The Milingo Affair: Re-thinking the Unification Position on Clerical Celibacy and Ecumenism

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 8, 2007 - Pages 41-60

Until recently, the Unification movement (UM) had little need to develop a thought-out position on clerical celibacy. There were two main reasons for this. First, the UM is a lay movement with no formally ordained clergy or priests. Therefore, the question of clerical celibacy had little organizational relevance. Second, given the extraordinarily high value which the movement places on marriage and family, the issue of clerical celibacy had only limited theological relevance. However, when Roman Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo participated in an Interfaith Marriage Blessing presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, the situation changed dramatically. Milingo’s struggle to remain within the Roman Catholic Church, his leadership of a new organization, Married Priests Now, and his formal excommunication garnered worldwide publicity, surfacing the issue of clerical celibacy at the highest levels of the Vatican hierarchy. The Milingo affair also surfaced the question of clerical celibacy within the UM as movement spokespersons were called upon to take positions at each stage of the controversy.

At a deeper level, the Milingo affair highlighted a tension within the UM between sectarian and ecumenical consciousness. Regarded as a margin­al, stigmatized sect for most of its history, the movement had limited access to mainline forums and its initiatives were generally met with suspicion or disdain. For its part, the UM claimed exclusive access to the “new, ultimate, final truth”[1] and knowledge of “the direction… humankind must go.”[2] The UM also was aggressively conversionistic. Yet, alongside its claim to possess superior truth, the UM harbored a desire for mainstream accep­tance. It expended significant resources in academic and inter-religious outreach, seeking to cultivate allies and establish networks of support. In these encounters, the UM maintained a stance of broad inclusiveness and disclaimed any intention of conversion. In general, the movement was able to manage this internal tension.[3] However, the UM’s sectarian and ecumenical consciousness collided in the Milingo affair. The movement was more than complicit in the archbishop breaking his priestly vow of celibacy. At the same time, the UM was at pains to affirm its respect for the Roman Catholic Church and all faiths.[4]

This type of collision was not unique to the UM. Strain between strongly held beliefs and the necessity of finding common ground with adherents of other faiths is the core problematic facing contemporary religion. Sectarian religions maintain their superior, exclusive truths at the expense of finding common ground with other faith traditions. Ecumenical religions acknowledge truths and the integrity of other faiths, sometimes at the expense of their own. Neither of these stances alone is satisfactory, and most traditions, especially those regarded as mainstream, seek ways to balance their sectarian and ecumenical inclinations.

The following three sections highlight this dynamic as it relates to the Unification movement’s encounter with Archbishop Milingo. The first elaborates the movement’s position on clerical celibacy prior to its encounter with Milingo. The second examines the Milingo affair during which tension between the UM’s sectarian and ecumenical consciousness surfaced. The third offers recommendations for re-thinking the Unification position on clerical celibacy, resolving sectarian-ecumenical tensions, and achieving mainstream acceptance in a post-Milingo context.


Unification Pre-Milingo

As noted, the UM had little need to develop a thought-out position on clerical celibacy prior to its encounter with Archbishop Milingo. Divine Principle (DP), the movement’s primary theological text, takes no position and, in fact, does not even cover the topic.[5] However, the text does present content which bears on the question. DP, for example, upholds the ideal of the God-centered family (God, husband and wife, and their offspring) as the “eternal purpose of creation” (32). It also states, “Every religion which teaches how to eliminate sin has called adultery the greatest sin, and has emphasized an ascetic life in order to prevent it” (75). However, DP’s core message or kerygma is that Christ must come again in the flesh as the “True Parent.” (218) He “will then … have all fallen men [sic.] form (by couples) substantial trinities centered upon God after having liquidated the original sin.” (218) From this perspective, asceticism and celibacy are significant only until the Lord’s second coming.

Rev. Moon developed these themes in a number of speeches in which he spoke respectfully of celibacy as a practice of the “highest” or “major” religions and described commitment to the celibate priesthood a “most noble and sacred divine task.” However, he claimed that nuns, priests and monks don’t “fully understand” why they are abstinent.[6] According to his explan­ation, “Satan planted free sex in Adam’s family.”[7] As a conse­quence, “God could not recognize anyone’s marriage” and “no one in the fallen world is truly qualified to be married.”[8] Celibate priests and nuns, he said, “remained single so they would not have any obstacles preventing them from crossing directly into God’s realm.”[9] He declared, “[T]his is the time when True Parents have come with the Blessing.”[10] Thus, “only in the Unification Church, in the name of True Parents, are we making marriage the culmination of human history.”[11] These sentiments are congruent with the DP. However, Rev. Moon took the Unification view a step further by stating,

From now on marriage is necessary in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven… If Catholic priests and nuns remain single, they will end up in hell. Now universal fortune seeks the bond of a bride and a bridegroom. Catholic priests and nuns must get married; otherwise, they will perish. The Unification Church blesses the bride and the bridegroom so they will not perish.[12]

He went so far as to say that if he “does not encourage the celibate Catholic priests and nuns to marry now, as well as the Buddhist monks in monasteries, they will very soon become an arena of free sex.”[13]

A few movement followers wrote on clerical celibacy. Jose Gonzalez Losada, in True Love and Forbidden Love (1992), agreed that priestly celibates established a “good standard” and “example of discipline and self-control.” However, he maintained,

Many of those who have the vocation to live a life of celibacy… feel intuitively that they… [are] waiting for absolute permission from God to establish a sacred and divine marriage, that could only be bestowed sometime in the future.

Consistent with the Unification understanding of the human fall, Losada noted, “human history started with illicit horizontal love.” Consistent with Unification soteriology, he claimed, “Jesus Christ could leave for posterity only a model of individual perfection” not “a real family model for all his disciples to imitate and follow.” As a consequence, the “Christian family,” while being “the appropriate and natural structure for the children and the best way to avoid immorality and promiscuity… does not represent a complete model of the restored ideal family that was lost with the fall.” This, he asserted, “is demonstrated by the fact that… even the most devout Christian couples still transmit the original sin to their descendants.” The Christian sacrament of marriage, thus, has only “a temporal and conditional validity.”[14]

All of this was standard Unificationism. However, these positions were not easy to defend in ecumenical settings. In a dialogue on “Lifestyle,” non-Unification scholars questioned the church’s theology of “salvation through marriage.” One participant declared,

It seems to me that if I were in the Unification Church, and if I decided that I valued my singleness, as many people do now, and if I felt that, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to marry, I would have to get out, if I had any integrity at all… [A]s a single person… you really can’t achieve full salvation. So you are ultimately a second class citizen within the movement…

You say that Divine Principle talks about the worth within each person, and his feeling of self-worth. How can a single person feel he has any self-worth if he doesn’t feel he needs to get married? Are there other alternatives?[15]

A Unification member present responded that he knew “three or four people who didn’t want to be married” and “wanted instead to devote their time to other things.” He said this was “quite possible” and that movement singles “don’t have to feel uncomfortable.” As he put it, “They believe that after they die, they will be matched to somebody in the spirit world.” Another adherent, in response to expressed concerns about maintaining “heterogeneity and pluralism within society,” forthrightly stated,

It is important to affirm that there is particularism in Divine Principle. It is not the case that we are attempting to relate to all concerns of all people in a pluralistic society in modernity. We are sectarian…

What is happening in the world outside? We live in a secular, radically pluralistic society. But my faith is… that eventually through God’s providence the world will become aware of our fruits—of the harmony of our marriages and of the beauty of our children. People will then see that, indeed, the Unification Church has some sort of solution. Then voluntarily those who want to come can come; and those who don’t, won’t. And God bless the latter. But it may be in the future, in the ideal world, there will be a normative pattern, a certain image of human fulfillment and that this is the perfect marriage.[16]

Although qualified and stated in less than dogmatic language, members were unwavering in the primacy, final normative status, and redemptive significance they attached to marriage within the Unification tradition.

Prior to its encounter with Archbishop Milingo, the Unification posi­tion on marriage and celibacy, priestly or otherwise, was sectarian. Specifically, it derived from the UM’s claim to possess superior, revealed truth as to the purpose of creation, the human fall, salvation through marriage, and the timing as well as the mode of Christ’s second coming. Additionally, the UM did not evidence awareness of or engagement with the exegetical, historical, theological or pastoral basis of celibacy within Christianity or other religious traditions. The movement simply relied upon its own sources of inspiration and revelatory insight.[17]

This would not have been a problem had the UM defined itself in exclusively sectarian terms. As one religious scholar noted,

[T]hat’s all right if you want to create a small community and say, we are going to realize some absolute natural law. We’re going to live in our little commune someplace in the world. We’re going to exclude all others. But I hear you saying that you are harbingers of the new age; that you propose to provide a pattern of living that is going to be good for all humankind.[18]

In terms of clerical celibacy, it was one thing to proclaim that Catholic priests and nuns must marry. It was quite another to marry a Roman Catholic archbishop in violation of his priestly vows. As noted, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo’s participation in an Interfaith Marriage Blessing presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon highlighted a tension within the UM between its sectarian and ecumenical tendencies. It also led to a highly publicized and explosive triangular affair involving the movement, Archbishop Milingo and the Roman Catholic Church.


The Milingo Affair

This section assesses the Unification position on clerical celibacy as it surfaced at various stages of the Milingo affair. To this point, the affair has included four distinct phases: 1) Archbishop Milingo’s May 2001 marriage to Maria Sung; 2) his August 2001 return to the Roman Catholic church and subsequent five-year separation from his wife; 3) Milingo’s July 2006 return to his wife and inauguration of a new organization, Married Priests Now!; and 4) his September 2006 excommuni­ca­tion from the Roman Catholic church as a result of his ordaining four married men as bishops.

The UM, under the auspices of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU)[19] was deeply enmeshed at each stage of the affair. It interacted with the archbishop, his wife, various supporters and detractors, the Roman Catholic Church, and the wider public. Despite having passed through the fire of scandal, excommunication and schism (though some dismissed it as so much silliness),[20] there was little evidence of a shift in the UM’s position. Though momentarily chastened, the movement held strongly to its conviction that priestly celibacy had run its course and that clerical celibates should marry, preferably under the blessing of the True Parents. In this respect, the UM did not utilize the Milingo affair to re-think its position or to adopt an unambiguously ecumenical posture.

Before proceeding, it is appropriate to highlight salient aspects of Archbishop Milingo’s background. Born in a poor farm village in Zambia in 1930, he was ordained in 1958, serving as a curate, then parish priest. He was secretary of mass media for the Zambia Episcopal Conference from 1966-69 when he founded the Daughters of the Redeemer. In 1969, Pope Paul VI consecrated him Bishop of Archdiocese of Lukasa, capital of Zambia, making him one of Africa’s youngest bishops. He served there from 1969-1983, founding two additional orders, the Brothers of St. John the Baptist and the Children of the Good Shepherd. In 1973, Milingo “discovered” that he was blessed with the gift of healing but ran afoul of the Vatican over his faith healing and exorcisms. His activities prompted complaints that he was acting as a “witch doctor.” He was called to Rome in 1982, pressured to resign in 1983, and became a functionary in the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples in Rome. He was prohibited from saying mass within the city limits but developed a charismatic ministry, continued public healing and exorcism, and even recorded two music albums. However, he chafed under church-imposed restrictions and became increasingly outspoken. At a “Fatima 2000” international conference in 1996, he charged that there were high-ranking Catholic clerics involved in devil worship, fornication and adultery, and accused the church of tolerating “secret affairs and marriages, broken celibacy, illegitimate children, rampant homosexuality and illicit sex.”[21]

Milingo’s initial contact with the UM is not well documented. His position with the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples may have facilitated his contact with Unification mission­aries. His frustration with the church over restrictions placed upon his ministry and his criticism of ecclesiastical sexual transgressions undoubtedly rendered him open to the movement’s position on celibacy and marriage. Milingo also gave testimony of being spiritually led to the UM.[22] In any event, Milingo’s relationship to the movement developed over several years as he participated in UM-sponsored inter-religious dialogs and conferences. He also attended International Marriage Blessings at Seoul Olympic Stadium in 1999 and 2000, appearing publicly and offering representative prayers for the couples on behalf of Catholicism.[23] In 2001, Rev. Moon challenged a diverse assortment of UM-associated faith leaders to re-dedicate their mar­riages in an “Interfaith Marriage Blessing.” It was at that time Archbishop Milingo stepped forward, unexpectedly according to Unification sources, requesting a bride.[24] Milingo married Maria Sung, a 43 year-old Korean doctor of acupuncture, in a ceremony with 60 other couples at the Cotillion Room of the Hilton Hotel in New York City, May 27, 2001.[25]

UM spokespersons viewed Milingo’s marriage as a con­firmation of its position and as an epoch-making event. Phillip Schanker, the movement’s chief public affairs officer, wrote, “Heaven truly fired a ‘shot heard round the world.’” Setting the ceremony in an eschatological context, Schanker stated,

Just as the Pentecost 2000 years ago heralded a new age centered upon Jesus and the Holy Spirit as True Parents, this new Pentecost… ushers in the era of the Kingdom of God built upon families and centered upon the substantial embodiment of the True Parent ideal… Now we must preach the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth![26]

In spite of these heady sentiments, Milingo’s marriage quickly became sharply controversial. On July 17, 2001, the Vatican issued an ultimatum demanding that Archbishop Milingo separate from Maria Sung, sever all links with the “sect,” Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, “declare publicly his fidelity to the doctrine and ecclesiastical discipline of celibacy,” and “manifest his obedience to the Supreme Pontiff by a clear and unequivocal act.” The “canonical admonition,” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded, “Should Archbishop Milingo not formally act by 20 August, 2001 to fulfill what is hereby required of him, excommunication reserved to the Holy See will be imposed.”[27]

At this point, the UM issued a more complete explanation. In a “State­ment about Msgr. Milingo,” movement spokespersons emphasized that the UM had “no malice or opposition to the Catholic Church or any church” and claimed to “understand the challenges presented by the Arch­bishop's decision to marry,” However, the movement refused to repudi­ate Milingo’s marriage, stating that its members and associates “pray for his effort to reconcile with his church while standing by his wife.”[28] On August 5, Milingo traveled to Italy for a private audience with Pope John Paul II. Separated from his wife at the Milan airport, the affair exploded into charge and counter-charge, intrigue, and betrayal, real or perceived, all trumpeted in the Italian and international press. Maria Sung, cut off from Milingo, who reportedly was in a “period of seclusion” for the purpose of effecting a “full reconciliation” with the church, began a hunger fast in protest, stating that she would continue until her husband was “free to meet me, or until I die.”[29] In late August, Milingo reaffirmed his allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. In a televised interview, he announced that he had “finalized his decision to leave his wife,” whom he now loved “as a sister.” He confirmed that in a face-to-face meeting with Maria Sung on August 29, the sixteenth day of her fast. According to Milingo, the direct involvement and advice of Pope John Paul II was decisive in helping him understand his “great responsibility as a bishop.”[30]

Maria Sung told reporters she would “respect” the archbishop’s decision. However, she stated she would “live alone” for the rest of her life, support Milingo in his mission, and be “reunited” in the afterlife. The UM also stated it would respect Milingo’s action but reaffirmed its position. In a statement, “The Marriage of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and Maria Sung, and its Outcome,” it declared,

[T]he ultimate work of all religions is the restoration of God’s ideal of the family, and… this new millennium begins an era of interreligious cooperation, centered upon the family. The Federation… has deep respect for the tradition of priestly celibacy, as it protected the purity of love throughout man’s history of sexual immorality and false love. But the solution to immorality is not to cover it, pretending it doesn’t exist, but to cleanse it through lasting love and Godly marriage. It is time, we believe, to transcend the limited traditions of all faiths, and reestablish the original tradition of God-centered families.[31]

At least one movement leader implied that the final chapter of the Milingo affair had not yet been written. In a carefully worded announcement, Michael Jenkins, President of the FFWPU in the United States, noted that Archbishop Milingo and Maria were not getting back together “at this time.” He advised members not to take their separation “at face value” and cited Rev. Moon to the effect that “God’s will is being accomplished in a very mysterious way.”[32]

Having reaffirmed its position on celibacy and left the door open for Milingo’s return, the UM moved to rehabilitate its ecumenical credentials. Schanker, in “The Marriage of Archbishop Milingo and Maria Sung, and Its Outcome,” acknowledged “misunderstandings,” even a “contradic­tion” between the FFWPU view of marriage and family and Roman Catholic orthodoxy. However, he insisted that the FFWPU “did not intend to ‘attack’ the Catholic faith or any faith in particular.” He stated that the FFWPU had received “phone calls and written testimonies from many who claimed to have been victimized by affairs with priests, illegitimate children, forced abortions, and countless other scandals” but asserted, “We made a clear and calculated decision to avoid all such scurrilous and scandalous allegations, out of respect for the dignity of the Catholic faith.” Unfortunately, this state­ment was more than a little disingenuous. Repeating canards against the Roman priesthood in press statements, even if they did not originate within the UM, could hardly be described as staking out the ecumenical high ground.[33] It also was not easily squared with internal communiqués, includ­ing one that suggested the FFWPU was “in a life and death war with a formidable, powerful enemy.”[34]

In 2002, the UM took another hit. While Milingo was in the midst of thirteen-month retreat in Argentina, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith allowed an Italian journalist to visit him. The result was a book-length interview, Emmanuel Milingo: the Fish Rescued from the Mud, in which Milingo was quoted as saying he “may have brainwashed” by the UM. The book also alleged that the FFWPU or Rev. Moon planned to set up a “parallel church” in Africa with Archbishop Milingo as its head.[35] The UM denied these allegations in a lengthy statement. Apart from refuting charges, the movement attempted to answer why the FFWPU married Archbishop Milingo, “who by his Catholic faith was pledged to celibacy.” Essentially, the statement repeated the Unification stance on marriage. The “Kingdom of God,” it stated,

will be realized not by any one church, but by recreating the ideal of the God-centered family as it was intended in the Garden of Eden, before the fall of the first ancestors. We seek to work with all religions, to renew and rebuild Godly families. We challenge all people of faith to transcend their own narrow religious viewpoints, and cooperate for this restorative and redemptive work.


The effectiveness of this was questionable. Though adopting a rhetoric of inter-religious cooperation, the FFWPU characterized its theological position as normative and others’ as “narrow.” The statement’s authors did admit that the UM’s willingness to marry an Archbishop might seem to be an “attack" However, they insisted it was “not intended this way at all. We see it as the only way to peace” According to them,

Archbishop Milingo, a faithful Catholic to his bones, saw this simple truth and sought to embrace this broad vision while maintaining his devotion to the church he has always served. When he found this to be impossible, he made the choice that both he and Reverend Moon had always understood was his priority.[36]

In effect, the statement upheld the movement’s claim to superior truth while acquiescing in Archbishop Milingo’s return to the church. In this way, it attempted to reconcile the UM’s sectarian and ecumenical leanings.

Archbishop Milingo receded from public view over the next four years only to resurface dramatically at a July 12, 2006 press conference in Washington, D.C. Having gone missing the previous month from a convent at Zagarola outside of Rome, Milingo announced that he was embarking on an “independent charismatic ministry” to reconcile married priests with the Catholic faith. “There is no more important healing,” he said, “than the reconciliation of 150,000 married priests with the Mother Church, and the healing of a Church in crisis through the renewing of marriage and family.”[37] In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Milingo said that he decided to make a “definitive break” now because he had lived through five years of “doubts and difficulties,” wondering if he had made the right choice. As he put it, “The shadow of Maria Sung always hung over me, it was very strong.” Secondly, resistance to his preaching and healing gradually became “more and more intolerable.” However, he insisted that he had “no intention of launching a new sect in Africa funded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon as a rival to Roman Catholicism.”[38]

Milingo’s actions precipitated a new and more serious round of controversy, which quickly escalated into an open rupture with the Roman Catholic Church. A Vatican official stated Milingo violated church law when he created “the so-called ‘Married Priest Now!’ association” and “celebrated mass with married clergy.” Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, described Milingo’s actions as “completely con­trary to the obligation of every bishop.” In a letter, he demanded that Milingo send a “letter of repentance” by October 15 to Pope Benedict XVI or face “canonical suspension,” which would bar Milingo from ordaining priests, leading Mass and performing other sacraments.[39] This time, Milingo said he had no intention of complying with the Vatican demand. Preempting the threat of suspension, Milingo took the irrevocable step of installing four married men as bishops on September 24, 2006.[40] Two days later, a Vatican communiqué announced that for this “public act” Archbishop Milingo and the four ordinands had incurred automatic excommunication (latae sententiae) as laid down in Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. It further stated, “The Church does not recognize, nor does she intend to recognize in the future, these ordinations and all ordinations deriving from them.”[41] A Vatican summit, convened by Pope Benedict XVI on November 16, 2006, reaffirmed the church’s position on clerical celibacy.[42]

The UM provided funding for Milingo and his new association but stayed in the background as these events unfolded. However, the movement’s role became more public and controversial in connection with a convocation of Married Priests Now! at Parsippany, New Jersey, December 8-10, 2006. More than 1000 married priests and their wives were expected, but just 200 registered and some 150 attended. CORPUS, a national organization representing 1,500 priests, came out against Married Priests Now over its connection to the UM. Its president noted that Rev. Moon “doesn’t click with most Roman Catholics.”[43] Married Priests Now! organizers downplayed the UM’s involvement, but this was difficult given the convocation’s program. Two out of four speakers at the event’s Welcoming Banquet were FFWPU officials, and the proceedings included a marriage “blessing” patterned after UM joint weddings.[44] In an official “Thanks,” printed in the program, Milingo referred to Rev. and Mrs. Moon as “True Parents” and to those present as their “beneficiaries.” Shortly afterwards, Milingo was in Korea, reportedly studying Unification theology. A source close to the UM was quoted as saying the movement was “mum regarding his visit… so as not to stoke the anger of Catholics.[45]

The Milingo affair, then, was a mixed blessing. On the positive side, the UM obtained a wider platform and broader exposure for its position on celibacy and marriage. Additionally, for all of his struggles, Archbishop Milingo re-affirmed the Unification Blessing, testified to Rev. Moon, and stimulated discussion of the celibacy requirement at the highest level of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Although the Vatican re-affirmed its position, Milingo crystallized ferment on the issue of married priesthood within the Catholic faith.[46] On the negative side, the affair re-surfaced popular images of the UM as a manipulative cult. It reinforced “official” Catholic percep­tions of Milingo as a disruptive influence and led to his open rupture with the Church. The affair undoubtedly also hardened the Roman Catholic attitudes toward the UM, and UM involvement hampered efforts of the Married Priests Now! prelature to work with Catholic organizations similarly dedicated to ending mandatory clerical celibacy.


Unification Post-Milingo

The Milingo affair is as yet open-ended. Given its twists and turns, there is no way to predict the final outcome.[47] However, it is important that the UM re-think its position on clerical celibacy as well as its relationship to other faith traditions in light of its encounter with Archbishop Milingo. In doing so, the movement faces a two-fold challenge. First, the UM must remain faithful to its core convictions. Specifically, it must withstand the temptation to downplay distinctive teachings or frame them in excessively non-offensive ways. Second, the UM must respect the core convictions of other religious traditions. In order to gain a hearing on the issues at stake in the Milingo affair, the movement must evidence greater awareness of the basis of celibacy within Christianity and other traditions. It also must avoid “poaching,” i.e., proselytizing members of other faith communities. In meeting these dual challenges, the UM can break out of its sectarian shell and engage the religious mainstream. The purpose of this section is to further that process.

The UM has consistently refused to type itself as a narrowly sectarian movement. It has reached out to academics and religious leaders, exposed its views to critical scrutiny, and welcomed outsider participation in movement rites, notably its International Marriage Blessings. It also has attempted to build bridges to the mainstream by emphasizing traditional values, i.e., the family, patriotism, volunteerism, private enterprise, etc. In recent years, the movement has become adept at framing its position in generic, universal terms, adopting the rhetoric of inter-religious cooperation and downplaying the primacy it attributed to the person and revelations of Rev. Moon. With reference to the Milingo affair, UM spokespersons claimed,

the solution to humanity’s problems lies not in the traditions of the Roman church nor Rev. Moon’s church, but in the reestablishment of God’s primary institution, the family, where human beings are meant to learn love, morality, and living for others[48]

In public statements such as these the UM emphasized its “broad vision,” refusing to go much beyond emphasizing “God’s ideal of the family” and “inter-religious cooperation” as the way to lasting peace.

The UM undoubtedly believed these broad generic statements were true. However, they were not the whole truth. Essentially, they provided rhetorical cover for core convictions about the centrality of the Unification Blessing rite and the significance of Rev. and Mrs. Moon as “True Parents of all humanity.” Minus more complete disclosure, generic, universal state­ments were mostly matters of public relations or marketing and opened the UM to charges of duplicity once its ‘inner’ teachings were trumpeted in the press. They also made for awkward ecumenical moments as when movement speakers, marriage blessing rites, and testimonies to Rev. Moon were included within Married Priests Now! convocation programs.

Had the UM been more forthcoming about its core convictions, it would have been in a better position to respect those of the Roman Catholic Church. As it was, the UM demonstrated little or no understanding of the Catholic position. One looks in vain for any meaningful discussion of celibacy in Unification sources. For all of its advocacy of inter-religious cooperation, the UM proved unequal to the task of meeting Roman Catholicism on its own ground. Having failed to appreciate the foundations of celibacy in the Roman Catholic life, the UM simply dismissed it as a “limited tradition.” This was surprising given the movement’s longtime sponsorship of ecumenical and inter-religious forums as well as its resources which included a cadre of PhDs in religion and a graduate theological seminary. Of course, appreciating the role of celibacy within Roman Catholicism does not necessitate agreeing with it. However, understanding is a sign of respect and a pre-requisite for constructive ecumenical encounter. If the UM hopes to engage the religious mainstream, it will need to demonstrate and express a significantly higher level of respect for the core convictions of other religious traditions.

The UM also will need to avoid proselytizing members of other faith communities. To be sure, one cannot avoid being “tested, challenged, and enticed” by the faith of partners in genuine inter-religious dialog.[49] However, this is far different than violating sacred vows of other religious traditions, as was the case when the movement not only countenanced but actively encouraged Archbishop Milingo’s participation in a UM marriage rite. This can only be regarded as a serious faux pas by contemporary interfaith norms. If the movement were serious about maintaining high standards of “inter-religious cooperation,” as it states, UM representatives would have insisted upon prior authorization from Milingo’s superiors or a release from his vows. At minimum, the movement would have given Roman Catholic officials prior notice or at least a ‘heads-up’ regarding Milingo’s intentions. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Moreover, to this point the UM has neither apologized for its actions nor taken policy steps to assure that inter-religious blow-ups, such as what followed Milingo’s marriage, not reoccur.

The foregoing is not to single out the movement or hold it to a higher standard than other faith traditions. It is simply to suggest several practical ways in which the UM can more effectively proclaim its truth and attain mainstream acceptance. To summarize: the movement needs to sharpen and deepen its theological position through engagement with other traditions on their terms. The UM will not win assent simply by asserting its position or cloaking it in a rhetoric of inter-religious inclusiveness. With respect to the Milingo affair, it is past due for the movement to develop a thought-out position on clerical celibacy which demonstrates an awareness of the issues relevant to Catholics.[50] Beyond that, the UM must abide by standards of good practice in inter-faith relations, offering adequate prior notice of initiatives which impact other traditions, avoiding proselytization, and apologizing for mistakes. If the Milingo affair inclines the movement in these directions, it will have had a significance that transcends the nuptials of a maverick archbishop.



[1] This is the claim of the UM’s core theological text. See Divine Principle (NY: HSA-UWC, 1973), p. 15.

[2] Sun Myung Moon, “True Parents and the Completed Testament Age,” keynote speech delivered during a world speaking tour in 1993. Reference to knowledge of “the direction that humankind must go” is taken from the following para­graph in the speech,

American leaders, prominent Christians, and other leading figures of the world have only a faint idea of the forces that shape the future. Therefore, they can offer little insight, hope, or guidance to their people. In these chaotic times, humankind is longing for a true direction and purpose, yet America and the churches have no confident answer. God has granted me an understanding of the forces involved in His providential history. Thus, I know the direction that humankind must go, and I, with the help of God, will lead the world there.

[3] Prior to Milingo, a good example of tension between the movement’s sectarian and ecumenical consciousness was apparent at the UM-sponsored World Culture and Sports Festival held in Seoul, Korea, August 19-30, 1992. There, before an inter-religious audience, Rev. Moon declared that he and his wife were the “True Parents of all humanity… the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah.” See Sun Myung Moon, “Becoming the Leaders in Building a World of Peace,” August 24, 1992.

[4] Phillip Schanker and Antonio Ciacciarelli, “Statement About Msgr. Milingo.” Press Release, August 9, 2001. ( _release_01_08_09.htm)

[5] Divine Principle (NY: HSA-UWC, 1973).

[6] These sentiments are expressed in such speeches as “God’s Day 1984,” January 1, 1984; “This is the Time of Change,” April 1, 1989; “True Parent’s Birthday,” February 20, 1991; and “The Way of the Martial Arts Federation for World Peace,” March 26, 1997.

[7] Sun Myung Moon, “Declaration Day of Heavenly Parentism,” September 1, 1997.

[8] Sun Myung Moon, “Children’s Day,” November 5, 1983; and “Victor through­out Three Ages,” March 20, 1983.

[9] Sun Myung Moon, “Victor Throughout Three Ages,” March 20, 1983.

[10] Sun Myung Moon, “This Is the Time of Change,” April 1, 1989.

[11] Sun Myung Moon, “True Parents’ Birthday,” February 25, 1985.

[12] Sun Myung Moon, “The Messiah and True Parents,” in The Tribal Messiah (New York: HSA-UWC, 1998).

[13] Sun Myung Moon, “True Parents and Blessed Couples,” March 23, 1993.

[14] Jose Gonzalez Losada, True Love and Forbidden Love, a translation of El Verdadero Amor Y El Amor Prohibido, 1992. ( Unification/Books/Tlafl/0-Toc.htm).

[15] Richard Quebedeaux, Lifestyle: Conversations with Members of the Unification Church, conference series no. 13 (Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary, 1982), pp. 34-35.

[16] Lifestyle, pp. 43-44.

[17] There were a couple of treatments, both in a volume of essays entitled The Family and the Unification Church (Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary, 1983) which bracketed Unification doctrine and attempted to engage contemporary discourse on celibacy and singleness. Tom Walsh, in “Celibacy, Virtue and the Practice of True Family” (139-59), attempted to frame the Unification position on celibacy within the context of “virtue theory” and “narrative quest.” Michael Mickler, in “Crisis of Single Adults: An Alternative Approach” (161-73), considered the Unification position within the context of contemporary models of “vocational” and “non-vocational” singleness, arguing that it avoided “attributing a false sense of ultimacy to either ‘being single’ or ‘being married’,” thereby avoiding “coercive models of enforced celibacy or coercive social pressures to ‘get married’.”

[18] Lifestyle, pp. 43-44.

[19] Rev. Moon asked that the Unification Church be re-named the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) in 1996. For practical and legal reasons, the new name has not as yet fully displaced the older designation.

[20] Some characterized the affair as a soap opera and contended that wide publicity afforded to the tug-of-war between Maria Sung and the Catholic Church over Milingo in July-August 2001 was the result of these being slow news months, especially in Rome In this vein, Phillip Schanker stated, “For many in the press and general public, this was the summer soap-opera or telenovella that provided entertainment during the sleepy vacation month of August in Italy. (“Draft of Statement on the Marriage of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and Maria Sung, and its Outcome,” September 3, 2001) Milingo himself was reported to have stated, “The excommunication means nothing to me and it is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Matteo Spicuglia, “Milingo, the Excommunication after the Schism,” September 26, 2006, []) Others dismissed Milingo as “a loose cannon who gets a bit of media attention but [who] is unlikely to be a catalyst for real debate about the celibacy issue in the Catholic Church.” (

[21] See “A Short Biography of Archbishop Milingo” ( and “Emmanuel Milingo” from Wikipedia ( Emmanuel_Milingo).

[22] See Angela Signorelli, “Intervention of a Holy Spirit,” Today’s World, January 2001, 29-.

[23] It is a tradition in Unification marriage blessings to include greetings and prayers of religious leaders from diverse faith traditions.

[24] See Phillip Schanker, “Providential Blessing Heralds Pentecost,” Unification News, June 2001. In a later interview, Schanker said Rev. Moon marrying Archbishop Milingo was like firing the shot that exploded Darth Vader’s “Death Star” in Star Wars. See Peter Manseau, “A Marriage Made in Heaven?” Washington Post, March 11, 2007.

[25] The UM Continental Director of Europe, Rev. Song, recommended Maria Sung. She had previously treated Milingo for a muscular disorder. Noteworthy among the 60 couples was Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, founder of the Imani Temple, African-American Catholic Congregation. A former Catholic priest who broke with Roman Catholicism in 1989, he like Milingo was unmarried and wed a UM bride, Sayomi. Stallings became one of Milingo’s strongest supporters and was one of four “bishops” conditionally ordained by Milingo in 2006. Other participants included Minister Benjamin Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, formerly Benjamin Chavis, and an assortment of “Pentecostals and Baptists, Lutherans and Muslims, Native Americans, Sufis, and more.” (Schanker, “Providential Blessing Heralds Pentecost”)

[26] Schanker, “Providential Blessing Heralds Pentecost,” Unification News, June 2001.


[28] Phillip Schanker and Antonio Ciacciarelli, “Statement about Msgr. Milingo.” Press Release, August 9, 2001. ( release_ 01_08_09.htm)

[29] “Statement of Mrs. Maria Milingo Wife of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo,” Rome, August 11, 2001.

[30] Schanker, “Archbishop Milingo’s Words on August 29, 2001,” September 5, 2001. (

[31] Schanker, “Draft Statement on the Marriage of Archbishop Emmanual Milingo and Maria Sung and Its Outcome,” September 3, 2001. ( library/unification/talks/schankar/Schanker-010903.htm).

[32] Michael Jenkins, “FFWPU News,” No. 183. (

[33] Schanker claimed in another statement, “Victims of corruption within the priesthood (forced abortions, abandoned children, special brothels, and worse) are lining up, looking for support and courage to speak after years of fear and harassment… Maria has become a symbol of courage and determination for people such as these.” See “When in Rome,” August 25, 2001 (

[34] Schanker, “Maria Milingo Press Conference and Statement,” August 11, 2001. (

[35] Michele Zanzucchi, Emmanuel Milingo: The Fish Rescued from the Mud (2002). The book-length interview was not translated into English.

[36] “Statement of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification on the Recent Publication of ‘The Fish Rescued from the Mud’ by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and Michele Zanzucchi,” September 30, 2002.

[37] Emmanuel Milingo, “Text of Statement at National Press Club,” July 12, 2001.

[38] John Allen, “Zambian Archbishop breaks with Rome; Wants to help reconcile married priests with the Catholic church, he says,” National Catholic Reporter, July 14, 2006.

[39] “Archbishop Milingo Defies Warning from Rome,”, September 18, 2006; Derrill Holly, “Archbishop Installs Four Married Priests,” AP, September 24, 2006.

[40] The four were George A. Stallings, Jr., Archbishop of the African-American Catholic Congregation; Peter Paul Brennan of the African Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas; Patrick E. Trujillo, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Our Lady of Guadalupe of New Jersey of the Old Catholic Church in America; and Joseph J. Gouthro of Las Vegas, presiding bishop of the Catholic Apostolic Church International.

[41] “Communiqué Concerning Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo,” Vatican City (, September 26, 2006.

[42] Frances D'Emilio, “Vatican Acts to Reaffirm Celibacy for Priesthood.” AP, Vatican City, November 16, 2006.

[43] Abbot Koloff, “Groups Express Concern Over Married Priests Now,” Parsippany News Record, December 7, 2007. In actuality, the UM presence had been noted at previous Married Priest Now convocations. Manseau reported in “A Marriage Made in Heaven?” that at an earlier conference “a cluster of Unification Church members” were providing “more than moral support… They were, it seemed, running the show.”

[44] Participants drank the same “holy wine,” were sprinkled with the same “holy water” and recited the same blessing vows which were utilized in the joint marriage ceremonies presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon.

[45] “Milingo in Seoul to Study Moonies’ Theology,” Asia News, February 2, 2007. In reality, Milingo’s six-month visa to the United States had run out, and he was awaiting a decision on his re-application.

[46] Those expressing support for married priests in the wake of Milingo’s activity included dissident Kenyan Catholic priest, Fr. Godfrey Shiundu, the National Council of priests in Australia, Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil, and Rev. Donald Cozzens, former president of St. Mary Seminary, Cleveland, Ohio.

[47] There remained significant points of divergence between Milingo and the UM. Importantly, he remained “Catholic in faith and tradition,” insisting that he had “not changed any Catholic doctrine” (the celibacy requirement being considered a discipline, not a dogma of the Church). He noted, “I have and will continue to celebrate mass every day of my life, for Holy Communion represents the truest and most intimate union with our Heavenly Father.” He also restated his belief in the indelibility of ordination (“once a priest always a priest”). More significantly, Milingo affirmed that he was “obedient first and foremost to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He acknowledged that God had given Rev. and Mrs. Moon a “special anointing… for the building of God-centered marriages and families” but maintained, “I owe my life and my love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Blessed Virgin.” In calling for “optional celibacy,” Milingo occupied a middle ground between the Roman Catholic hierarchy which demanded mandatory celibacy and Rev. Moon who declared that all priests and nuns must marry. In claiming that Maria Sung would remain his wife “until death us do part,” Milingo departed from the UM position on eternal marriage. He articulated these positions in his initial “Statement” delivered prior to his marriage on May 26, 2001 and in a “Press Statement of the Episcopal Conference of the Married Priest Now! Prelature,” Washington, D.C., November 13, 2006.

[48] “Draft Statement on the Marriage of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and Maria Sung and Its Outcome,” September 3, 2001.

[49] Janine Sawada, “Reflections on the Unification Approach(es) to World Religious Unity.” In Andrew Wilson, ed. How Can the Religions of the World Be United? (Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary, 1987), p. 114. See also Donald Swearer, Dialog: The Key to Understanding Other Religions (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), p. 41.

[50] The UM possesses an excellent model for a thought-out position in “Guidelines for Members of the Unification Church in Relations with the Jewish People,” (Unification Church of America, March 15, 1989), 12 pgs.