion and enters a life of penance until death.

  2. Ralph says:

    Could he be possessed by a demon? I read that he did a lot of exorcism in his youth. Perhaps one got into him. Very sad.

  3. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Cardinal Re met with the pope recently at least once. It’s always interesting when one looks at these announcements and then think about what the audiences have been over the last week or two.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Maybe this will make him see the error of his ways and repent…there is always hope.

    Good parody song, though!

  5. ssoldie says:

    Milingo has free will and has made choices, just as all of us. He has left (what he once must have believed) was the true way to eternal life with God, he has given grave scandal. He has put his soul in jeopardy. But it was his choice. God help him.

  6. frival says:

    I can only echo ipadre’s comments. May God have mercy on his soul and lead him back.

  7. Oneros says:

    Well, a very sad turn events all around.

    It is odd that heretical bishops have free rein, pedophiles are moved from parish to parish or simply put in “retirement”…but threaten the Church’s Institutional aspect (ordain bishops without permission, question celibacy, take property, etc)…and bam, THEN they get you.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m trying to figure out why this took so long. It should have happened at least 10 years ago.

    Perhaps they waited in hopes of preventing him from going off and starting a new line of extra-Roman Catholic apostolic succession. But it’s far too late for that. He’s been ordaining married men for about 3 years now as pseudo-bishops and priests and has been involved in “extra-Catholic ministry” for at least as long.

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    Somebody in the SSPX says one adjective with the wrong tone of voice and people jump all over him; meanwhile Mr. Milingo is out doing God only knows what with the Moonies, trying to marry a Korean woman, running around with Rev Stallings, and ordaining married pseudo-bishops with complete impunity and nothing is done for years. Is it because he can start a heretic apostolic line, or is it because he’s African, or just what is it? I don’t get it.

  10. “[The Church] does not recognize these ordinations, nor does she intend to recognize them, or any subsequent ordinations based on them, in the future. Hence the canonical status of the supposed bishops remains as it was prior to the ordination conferred by Archbishop Milingo.”

    What is meant by “does not recognize”? Were these ordinations INVALID or only ILLICIT? I just want to make sure I know what’s what.

  11. merrydelval says:

    not to trying to be obnoxious, but is it true that he was among the first crop of bishops ordained by Pope Paul VI using the new rite of episcopal ordination? I’m just saying . . .

  12. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    The laicization of a bishop is a *very* rare event. I’m happy to be corrected on this, but the only other case I know of was the one last year when Fernando Lugo’s request for laicization was granted so he could become President of Paraguay. Even scoundrels and avowed atheists like Talleyrand were never laicized.

    As to Jeffrey Pinyan’s question, an ordination is either valid or invalid. (These ordinations were certainly illicit, hence the excommunication latae sententiae.) I think the Church’s position in not recognizing the Milingo-line ordinations is that there is sufficient doubt as to sacramental intention (both of the bishop and the ordinand) that the presumption is invalidity. Like any presumption, I suppose it could yield to convincing evidence to the contrarary.

  13. Dave N. says:

    I’m wondering the same thing as Catholicmidwest: Why does this take so long? Trying to reconcile the bp. to the Church is a worthy cause, but simply allowing him to remain in his office, continuing to make a mess of things??? Something is very wrong with this picture.

  14. chonak says:

    He didn’t remain in office: he was forced into retirement; later he was suspended, and eventually excommunicated, and now dismissed.

  15. Catherine says:

    Actually, the song lyrics fit with “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” Same movie, different song.

  16. Thomas S says:

    What is it about SSPX sympathies that leads to such impaired judgment?

    Explain to me how suspension, excommunication, and laicization all in the course of 8 years is “nothing being done.” My God, it’s like a five-year-old saying, “But he started it. He did it first.”

    Enough. You should be greatful the Holy Father has taken the time to reconcile Milingo before acting so severely. It’s the same desire for unity that has given the often-ungrateful and disrespectful SSPX a lifeline to the Church.

  17. catholicmidwest says:


    Are you trying to tell me he retired to his recliner with a cup of coffee for 3 years? I can assure you, he didn’t.

    Thomas S,
    I’m not an SSPX follower. I’m not even particularly a trad. But the contrast to the treatment of those on the right is so striking that anyone with eyes can see it clearly. There is a double standard as big as a whale here.

  18. Thomas S says:

    I never said you were a member of the SSPX. But where is the double standard against the SSPX? Milingo was laicized for God’s sake. Was Archbishop Lefebvre?

    If you’re looking to rush to the defense of “trads” and accuse the Holy Father of using a double standard then the Milingo case is a rather poor jumping off point.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    Deacon Nathan Allen,

    Based on a discussion in another thread on what constitutes a presumption of validity/invalidity and what a presumption of validity/invalidity might look like, I don’t believe that it can be said that the situation is as cut & dried as you say.

    If there was at least one concrete statement contrary to the “intention of the church,” then perhaps one could claim invalidity. Perhaps this is what the statement by the Vatican means. I’m not sure why they didn’t come right out and say it, if this is the case, however. [Maybe they did and I missed it, but then we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?]

    In the absence of that concrete statement, I’m not so sure. See the conversation on botched liturgies in this blog. And of course, the problem still remains of ascertaining what exactly is the “intention of the church,” which has been in some degree of confusion for the last 50 years or so.

    [BTW, the other thread is about the assumption of validity that is made when one is in doubt about the validity of a mass. It is said that the presumption, when the possiblity of a presumption exists (ie. no direct statements invalidating the mass have been made), is for validity. There are some rather famous quotations for this stance, actually. I won’t repeat. See that thread.]

  20. dcs says:

    What this means is that assuming the bishops consecrated by Milingo were validly consecrated, the Church will never recognize their orders: they will never be permitted to exercise them in the Church. It’s not that they aren’t bishops, they are; but their status is similar to that of a bishop who has been laicized.

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    Yeah, but that won’t stop them if they are in an alternate “church” structure and want to claim that they have apostolic succession. This sort of thing goes on all the time in independent “catholic” churches.

    There are hundreds of these things too, all stemming from a few lines originating in errant churchmen–Utrecht and all that. If you hear that so-and-so woman priest was ordained by so-and-so bishop with apostolic credentials,this is generally what’s meant.

  22. I believe Ronald Knox’s “Enthusiasm” gives the key to this whole entire mess.
    The ordination of a bishop does not necessarily mean that he remains faithful. The graces that God gives are certainly present; as well with the priestly or diaconal ordinations, that is true. But the Evil One can and does infiltrate even the highest echelons of the Church.
    Our Lady of Akita spoke of this; I believe her prophecy is happening all around us.
    It is a matter of prayer and penance, as well as discernment. God is faithful. Unfortunately, we frail human beings are not.

  23. New Sister says:

    Loud laughter! :o)

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