VATICAN CITY—Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Zambian prelate who angered the Vatican by getting married in 2001, has been excommunicated for again defying the Holy See by installing four married men as bishops, the Vatican said Tuesday.
The Vatican said Milingo, 76, was "automatically excommunicated" under church law for the ordination of the men at a church in Washington on Sunday.
The Archdiocese of Washington said Sunday that the installations, which took place at the Imani Temple, were not valid.
Milingo is in a condition of "progressive, open break with communion with the Church," the Vatican said in a statement.
The four men, who claim affiliation with the breakaway Synod of Old Catholic Churches, also were automatically excommunicated for being ordained, the Vatican said.
In its announcement of the excommunication, the Vatican accused Milingo of "sowing division and dismay among the faithful," and said it lost patience with him after trying to persuade him against the ordinations.
Milingo's spokesperson in Washington did not immediately return a phone call.
Milingo has long had a troubled relationship with the Vatican. In 2001, he was married to a South Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, in a group wedding ceremony in New York. Upon appeal from Pope John Paul II a few months later, he renounced that union.
Last summer, Milingo reappeared in the United States and said he was living with his wife in the Washington, D.C. area.
He gained a strong following in a church where he had been stationed near Rome because of his reputation as an exorcist. But Catholic officials accused him of promoting African indigenous beliefs by performing mass exorcisms and healing ceremonies.
The defiant ordination of the men appeared to be the last straw for Rome.
Prelates "at various levels of the church tried in vain to contact Archbishop Milingo, to persuade him from going ahead with scandal-provoking actions, above all among the faithful who followed his pastoral ministry in favor of the poor and sick," the Vatican said.
"Considering that Pope Benedict XVI had, even recently, shown him understanding, the Holy See waited with vigilant patience to watch the evolution of the events, which, unfortunately led Archbishop Milingo to be in a condition of irregularity and of progressive, open break with communion with the Church, first by being married and then with the ordination of four bishops," the Vatican said.
One of the four men whom Milingo ordained, the Rev. George Augustus Stallings, Jr., said by telephone from Washington that Vatican officials had "badgered" the Zambian prelate by telling him he would risk "going to hell" if he went ahead with the ordinations.
Stallings noted that he was already excommunicated in 1990 when he announced he was forming the breakaway African American Catholic Congregation.
"They excommunicated me then, and I rose from the dead, I guess, and came back to haunt them," Stallings said.
"Milingo was a serious threat since they (the Vatican knows) he could ordain other priests, other bishops," Stallings said.
Under Vatican teaching, the authority to name bishops rests with the pope. The church also requires celibacy of its priests ordained under the Latin rite.
The Vatican added that it does not recognize the ordination of the four and warned that it will not recognize any ordinations done by these men in the future.
An analyst of the Vatican's moves, the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Washington-based Jesuit, offered a similar assessment on the Holy See's stance on ordination of bishops in defiance of Rome.
"This is what I think the Vatican was most afraid of" in Milingo's actions, that it would "create a schism," Reese said in a telephone interview.
"They always kept reaching out to him, trying to bring him back, but once he ordained another bishop" without Rome's approval, "that puts it into a whole new ballgame." — The Associated Press
The Holy See had been hoping that Milingo would "change his mind and return to full communion with the pope," the announcement said. "Unfortunately, the latest events pushed away such hopes."
Previously, the Vatican said that Milingo violated church law when he created an association of married priests and when he celebrated Mass with married clergy.