Post Magazine: A Marriage Made in Heaven?
Monday, March 12, 2007; 12:00 PM
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo left the Vatican for an arranged marriage, abandoned his bride to return to the church, reunited with his wife and was excommunicated. Who set this strange saga in motion?
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Peter Manseau, who wrote
Peter Manseau: Hello all -- Thank you for your interest in my article, "The Milingo Affair: A Marriage Made in Heaven?" I'm excited to be involved in this forum and I welcome your questions and comments.
Central Virginia: Hello! That was an interesting article, but I notice that you didn't mention Moon's peculiar "crowning" ceremony in the White House a couple of years ago. Not that it has a direct tie to the marriage of this . . . rather unusual bishop, but don't you think it would have added illumination to Moon's folie de grandeur?
And I was also wondering, why did you choose not to point out that Moon owns the Washington Times? Again, no direct tie to the marriage, but definitely an item I thought would have added to the depth of the article. Or was it length that had your editor concerned?
Peter Manseau: Thanks for your comment; I'm glad you found the article interesting. As was probably the case for a lot of people, my first exposure to news about Rev. Moon was the 2004 "crowning" you mention, so I wanted to be sure to mention it, if briefly, in the article. You might have missed the one reference I make to it (toward the end, in the description of the 2nd Married Priests Now conference), because the crowning did not take place in the White House but at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Several of the people who appear in the article took part, as did a number of Congressmen who later wished they had not.
The crowning ceremony was technically a reception sponsored by the Washington Times, which brings me to the second part of your question: Moon's ownership of the paper. I didn't mention it because it seems to me that many readers are aware of the connection. I could be wrong on that front, however, so thank you for raising the issue. It is certainly worth noting.
Mt St Joseph High School, Baltimore Maryland: An excellent story. Thank you for writing the piece. The story reminded me alot of Washington's own Rev Stallings, who left the church to form Imani Temple. Are you familiar with him?
Peter Manseau: Yes, I am familiar with Reverend Stallings and his Imani Temple on Capitol Hill. For readers who don't know the name, Stallings is a well known clergyman in DC. A former Roman Catholic priest, he had a falling out with the Washington diocese and the larger church a number of years ago, when he started what he called his "African American Catholic Congregation." Like Milingo, he has received (and has acknowledged) support from organizations associated with Moon. Also like Milingo, he was "matched" with a wife by Moon and had his marriage blessed in a Unification ceremony in 2001. The two men work together now as part of Milingo's new organization Married Priests Now.
Alexandria, Va: Archbishop Milingo's association with Rev. Moon can be seen as tacit support, not only for priests being allowed to marry, but Rev. Moon's positions on other controversial topics, as well. For example, Rev. Moon has been accused of being homophobic and recently there have been a number of articles - the Nation, Southern Poverty Law Center - exposing Rev Moon's newspaper, the Washington Times, as being racist and staffed with white supremacists. Did Mr. Manseau discuss any of this with Archbishop Milingo and if so, what was his response?
Peter Manseau: Thank you for your comment; it raises some interesting issues. I wouldn't overstate the extent to which Archbishop Milingo supports, or is even aware of, Moon's positions on a variety of topics. Milingo told me that they do not discuss such things. On the occasions on which they have spoken in person (there do not seem to have been too many, only handful), the two spoke of, as Milingo put it, "the high things" -- that is, they seem to have kept their conversations on a spiritual level, perhaps leading to a certain vagueness about other matters. I have not read the articles you mention about the Washington Times, though of course I am aware of various accusations made about Moon and his followers. As for what Milingo knows of this, I could not say; though I have found that the Unificationists I have met and interviewed (who are the same Milingo interacts with most) have not displayed any sign of racist attitudes. As for the homophobia, that is a different story. From what I can tell, Unificationist and Catholic thought is, unfortunately, uniform in its oppostion to homosexuality. So on that front, Milingo as an (until recently) conservative Catholic would feel at home.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Where there any indication of what the religious transformation was that led a Catholic priest to essential change his religious theological beliefs?
Peter Manseau: A good question. The interesting thing about Milingo is that he asserts (and I for the most believe his assertion) that his theology has not changed. Celibacy is a discipline of the Roman Catholic Church; it is not a dogma. Leaving aside the question as to whether the discipline should be changed, it could be changed very easily. The number of exceptions to the rule confirm this: Already certain married men are allowed to be Catholic priests, while others are not. For Milingo, marriage did not represent a change of belief but a change of practice. As I explain in the article, the reasons he saw this change of practice necessary are complex and include the influence of members of another church, but after talking to the man, I remain convinced the steadfastness with which he asserts his Catholicism is sincere. He has made statements that cast doubt on this, but the whole I believe him when he says he has kept the faith.
Chevy Chase, Md: Mr. Manseau:
I wanted to point out an error in your article about former Roman Catholic Archbishop Milingo that appeared in the Washington Post yesterday.
On page 18, you say: "As far as the Vatican is concerned, the only men who can legitimately call themselves "married Catholic priests" are the relatively few former Protestant ministers who were already married when they converted to Catholicism and were ordained."
I wanted to point out that this statement is incorrect. Priests of the Eastern Rite, who are in union with Rome, may marry, provided the marriage takes place prior to ordination. I want to be clear I am not talking about Eastern Orthodox, but rather, Catholic priests of eastern rites, such as the Ruthenian or Ukrainian Catholic Church. Around 1910, the Vatican issued a decree (Ea Semper) that said that Catholic priests of the Eastern Rite working in the United States must be celibate. This caused some uproar among "Greek Catholics" as they were called, so much so, that some of them renounced their fidelity to Rome and joined the Orthodox Church. A number remained however. Some Eastern Rite Catholic Bishops have tried to revive the practice of married priests in the United States with some success.
You can find more information here:
Peter Manseau: Thank you, Stephen, for the important clarification. I am aware of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church and should have mentioned it. For readers unfamiliar with these terms: most often when we speak about the "Catholic Church", we are speaking about the Roman, or Western, version of Catholicism. Within the global church that submits to the authority of the pope (as the "Bishop of Rome") are a number of other types of Catholicism, including Byzantine, Melchite, and Ukranian. I must admit that often when I write about these issues I err on the side of saying less than more, for fear of further confusing an already complex set of institutions and relationships. This is surely a remant f my own upbringing as a French-Irish Catholic for whom the only Catholicism was Roman, and I apologize for not making clear that it is specifically Roman Catholic priests I was writing about. Thanks again for the correction.
Washington, DC: Milingo is correct - in that it is not biblical for the Catholic Church to have a celibacy vow. He seems to not have let the conservatism of the Catholic Church stear him into some excesses such as racism and adhering to this unbiblical idea of the celibacy vow. I am aware that he has forged forces with Reverand Stallings - in his crusade for priests to marry. Is this a type of panafricanism? However, my question is - why is it that so many Africans, Zambians in particular, can be found in these very conservative Christian Churches like the Adventist and Catholic Churches? The Adventists posit themselves as at odds biblically with the Catholic Church - however, they are similar in so many ways: For example, while the Catholic Church is the richest Church in the world, the Adventist Church is the 2nd Richest in the world; secondly both Churches are run by an overarching centralized world body rather than being comprised of independent Churches; this world body is not very democratized racially or gender wise in terms of its leadership - but is dominated by white males. Thirdly, the composition of both denominations - tends to consist of very conservative persons from White Western Nations, and from Developing Nations - who support conservative politics, even if these politics oppress certain groups such as persons of color, i. e. black Americans. I note particulary, that in the Case of Zambia - that an Editor of a Big Private Daily in Zambia, a reknown Catholic, allowed one of his Journalists - who was also a Catholic - to refer to the ancestors of black Americans as "Monkeys" taken to the West by Colonialists. This tribalist sentiment found resonance throughout Zambia, and even Zambian Adventists were bandying about this racial slur about.
Why is it that some in Developing Nations are attracted to this type of spirituality where whites lead, and where racism against blacks is tolerated?
Peter Manseau: A very interesting question. Thank you. I'd be out of my league answering broadly about religion in Africa, but your comments do raise an angle on the Milingo story I hope came through in the piece: At the time of his elevation to bishop in Zambia, Milingo was the lone African among the bishops in his country. In his rise and eventual fall, there was certainly an element of the shifting of authority from the missionary clergy who were lingering powers of colonial days to religious leaders who had been born and raised in the country. The fact that he was accused of "Africanizing" the rituals of the church was not incidental to all that followed; he represented the changing face of the church, which was frightening to many from the European model of church leadership.
Alexandria, Va: I probably won't be the only person to ask this question but doesn't Rev. Moon own or partially own the Washington Times? I'm wondering if it was attractive to publish this story because of that connection?
Peter Manseau: Yes, I have heard this question a few times. Moon's ownership of the Washington Times had nothing to do with the writing or publication of this story, which is another reason I didn't mention it. One Unificationist I spoke to was surprised however when he heard I was writing for the Post. He said, "How did a nice guy like you end up writing for the Washington Post?" His opinion was that I should write for a more "righteous" paper, such as, he said, the Washington Times.
Bethesda, Md: I attended a lecture by a priests a few years ago who was lamenting the shortage of priests, and the emptying of the seminaries. It dawned upon me immediately that the solution was to allow priests to get married. I have a Dutch priest friend who got married. So many are married now. It is strange that if you are a convert from the Lutheran or Episcopal Church you can stay married. It is a confusing policy, and was not with the RCC from the beginning. I think the idea of allowing "Married Priests Now" is an idea whose time has come (again).
It doesn't bother me in the slightest that Rev. Moon is involved. We got to break down all walls of religious prejudice and division. For Archbishop Melingo to embrace people of different faiths for the sake of moving to the next level, as he sees fit, and also according to revelations he received about where he believes the directions from God are coming from and are headed towards, is a good thing.
I am all in favor of all faiths working together.
Thanks for the very interesting article. It was long, and yet so well written, that it was also very short.
Peter Manseau: Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree with what you say, though it bears mentioning that though I was raised Catholic, I am not practicing now, so I do not have a stake in the outcome of the issue of married priests. I do find the struggle fascinating, however, particularly the intersection of individual lives and a global institution. Whatever the outcome it is compelling to me to watch an ancient tradition come to terms with changing times.
Virginia: Thank you for your report. It was very interesting and well written. I worry that examples of clergy marriage like this that rely on theology that is so outside mainstream Christianity will set back the movement to allow priests to marry so far that it will never recover. As the son of a priest and nun, do you agree?
Peter Manseau: This is a great concern among other elements of what is sometimes called the "married priest movement." To think Milingo will do damage to this movement, however, is to forget that the movement has more or less gotten nowhere. As I stated, I have no horse in this race, but as far as the advocates of the married Roman Catholic priesthood go, I think ultimately any press is good press.
Washington, D.C.: As a non-Catholic Christian, I am appalled at the union between Milingo and Moon due to Moon's elevation of himself as a "savior," and his other inflammatory statements that directly contradict the tenets of the Christian faith (i.e., Jesus having died before he went to the cross). How in the world does Milingo reconcile his obvious financial dependence on Moon, and being willing to compromise on the basic tenets of the Christian faith?
Thank you in advance!
Peter Manseau: As I stated above, I don't believe Milingo has truly changed the tenets of his faith. In some ways it seems his relationship with Moon is mainly pragmatic: a 76 year old man who has left the only life he has ever known needs a safety net; furthermore, if that man sees himself as a religious leader with something to offer the world, he needs resources. I don't think Milingo gives much thought to Moon's messianic claims; it is very easy to reconcile yourself to something you don't bother to think about.
Washington DC: General comment: Like the Nowak case, I have a feeling that what we may be seeing here is the manifestations of mental illness being treated as something for inappropriate discussion by the press and the public. Did you consider this angle before deciding to do the story?
Peter Manseau: If you're asking if I believe Milingo is mentally ill, I certainly do not. There has been a lot of that type of discussion about his case and I think it is misplaced. Also keep in mind, with regards to the Nowak comparison, Milingo has hurt no one and had no intention to do so. The man simply married; despite the complications, and the unorthodox way it came about, we should remember that it is in fact a very normal thing to do.
Silver Spring Md: The Crowning Ceremony on Capital Hill in the Dirksen Senate Office building was not peculiar, rather it was a beautiful act of religious reconciliation. I was there and saw a good part of it, and it was a very impressive beautiful ceremony. To see protestant ministers, Catholic priests, a Jewish Rabbi, and Islamic Imam together on the same stage in a great act of reconciliation was very beautiful.
Especially when you compare it to the troubles the catholic church has faced with the pope's remarks about Islam and the firestorm that caused; and all the problems the catholic church has had with its many child sex abuse scandals. And the Episcopal church which is at war with itself over the issue of homosexual ministers and bishops, etc. etc etc.
I am Louis Johnson of Silver Spring Maryland, a Unificationist (not Moonie) and member of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, and a supporter of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Peter Manseau: Thank you for your comment. Leaving aside the question of the content of the crowning ceremony, I would suggest that it was peculiar -- if only because a religious ritual of any kind has no place in a Senate office building. This I think was what was so troubling to so many about it. The fact that the ceremony involved Moon made it seem particularly suspect to some, but the larger question of how and why it took place where it did was far more important than who was involved, even if they were of multiple faiths.
Washington, DC: Hi, great article. I was surprised the one of your Unification contacts was raised Unitarian and converted. I was raised Unitarian and I have heard that we have a high percentage of kids who turned to cults. Did you find any of that kinds of trend?
Peter Manseau: Hello and thanks for your question, which is very intriguing to me. I have not heard that Unificationist children have turned to cults, though it must be a very interesting experience for their parents, who of course were accused of just the same thing. In general the Unificationists I've met have been savvy and knowledgable about what the term "cult" means and why it is used. Having come from many different faiths -- former Catholics and Jews are also very common -- Unificationists seem more aware than most that religious identity can be more fluid than is sometimes supposed.
Atlanta, Ga: How does the priest reconcile Rev. Moon's view of reincarnation -- which only entered the faith after the death of his son and an African member stating that he was Moon's reincarnated son? Certainly that is not at all similar with R. Catholicism.
Peter Manseau: I did not speak specifically with Milingo about the case you mention. (Moon's late son is believed by some to have been channeled by a young African man whom was known as "Black Moon's Son.) However, from my conversations with him I surmise that he is open to all kinds of spritual beliefs that are not found in the teachings of the church. It's also worth noting, however, that a fair amount of Catholic practice that is often refered to as "folk belief" (such as seeing the Virgin Mary in a cinnamon bun) is also not sanctioned by Rome.
Tallahassee, Fla: Did you find that the limited roles for women in both R. Catholicism and Unificationism (both promoting primarily a biological sex role only), made it easier for movement between the two faiths?
Peter Manseau: A very good question. Thanks for asking. In short (as I am out of time) I think you're right that the role of women in Unificationism was more comfortable to Milingo than a fully egalatarian approach to marriage might have been. This has caused an interesting rift among the existing Catholic reform movement Milingo hoped to join with his own. For the most part, the advocates of a married Roman Catholic priesthood also advocate full participation of women in the life of the church, including ordination. Milingo's movement is far more convervative, and thus is more in keeping with Moon and his teachings.
Peter Manseau: Thank you all for you questions and comments. I've never typed so fast in my life. If there are anymore questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info my work drop by my website: www.petermanseau.com
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.