Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Monday, September 25, 2006

This time, Milingo made it easy (two same-day installments)

Installment I. By ordaining to the episcopate, without a pontifical mandate, four men (who happen to be married, though that is not required here), the notorious Abp. Milingo has just walked right into an unambiguous excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See (1983 CIC 1382). The only canonical question I can see is whether notification of an excommunication can be sent via email.

Oddly, though, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington says "this means nothing in the Church." I wish that were so. This stunt is not like a woman's "ordination", which in one regard "means nothing" in the Church. This ordination most definitely means several things: it means the episcopal orders Christ entrusted to His Church have just been conferred on four patently ill-disposed men; it means five men are now automatically excommunicated; and it means Rome is squarely faced with a grave violation of ecclesiastical order.

I'll talk about it tomorrow with
WDEO's Al Kresta, at 4 pm Eastern. More background from Catholic World News. Another news source: Baltimore Sun.

Installment II. Well, very interesting, we seem to have a split in the news sources on a relevant point. Some print sources refer to Milingo
ordaining bishops, others to his installing bishops. If it was the latter, and if that act did not include ordaining them (one website, which I know little about, would seem to support that interpretation) then Milingo would not be in violation of Canon 1382, as I argued above, though he likely would be at risk of canonical penalties for, among other things, abuse of ecclesiastical power (1983 CIC 1389), communicatio in sacris (1983 CIC 1365), and/or violations of canon law not expressly treated elsewhere (1983 CIC 1399). My thanks to a brother canonist for alerting me to the inconsistent news reports; now let's see what might turn up over the next few days.

Update, Sept. 26:
Jimmy Akin offers valuable commentary, and suggests that ordaining bishops without pontifical mandate should itself be recognized as an act of schism under 1983 CIC 751.

Update, Sept. 26: The Holy See regards the activities of Abp. Milingo as grounds for excommunication, and has declared him such.
Press Release (Italian). Amy Welborn has an unofficial English translation. Here is the VIS version. There is some very interesting language herein, including: 1) the Holy See has repeatedly, but unsuccesfully, tried to contact Milingo; and 2) the Holy See does not intend to recognize these ordinations, this a remark sure to provoke canonical and theological discussion. For now at least, it seems that whatever Milingo actually did on Sept. 24 was either an ordination, an attempted or pseudo-ordination, or is otherwise being viewed as an equivalent act subject to censure under 1983 CIC 1382.

An observation: in the
post-conciliar reform of canon law, criminal law or sanctions was cut to the barest of bones. Since then, many canonists have noted that the canonical descriptions of many crimes seem too narrow to encompass within their strict terms (per 1983 CIC 18) the variations with which actual offenders commit their deeds. While the facts on Milingo are being sorted out, keep alert to the possiblity that, as the living organism which it is, canon law is expanding, in its terms or interpretations, before our eyes to help the Church confront better the multiform duplicities of human behavoir. See also some brief I made over at Amy Welborn's main post.

A final note: The Zenit article from this evening (Code: ZE06092606) leaves little doubt but that Holy See saw in Milingo's actions at the least a pseudo-ordination of men who claimed to have already been (illicitly) ordained to the episcopate (making Milingo's action sacrilegious, to boot, per 1983 CIC 845.1), and that the excommunication under 1983 CIC 1382 followed. This argues for a wider interpretation of the penal norm than one would have suspected a few days ago; I think, for the reasons I offered above, it makes sense.

Update October 4: I will be writing about this case for the
Our Sunday Visitor newsweekly.

Update October 15: The article has just appeared as "Why archbishop's action brought excommunication" in Our Sunday Visitor (22 October 2006) p. 3.

Update November 14: VATICAN CITY, NOV 14, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy See Press office released the following communique late yesterday afternoon: "The Holy Father has called a meeting of the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, for Thursday, November 16, in order to examine the situation that has arisen following the disobedience of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, and to reflect upon requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and requests for readmission to the priestly ministry, presented by married priests over the course of recent years. No other matters are scheduled on the order of the day." VIS 061114 (110)