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. AverageGuyInKansas

    I"m still mystified how any rational, caring, empathetic person can remain in the Catholic Church given its record of harboring murderous priests, and priests who are child molesters. The proper noun for the word "hypocrite" is "Catholic". But, then, the Catholic Church, like all religions, was created by men to control and manipulate other men – and women. But, you gotta hand it to the Catholic Church: It sure knows how to load up its bishops and cardinals with bling! Those guys make Mr. T look like a beggar!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • MonsterHead

      when you use "The Bible Says so" as your only justification...you will believe ANYTHING your pastor tells you...

      March 12, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • sue-helen

      love this post. what would jesus say to all that jewellery????

      March 13, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  2. David

    Jennifer, I agree that Jesus loves everyone, but He doesn't love the sin that we live in. He will always forgive us of our sins when we acknowledge them and ask for forgiveness, but if we continue to live in sin as we go about our "Christian" lives He clearly says the truth is not in them.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      Jeebus is dead, for 2000 years.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • northern light

      Davey boy,

      "Jennifer, I agree that Jesus loves everyone, but He doesn't love the sin that we live in. He will always forgive us of our sins '

      Now let me get this straight....your god creates the universe and "everything" in it ....including us ...and 'sin'....so if god is "good" and god created sin ......then sin must be OK......hence everyone sins.....Therefore what is this god's complaint if we all are doing exactly what he wants????...............That is of course if you ....belive in he/she/it......which I do not.
      You and your Christian bretheran are wasting your time....................and ours.......get outside and play a little.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  3. dwighthuth

    The Lorts Message.....uh hmmm

    The Lort came to me today and said "I have a mission for you." I said "Sure Lort."

    Then the Lort spoke to me saying to "Call the devil out of the people." The Lort said.

    "The Lort said call the devil out of the people over THERE! THERE! and Wayyyy over there."

    'THE LORRRT." "Call the devil out of the people."

    I asked "how do I call the devil out of the people Lort?" and the Lorted smiled. HE SMILED AT ME and said.

    "Call the devil out of the people. Call the devil out the people. Call the devil out."

    and I wept. "Call the devil out of the people Lort."

    "Yes." said the Lort "Call the devil out of the people for when the people have the devil called out of them."

    The Lort said "The root of all evil that is the devil will leave them." "For the Lort smiled and said"

    "The devil is more and less is better."


    and I asked "What do we do when the devil is called out of the people Lort?"

    "The Lort only smiled and shook his head yes"

    "When the devil has been called out of the people." the Lort said "The devil that is the root of all evil like a dove before man. Make the bones of the devil into meals of plenty before those who do not have this year." The Lort said this.

    "So let us call the devil out of the people and make of the devils root of all evil the dust of his bones into a meal of plenty for those who do not have. For the devil is but a dove when the devil is called out of the people and the people will feel better having less roots of all evil within them that has been turned into meals."

    The Lort said this to me....

    March 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • But..

      What is a Lort?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  4. yahmez the mad

    Oh noes, I've been denied the magic cookie!

    March 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • MonsterHead


      March 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  5. jjue

    This is what some psychologist refer to as the " jail house" mentality, which by the way, almost everyone fallows and is frequently observed in a jail environment. " I am better than you, therefore I am more just than you, and therefore, you must be inferior and have less morals than I do. I will prove myself to be better than you by inflecting physical and/or emotional harm on you!!!!"

    Are we all prisoners of someone else's beliefs?? Or, victims of our own beliefs?? Are we just trying to prove to GOD that we are a better servant than our brother?? Since Lesbians are imperfect in the eyes of the church, then maybe the church should treat everyone who is imperfect the same way, including mentally challenge children, ugly children, poverty children, etc.!! Why just focus on on type of person???

    Hitler focused on a benign race to gain power, so too, religious sectors focus on gay communities to gain power. You know, the type of people who fill out jails and commit heinous crimes and bring down our society!!

    March 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Alexandra

      It's called ethnocentricity. The natural impulse in man to feel the need to be superior to someone else.

      March 13, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  6. Bibletruth

    I assume an atheist believes in evolution. Evolution and accountability have no relationship. Evolution and morality have no relationship unless morality is by gun.....survival of the fittest, etc.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Santorum dot com

      Belief is actually only for stupid people and people who don't have the courage to face the facts.

      Belief in the garbage in the bible does make you anally frothy like Rick Santorum gets, though. Just see http://santorum.com

      March 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Bibletruth..an atheist understands evolution, .. you clearly do not.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • northern light

      "Evolution and morality have no relationship unless morality is by gun."

      America, supposedly the most Christian of all nationas, has the most guns per capita and the most people in jail per capita on the planet......I'd say evulution is working just fine.....you will eventually do away with one another .....and evolution will have created a space for a more sane rational race of people.

      Funny how those Canadians north of you have "very strict gun laws" .....yet just a fraction of the gun crimes than in the good old USA.......go figure???

      March 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  7. David

    The priest was right to deny the woman communion. It is a sin to receive communion while you are in the midst of sin. The bible says to examine yourself before you partake in eating the flesh of Jesus or Drinking the blood of Jesus. Had the priest given her communion knowing she was living in sin, he also would have been responsible for committing the sin of partaking of the elements in an unclean manner.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • MonsterHead

      Yeah cause cannibalism is ok if your catholic

      March 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Mom in MA

      OH Please.. if that was the case 90% of the Catholic population should be denied communion.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jennifer

      David, have you ever eaten shrimp or other shellfish? Have you ever touched a woman who is on her period? If you answered yes to those questions, you should never take communion. Stop judging people and look into your own mirror. Jesus Christ loved ALL not just some...

      March 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • turkey

      All this cannibal talk is making me vomit 🙁

      March 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • olcranky

      he did more than deny her communion, he disrupted the funeral. if he planned to deny her communion, it would have been common courtesy to discuss that with her before the funeral as well as discuss any other actions/statements he would make during the service so she could decide whether she wanted him to preside over it. What he did was to intentionally and publicly inflict additional emotional pain on a mourner and I'm pretty sure that's NOT in keeping with the intent of pastoral counseling

      March 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • David

      I'm not judging. The answer to your questions are no, but that's beside the point. If my pastor knew that I was living in sin, not sinned and repented of it, he should deny me communion as well until I repent from my sin.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • AverageGuyInKansas

      Wow! I'm not going to insult you by asking if you actually BELIEVE what you posted. Yours is one of the most amusing posts I've read in a LONG time! LOL

      March 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • msadr

      That's true. But I did wonder how the priest would know whether she had repented. He could not know her heart unless she told him immediately before the Eucharist.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      David..so symbolic cannibalism is not a sin ?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      It's a sin to receive communion in the state of Mortal sin. If she didn't believe her actions were mortally sinful, she was not. It sure would be nice if Catholics knew their own religion, and read their Catechism, (as ridiculous as it is), even once.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  8. OhPleaseYerKillinMeSTOP

    It is SO long past time to start making these religious businesses pay commercial property tax for their crystal cathedrals fostering unAmerican activities of bigotry, subjugation of women, corruption of politicians (too easy but still...), lies, hatred, and the repression of science and truth. They have foisted TRILLIONS of dollars of expenses for their inordinate load on municipal services onto individual homeowners nationwide.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • AverageGuyInKansas

      Very well put. I'm sure it's safe to assume we could easily retire the national debt if churches were taxed. Thanks for your post.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  9. Beth L

    My sister was denied communion at my mother's funeral-because the priest thought she was me! He heard that I had left the church and joined another Christian faith, and mixed us up. She argued with him at the altar, causing others to notice. He finally gave her the wafer, but her husband asked what he said to her when we were around the kitchen table that night. When she told us what had transpired, it caused a big row in our family, with people taking sides, and my sister ending up saying she would never go into that church (our childhood church) again. We had been having a very rough time of it, with my father in grief, ending up in the hospital with a then unknown illness, and two of my older brothers getting into a fight earlier in the evening over an unrelated issue, causing one to leave the house in anger. This was the last thing we needed! I went to see the priest the next day before I left town, as I was very concerned about what had happened, especially since we didn't know what was wrong with my father and I thought it was possible we might be back for another funeral soon. He told me he thought I was coming to the altar to challenge him, then laid into me for leaving the "true faith." If I had ever had any ideas of returning to the Catholic Church, they vanished then!

    March 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • David

      Leaving the Catholic church is not a sin. Jesus said "take up your cross and follow Me" He didn't say anything about the Catholic church.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      Listen up my child. David is THE judge, and he can tell you what is and is not a sin.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  10. MikeMazzla

    "..........proper priestly ministry"

    Does anyone want to take this one? LOL

    March 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  11. JB

    Seems like they get to deny communion to whomever they feel like. I was best man at my buddy's Catholic mass wedding and wasn't allowed to take communion because I'm not Catholic. Not that I care since I'm atheist, but I thought the invitation came from Jesus and was open to all, not just whoever gets past the velvet ropes. Seems like it shouldn't be up to a fallible priest to make that decision.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Card carrying atheist

      Religion poisons everything.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Jennifer

      That is why I dislike going to the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Communion was given by Christ to all who followed him. Plus, Christ loved ALL, not just ones that did the right thing or were rich or were important. He loved all. I was asked by my best friend's dad to stay in my seat at her Lutheran Church. I felt terrible. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church and all who desire can come forth for communion. I now go to the Episcopal Church and they actually invite anybody who remains in the pews – they care about EVERYBODY. Those other churches are the most unlike Jesus Christ,

      March 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Santorum dot com

      Jennifer, thinking of Christ probably makes you frothy just like Rick Santorum gets. Just see http://santorum.com

      March 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • appalled

      Glad to see that someone else is reading Christopher Hitchens! Wish everybody would.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • msadr

      The ritual commemorates the last supper Jesus had with his friends. He did not invite other people and I seriously doubt he was trying to start a new ritual. The Catholics ritualized it. It is their ritual and they can deny it to anyone they feel like. If an atheist takes communion, he is telling a public lie and so is the minister who gives it to him.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  12. mommatocharlie

    Would she have been offered communion if she had been living with a man?

    March 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • August

      Thats the way it should be. and to the guy above, even catholicss that are catholic cant take communion until they go through communion classes.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • guest


      March 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • David

      She shouldn't have been

      March 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Mom in MA

      Jesus would spit on a priest who denied anyone communion in his name... who do they think they are.. Jesus said not to judge right? Guess they just ignore that part of their religion since it doesn't server their power hungry agenda.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

    Atheism is fine.
    Its not about your religion. Its about your moral code!
    And apparently just because youre a hypocrite that goes to church on Sunday, doesn't instill moral code.
    posting negative comments about atheism or someone else's belief clearly shows you are without moral code!

    March 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • MonsterHead

      Well Put!!

      March 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Jon

      It's more that there is no other way to convince religious people rationally. It's like being blind to facts and saying that since the Bible says so, it must be true. To tell people the BIble is true instead of science is wrong. It's brainwashing. It's only a book. That's all it ever should be.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • David

      You would have no sense of morals if the Holy Spirit did not dwell within you

      March 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

      Oh brother david!
      A mother does not need to believe in any god to protect her children. We dont need god, to fall in love with on another.
      we dont need god, to tell us that taking life, is a bad thing.
      These values are instilled in us genetically. But you would however have to be taught to believe in what is not real. For example, Santa, Easter bunny, tooth fairy...
      You would have never thought they existed if you hadn't been told they existed.
      You're confusing instinct with morality...
      But then again, church leaders said the world was flat. Then hanged scientist for saying otherwise. And those like you, always believed what these church leaders taught you. I guess you still have trouble believing its not?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  14. What's wrong with this picture ?

    The Archbishop of St. Paul / Minneapolis regularly refuses communion to gays. Why does "the church" do one thing in the Midwest, and another in the East ? Maybe "the church" is a myth too ?

    March 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • ajk68

      Note that the priest was not disciplined for not admitting the notorious public sinner to Holy Communion; it is what is required by Canon Law (Canon 915). Since they couldn't go after him for that, they trumped up other allegations.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  15. QS

    So glad that they make the distinction that this priest is being disciplined NOT for his behavior at the funeral, but for some other reason. Far be it from the church to discipline one of their own for an offense that involves a gay person....oh, but when they hear that that priest has been "intimidating" others who just happen to not be gay, bring the hammer down!

    Religion continues down the path of inevitable irrelevance....something I am grateful for.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • ajk68

      They can't discipline him for not admitting the notorious public sinner to Holy Communion because he did the right thing according to Canon Law (Canon 915).

      But you should be happy to know that they have made up some other excuse to go after him.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • msadr

      The priest was complying with the rules and cannot be disciplined for doing so.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm |

    Why is it that these priest feel they have they right to block those seeking support in Jesus! This wasn't really about being a lesbian. As he wouldn't even go to the mother's burial. And her mother wasn't a lesbian. I guess he figured, she's dead now and probably wouldn't be able to give the church any more money, so it simply wasn't worth his time! Just another classic case of church leaders thinking they are god! Completely disgraceful!

    March 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Ryan Meeks

      It seems that this "Catholic" (actually, if you do a bit of research, you will find that she is Buddhist) used her mother's funeral as an opportunity to smear the Church. High class. She very well knew that, as a Buddhist, that the Eucharist was not hers to receive, as it seems that she was Catholic at some time.

      Where is CNN's scrutiny of this woman's ACTUAL faith?

      March 12, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Christianity is not healthy for children and other living things

      Christianity takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Christian prayer has been shown to have no discernible effect towards what was prayed for.
      Christianity prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Christianity makes you fat.
      Christianity wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Christianity contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Christianity fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
      Christianity can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Christianity reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Christianity exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Christianity makes you think doilies are exciting.
      Christianity makes you secretively flatulent and embarrassed about it.
      Christianity makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
      Christianity gives you knobbly knees.
      Christianity makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out.
      Christianity dulls your senses.
      Christianity makes you post really stupid shit.
      Christianity makes you hoard cats.
      Christianity makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
      Christianity wastes time.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      March 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm |

      Believe in what you want. But don't create these lies, that being atheist is somehow "unhealthy"! Your unhealthy for society. So how does society cure itself from the likes of you!
      One more point... Can you actually say that the priest were healthy for the children? Its no secret what they did!

      March 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • N. Guidry

      Quite frankly, all these things said about christianity can be said of video games, etc....

      March 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  18. Mel

    I grew up Catholic and was taught that you were supposed to go to confession before receiving Communion. I recall only going that one time a year we HAD to in school and never had a problem. According to the bible, I sinned A LOT. The Church and most organized religions are over rated and really need to get with the times.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • B

      That's my memory as well, confession before communion. I never knew what the priest was supposed to do if he knew you had sinned and had not confessed it before getting communion. Apparently private discussion is preferred over public denial of communion.

      Thank God (ha) I figured out the fallacy of religion and dropped it like a hot potato.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • ajk68

      Those who persevere in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion (Canon 915); it is the minister of Holy Communion's responsibility. The priest acted rightly.

      He is now the subject of a witch-hunt.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Ken in Texas

      You should go to confession before communion if you have committed a mortal sin since your last confession, not venial sins. There is a difference.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • humberto

      You people are a bunch of sick

      March 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  19. Miguel Caron

    The world will be a better place once everyone stops believing there's a judgemental invisible man living in the clouds.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Linda

      As one preparing for Episcopal priesthood, Miguel, I couldn't agree with you more.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • leseuletunique

      Funny but your statement is very judgemental to me. The world is a better place if people can refrain from doing bad things then blame someone else for being judgemental. Regardless of one's belief, one should know right from wrong and act accordingly.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • zodiac

      Yea because he is in the White House right?

      March 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • August

      The world would be a better place without freak of natures roaming the earth trying to act like everything's okay.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • msadr

      Soooo what you're saying is that as soon as we figure out there are no consequences for our actions and no such thing as an absolute standard of right, everything will be better. I don't think we need to be religious to realize the flaw in your logic there.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  20. ReligionIsBS

    Thats funny, the last time a pedophile asked me if i wanted a wafer, i gave it back and told him to shove it where the sun dont shine. He obviously enjoed that.

    March 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • sielingfan

      yeah man, those religious guys are so hateful. Let's do a driveby later.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • zodiac

      Yea right... in your dreams...

      March 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
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About this blog

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.