Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Friday, June 26, 2009

The insordescence of Abp. Milingo demands response

Insordescence. It's not a likable word. It's not a likable thing. But Abp. Milingo is insordescent. And he needs to be dealt with.

Suspended in 2006 when he resumed cohabiting with his wife from a Moonie wedding, and excommunicated about the same time when he ordained some married men in America to the episcopate, Milingo's latest affront to the Church is to ordain to the episcopate sine mandato yet another married man, this time in Kenya, one of the Church's brightest spots in Africa.

In the old days (that is, before codified law), they had a term for an excommunicate who passed one (nb: one) year without seeking reconciliation: Insordescence, a status that made one (especially clerics) liable to heightened penalties. See
Taunton, Law of the Church (1906) at 371. For clergy, these penalties were more or less along the lines of what we would today call "dismissal from the clerical state".

Though mentioned just once the Pio-Benedictine Code (see 1917 CIC 2340 and Pistocchi's Lexicon at 83), and not used at all in the Johanno-Pauline Code, the basic concept of insordescence nevertheless survives, I suggest, in such norms as 1983 CIC 1326.1.1: "A judge can punish the following more gravely than the law or precept has established: a person who after a condemnation or after the declaration of a penalty continues so to offend that from the circumstances the obstinate ill will of the person can prudently be inferred". Other norms reinforce this canon, but this one should suffice to get the ball rolling.

For three years (not just for one that triggered insordescence), Milingo has shown nothing but obstinate ill will. Thus, an additional penalty, one designed to address the scandal that he has given the faith community around the world and the chronic abuse he extends toward his holy state, is called for: namely, the expiatory penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

And yes, I recognize the possibility that Milingo is mentally disordered; I think that, in accord with
1983 CIC 1323 and 1324, he should be allowed to raise that defense at his trial. But, at his trial. Speaking of trials, only the pope can put a bishop on trial (1983 CIC 1405.1.3), a rule that helps popes protect bishops from facing canonical prosecution from those below them; but it also means that if Rome does not act in this case, nothing will get done.

The Lugo case showed (those who needed convincing) that wolves in shepherd's clothing can petition for and be returned to the lay state. Milingo, whose acting out is as bad and in some ways worse than Lugo's, shows no interest in surrendering his clerical status; Rome should remove him from that distinguished state for our sake, if not theirs.

Some related posts: Catholic Culture News Briefs, and my

07 Sep 2008, Honk if you've had it with Milingo
24 Apr 2008, Rome's four options in regard to Bp. Fernando Lugo
25 Sep 2006, This time Milingo made it easy (two same-day installments)
19 Sep 2006, More on the Milingo mess