Renegade African prelate keeps anti-celibacy fight alive

The renegade archbishop whose anti-celibacy stance for priests has riled the Vatican will gather his new advocacy group in New Jersey this weekend.

Therenegade archbishop whose anti-celibacy stancefor priests has riled the Vatican will gather his newadvocacy groupin New Jersey this weekend.

As many as 200 married priests are expected to join former archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and his new advocacy group, Married Priests Now, in Parsippany, N.J.

After maintaining a low profile for the last few years, Milingo has renewed his efforts to get the Roman Catholic Church to end its ban against marriage for priests.

Milingo, 76,was excommunicated in September when he ordained four married American men as bishops despite being expressly forbidden by the Vatican.

The Zambian archbishop has argued that the Church should embrace the more than 150,000 married priests worldwide — in part to ease the shortage of clergy and to elevate the sanctity of marriage.

Men in the Eastern rite of the Catholic church who are married can become priests, and the Vatican has accepted into the priesthood some married Anglican priests who have converted to Catholicism.

Pope reaffirmed celibacy

Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials met in November to examine requests for dispensation or re-admission by clergy members who had married in recent years.

"The value of the choice of priestly celibacy, according to Catholic tradition, has been reaffirmed," the Vatican said in a brief statement after the meeting.

Ina statement released in conjunction with the conference, Milinto was critical of the fact that Cardinal Claudio Hummes from Brazil appeared to flip-flop on the question of considering the celibacy rule after Vatican intervention.

"Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the Church," Hummes said before he travelled to Rome. However, he recently said the celibacy rule was based on ancient tradition and needed to be upheld.

"Cardinal Hummes' prophetic voice immediately provoked the chastisement of the Vatican, leaving him with egg on his face while feebly attempting to re-shuffle his remarks by regurgitating stale Vatican pronouncements on celibacy, thus minimizing the impact of his original statement," Milingo said in his statement.

"The Vatican's dissatisfaction with the cardinal's forthright and self-effacing statement impugned his integrity and damaged his sterling reputation as an uncompromising voice of truth."

No stranger to controversy

Milingo has also courted controversy for his association with Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon. In 2001, Milingo married a South Korean woman Moon was said to have chosen for him.

Later that year, Milingo's whereabouts were unknown for nearly a month, and when he re-emerged herenounced the marriage.

One of the bishops Milingo ordained in September admitted to the Daily Record in Morris County, N.J. that Moon had helped pay for hotel rooms and food for this weekend's conference.

However, Paul Brennan saidMoon was just a friend of Married Priests Now and not one of its leaders.

with files from the Associated Press