March 12th, 2012
01:06 PM ET

Priest who allegedly denied Communion to lesbian placed on leave

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – A Roman Catholic priest who allegedly denied Holy Communion to a lesbian at her mother’s Maryland funeral has been placed on administrative leave, the Archdiocese of Washington said.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the suspension was not triggered by last month’s alleged Communion denial, but by events involving the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo in the days since.

The archdiocese “received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo had engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry,” the archdiocese said in a Friday statement.

“Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners,” the statement continued, “Father Guarnizo is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington until all matters can be appropriately resolved with the hope that he might return to priestly ministry.”

Barbara Johnson told The Washington Post that Guarnizo denied her the sacrament of Communion at her mother's funeral Mass in February, allegedly telling her it was “because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.”

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The archdiocese said Guarnizo also allegedly declined to go with Johnson to her mother’s grave site.

In an earlier statement responding to news accounts of the alleged funeral incident, the archdiocese said it was inappropriate for a priest in its diocese to deny someone Communion.

“When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person,” the archdiocese said in a February 27 statement.

“Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.”

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Johnson, a 51-year-old Washington-area artist, could not immediately be reached for comment. The Washington Post reported that her family issued a statement Sunday saying that it “continues to pray for the Archdiocese of Washington, Father Guarnizo, and all Catholics during this time of upheaval.”

“While we understand this letter does not pertain to the events that occurred at our mother's funeral, we are hopeful that Bishop Knestout's decision will ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences brought upon our family,” the statement said, referring to a letter from Washington Bishop Barry C. Knestout that was read at the Gaithersburg, Maryland, church where Guarnizo had been serving.

In receiving Communion, the Catholic Church teaches that Catholics are eating the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. The church teaches that Jesus instituted the sacrament at the Last Supper.

Guarnizo is officially attached to the archdiocese of Moscow. Washington Archdiocese spokeswoman Brie Hall said the priest had been an assistant to the parish priest in Gaithersburg since last March. She said that it was unclear how long Guarnizo was planning to stay but that the nature of his duties – performing Masses, baptisms, weddings and funerals – suggested he would be there for the long term.

A receptionist at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, where Guarnizo was serving, said she didn’t have contact information for him.  Guarnizo's name and number are not listed in the area.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Homosexuality

soundoff (799 Responses)
  1. Salvatore

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    October 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  2. icon pack

    Quite right! I think, what is it good thought. And it has a right to a life.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
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    October 5, 2012 at 1:40 am |
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    September 20, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  5. Mara

    Not only will they serve communion to those who molest children, they let those who molest children to serve communion! The Catholic Church, like any other church is good is some ways, but it definitely has ways it needs to be improved upon.

    April 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  6. Athiest > Fairy Tales

    Haha fricking religious wackos kill me. Lesbians are bad and deserved to be treated horribly during family crisis times, BUT ITS OK TO BANG LITTLE BOYS IN THE CHOIR?

    FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF you to all religion everywhere. 🙂

    April 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  7. Freethinksman

    She should be thankful she didn't have to swallow Jesus. 12 years of Catholic school, and I never got used to the pasty stale taste of the Savior. His blood, OTOH. Now THAT I could party with!

    April 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  8. mooseinfmp

    It says right in the back of the Catholic missalette that priests are not to allow Holy Communion to persons known to them to be in a state of grave sin. It also says that persons who know themselves to be in a state of grave sin are not to present themselves for Holy Communion. Period.

    Don't like it? It doesn't "feel good" to you? Well, lady, that choice is between you and God; either play by the rules or accept the consequences.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Steve McGrew

      That's one reason I'm just a generic Christian. Catholics (and other Christian denominations) add human values to God's bible. Nobody is denied communion at my church. All of us are sinners, as hard as we may try not to be. The Christian ethic is to love the sinner but hate the sin.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Freethinksman

      I agree completely. It would be like sending your son to Catholic school and being surprised to find out later that he had been abused by a priest. Certain things the Church has made clear. If you wanna play, you gotta pay.

      April 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Zebula

      You're a moron, mooseinfmp.

      April 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  9. ArtB

    So ... in the Catholic Church ... the TRUTH will get you Libeled and THEN removed (Fired)?

    March 21, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • LordEarlGray

      Seriously. Besides the fact that the bible was written down hundreds of years after the events the authors chosen purported to depict and so really isn't something we should be expected to obey anyway, refusing the communion and hurting someone while they are grieving is appalling and not acceptable. Even the stick straight Catholic Church has figured that out.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Gagan

      I really like this poscdat, and I'm glad you gave my your card because otherwise, I may not have known about it. You had some good questions for Fr too. I think you've got yourself another regular listener

      October 10, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  10. beliver

    after reading all your comments, i am soo happy that Christians in the middle east are under persecution as it helped a lot to stick closely to God and reserved the Church .We see God's hands every day in our lives and still happy to give away our lives for Jesus Christ. I understand that arguments with atheists will never end but i do know that they are very miserable and do not know what they are missing to be happy and peaceful deep n inside. Will help if you read the bible to know what you are criticizing before reading it.
    i do know that the Catholic church was not really doing it's role lately , but you are speaking here about Christianity and not acts of priests or Bishops.
    God protects his church and have mercy on us all.

    March 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "i do know that they are very miserable and do not know what they are missing to be happy and peaceful deep n inside."

      That is a complete lie. I actually took a wellness test a few weeks ago and they were amazed at how at peace with myself I am. You don't need a god for that. You have to make up lies like this so you can feel justified in living your life as a delusion instead of having to face reality. By the way lying is a sin, so you're going to hell.

      March 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Maya

      If Jesus is real, I sincerely hope that he is no as sickeningly self-righteous as you are.

      If we are going to play that game, let's play. If you need God to give you a sense of purpose and self work, you are a weakling and a waste of space.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Maya

      Anyone who calls a book "holy" which condones slavery and commands parents to kill their disobedient children is a sick piece of ****.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • We are told...

      Idolators will worship anything to appease their gods including stray cats.

      March 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  11. Treecie Boix

    I would like to add that the bishops wimped out because they were afraid of repercussions. It's very interesting to me how public opinion now seems to be regulating the Church. They should have supported him and explained the Catholic position to those who were concerned. If Barbara Johnson's mother was a devout Catholic, then Barbara knew that position and she staged this, either trying to "punish" the Church or her mother (who knows?) or simply trying to force the Church to accept her lifestyle. That she chose to do so at her mother's funeral shows HER lack of respect for the dead.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Catholic Woman

      You are absolutely right, and Bishop Knestout is the one who should be placed on leave, not the good and hold priest Mr. Marcel.

      March 16, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Kathryn

      There are laws that religions have to follow even if they don't want to. Letting churches run rampant under religious freedom would only result is living like they do in Iran (as history has shown over and over). They won't give her communion, yet they give communion to those who molest children. SMH

      March 24, 2012 at 8:29 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.