A lawyer for the Vatican claimed, in a statement earlier today, that the two years it took the current pope to defrock a convicted pedophile was quick. But in 2006 he excommunicated an Archbishop who defied the celibacy doctrine 'automatically'.

On September 24th 2006 Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, of Zambia, defied the Vatican by ordaining four married priests. On September 26th the Vatican issued a press release announcing that he had been excommunicated for "ordaining bishops without the approval of the Holy See."

On December 11th 2006, in defiance of that excommunication, Milingo ordained a further four married priests in Washington. On December the 17th, six days later, the Vatican issued a press release announcing that he had been dismissed "from the clerical state" — apparently an extraordinary measure that made the participation of Catholics in any ceremonies led by him unlawful (in the eyes of the church). "The commission of these grave crimes, which has recently been established," said the press release, "is to be considered as proof of the persistent contumacy of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. The Holy See has therefore been obliged to impose upon him the further penalty of dismissal from the clerical state." All the clergy he ordained were excommunicated automatically too.

Milingo had been defying the church for many years. But when he finally committed what the Vatican thought was a 'grave crime', there was no delay. Flagrantly breaking with the doctrine of celibacy was met with swift, decisive condemnation. The men he ordained were removed immediately too.

In 1978 the Reverend Stephen Kiesle, of Oakland, California, pleaded no contest to charges of tying up and molesting two young boys in a rectory. He was not removed from the church until 1987, despite requesting it himself in 1981. A portion of that delay meant that Kiesle was still dealing with children. The Associated Press have a letter from the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about removing Kiesle — a process that took days in the case of Milingo in 2006. He said that "the arguments for removing Kiesle were of "grave significance" but such actions required very careful review and more time."

It was not the only occasion that such "careful review", was required. In two other cases that we know of, in Germany and in Wisconsin, he failed to act decisively to remove known pedophiles from the church. The German priest, the Reverend Peter Hullermann was, according to the New York Times, "later convicted of molesting boys in another parish."