Vatican says excommunication, no ordination for Milingo and his men

Vatican says excommunication, no ordination for Milingo and his men

The Vatican issued a statement today on Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo’s illicit ordination of four men as bishops last weekend in Washington, DC.

“For this public act both Archbishop Milingo and the four ordinands have incurred excommunication ‘latae sententiae,’ as laid down in Canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. Moreover, the Church does not recognize, nor does she intend to recognize in the future, these ordinations and all ordinations deriving from them; and she considers the canonical status of the four supposed-bishops as being that they held prior to this ordination.

I’m a little surprised because I thought that even though the ordinations were illicit, they were valid, but perhaps the Vatican is saying that they are invalid because one of the conditions for a valid sacrament was not present. I would suppose that would be “intending to do what the Church intends.” The other conditions are proper form and valid matter and I suppose one of those might not have been present either. That the men had already claimed to be bishops in a schismatic sect may also have something to do with it.

In any case, while the excommunications are tragic, at least the errors are not compounded by actual ordinations.

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  • I’d read somewhere that these were priests of the Old Catholic Church (schismatics following Vatican I) rather than Roman Catholic priests. I think that’s the basis of the invalidation. I would think that it would also mean that they couldn’t really be excommunicated since they weren’t in communion to start. I wanted to comment to on Ed Peters’ blog to see if he could explain the situation a bit more.

  • The Vatican statement doesn’t say explicitly that the ordinations are invalid, but that the Church does not recognize them.  That’s an administrative statement, not necessarily a theological one.  I.e., the purported ordinations are sufficiently doubtful that the Church will not treat them as valid.

  • Here are two speculative questions:

    (1) Can a bishop who believes in women’s ordination ordain validly?  As far as I can tell, all four of the ordinands belong to sects with priestesses or even bishopesses. 

    (2) If “Patriarch” Stallings were to turn around now and lay hands on some Moonie—a member of a non-Trinitarian sect—to make him a bishop, would it have any effect?

  • Polemics with Anglicans who think of themselves as Catholics has lead us to overemphasize the significance of valid orders. They are necessary for the Church but not sufficient to make a body a true church in the sense that the Eastern churches are true churches.

    The questionable sanity of Milingo and the irregularity and heterodoxy of the groups with which these men are associated make these ordinations questionable in a way that can never be resolved. So the Church won’t ever recognize them and any “consecrations” they attempt even though it is conceivable that they are valid.

    There is an important difference with the Lefebvrite consecrations, in that he and his co-consecrator clearly had the intention to do what the Church had always done in consecrating bishops. 

    “Can a bishop who believes in women’s ordination ordain validly?”

    Yes. If he is in communion with the Pope the intention to do what the Church does is presumed. If he is someone in communion with a body that “ordains” women, he can ordain validly if he forms a correct intention. Such ordinations will always be suspect because of the difficulty of discerning a clear intention.