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Big News: The Archbishop and the Moonie?

Have you heard the one about the Archbishop and the Moonie?

By Dave Crampton

Its not very often a Catholic archbishop marries a woman he has never met. Come to think of it, Catholic clergy aren’t supposed to marry at all, as they should be celibate. Then again, Catholics are supposed to get married in a Catholic Church, presided over by a priest. Normally that marriage is to another Catholic, and neither party should have been divorced.

However, if you’re the 71-year-old Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, you can break all the rules and get married by the Rev Sun Myung Moon to a 43-year- old Korean in a mass Moonie wedding – but don’t expect to stay in the clergy. Rev Moon is the leader of the Unification Church, otherwise known as the Moonies. He is also the same age as the Pope. He hand-picked the bride for the Archbishop, and the wedding took place this week.

When the Vatican found out about the wedding, all hell broke loose. The church is having enough problems with gay priests in sexual relationships, let alone with a God-ordained but Vatican–despised marriage. Disbelief turned to mortification, which in turn resulted in another ex-communicated Catholic clergyman as the Vatican found Milingo guilty of apostasy, or renouncing his faith. Catholic clergy are required to resign from the clergy before marrying. But Milingo wanted to prove a point, and put God and love ahead of the rules of the church. In any case the Archbishop was excommunicated not because of his new marital status, nor for breaking his celibacy vows, but because he married a Moonie from a “heretic” church. That’s what Vatican observers told The Times this week. What crap! I betcha he would have been excommunicated even if he married a Catholic – but not if he had raped a nun in Africa.

Funnily enough, an ex-communicated Catholic priest now living in Washington was also among the 60 couples in the mass wedding. Bishop George Stallings was ex-communicated in 1990 for founding a breakaway African American Catholic Church, which he currently leads. He married a Japanese women less than half his age. He wanted a Japanese women as they are “gentle and take care of the kids”. He said she was a woman of few words - and if she stayed that way through the marriage he would be a happy man. Sounds to me like a bit of a control freak. Maybe she didn’t know much English.

Anyway, the Vatican considers the Moonies are heretical but Milingo says Moons teachings are “totally based on the Bible”. But Moonies believe their leader’s teaching that the second Messiah was born in Korea around 1920 (well, he would say that, wouldn’t he – Rev Moon was born in Korea about 81 years ago – a self-proclaimed second Messiah perhaps?). They also believe that the “Lord of the Second Advent” will appear at the end of time with his wife to complete the redemption begun by Jesus.

The Zambian Archbishop sounds like a groovy guy. He says he still wants to be a Catholic, but would rather choose Gods love than restrictions of the Church. He has cut a CD of rap music - called “Gubudu Gubudu” a Zambian term describing a drunkards motion – and sold 12,000 copies. Fifteen years ago he was sent to Rome to do a pen-pushing job in an attempt to curtail his behaviour, mainly to do with unorthodox exorcisms and healing services. However he continued with his unauthorised healing and exorcism services in hotel rooms as he was forbidden to use churches to do so. Last November the Vatican issued strict rules on exorcism, seemingly drafted with Milingo in mind. The Vatican was concerned he was a witchdoctor. Now he is married to an acupuncturist.

So, the Vatican has lost an Archbishop who, at 39, was one of Africa’s youngest Archbishops. A bright star, you might say. These days, youth in the clergy is to be sought after – in the UK there are more Catholic priests over 90 than under 30. That’s because most young men want a relationship – or at least have sex. Celibacy prohibits that.

This whole sorry saga brings to light the differences between how the clergy view marriage and relationships, and how God does. After all, marriage appeared to be Gods idea, and clergy were not excluded. “It is not good for man to be alone,” God says in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. “Except if you are part of the Catholic clergy,” replies the mother of all churches. But God had the idea that a man would be married to a woman, become “one flesh” and procreate. These days some sections of the church are stuffing up that notion by blessing same-sex relationships, and conducting weddings in The Netherlands where same-sex marriage is legal.

Mind you, two lesbians got married this week in India in a Hindu ceremony. The news came out today. Some residents are in a state of shock and their landlord is so disgusted he kicked them out of their home. It is an illegal gay marriage, which needs the approval of the registry office. They have refused to grant that approval.

And in Australia, the Anglican primate, Dr Peter Carnley, suggested this month that the church may be able to bless gay friendships, saying the church might prefer to bless a lifelong commitment simply as “an acceptable form of human friendship, without inquiring into private matters”. But he didn’t say that most friendships don’t involve sex – after all, Jesus had lots of friends but he didn’t have sex with them. Sex is usually limited to relationships, marriages – and unfortunately also to rape and prostitution, the latter often destroying both marriages and relationships.

But as far as the rest of the clergy in Australia, and God, is concerned, sex is to be within marriage. Period. However a recent survey by the Evangelical Alliance in the UK revealed that a third of their young Christians consider pre-marital sex perfectly normal and permissible – and they are getting it. Church leaders are surprised and horrified. They shouldn’t be. They should get real and realise kids are having sex whether they like it or not.

It is not only the Catholic Church who has rules on marriage. Up to recently, Salvation Army officers had to marry Salvation Army officers until the laws were relaxed this month in an attempt to draw more officers. Maybe the Catholic Church should relax their priestly celibacy rules in attempt to draw more (straight) priests?
For now, the 71-year –old former Archbishop can finally relax his celibacy vows after 43 years. He plans to start a family.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist, in addition to writing for Scoop he is the Australasian correspondent for He can be contacted at

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