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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. robert frost

    The Katholic church has NO credibility as an arbitrator for god. They're a bunch of criminals in collusion and abuse "power" of the ignorant mass.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Totally true comment!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • trav

      communion is for a believer who hasbeen washed in the blood of Jesus nd saved. You cannot be saved and still live in sin.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Dan613

      the church has nothing to do with god

      March 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Dan613

      @ trav, although I hate your religion and your mythical faith, I agree that if someone goes for communion should be in agreement of the catholic dogma, which exactly hates gays. So, I also question this woman lack of coherence.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • trav

      Dan613
      hate what you want. people hate God and chrstians..cuz they dont want the truth

      March 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • rob

      Catholic's "exactly hates gays". Is it a requirement that you must not know what you are talking about to post on CNN.

      March 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  2. Matt

    I say down with the Catholic Church.... A current member

    March 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • LOVE IT!

      I agree !!!!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • humberto

      No one needs your air to breathe

      March 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • rob

      Ummmm...you could always stop being a member.

      March 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  3. msadr

    Obviously there are very very few people on this forum who know what communion is actually for. Giving communion to a Lesbian would be like tattooing the word "vegetarian" on a Lion. Sure, vegetarians falter once in a while. But a Lion isn't even trying. Let's not call her repentant when she isn't.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      You obviously know nothing about communion. "And the greatest of these is love". Ring any bells ?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • LouAZ

      Too many Christians, too few lions !

      March 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Let's not call her repentant when she isn't."

      How do you know whats in her heart and mind are you a god? NO you're not. Plus being gay or a lesbian isn't a sin and spreading hatred sure is not what your Christ preached.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Mavent

      I might not know a lot about communion, but then, Catholics don't know much about Christianity. Religion is supposed to be a comfort, not a weapon.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Aaron

      Well said.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • humberto

      You know the rules.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • trav

      Your right! communion is for a believer who hasbeen washed in the blood of Jesus nd saved. You cannot be saved and still live in sin.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Your right! communion is for a believer who hasbeen washed in the blood of Jesus nd saved. You cannot be saved and still live in sin."

      Being gay isn't a sin idiot, only prejudice hateful people see it that way.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • trav

      Huh..it sure is. God made the family..one man..and one women.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Deborah

      Any churchgoer worth a grain of salt should know what Holy Communion means. That being said, one does not have to be perfect in order to partake of the Holy Eucharist. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect Christian. It is not for us to judge or condemn, as Jesus Himself said when the crowd was preparing to throw stones at the adulteress; "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The Bible tells us of many things that are sins against God, but that does not prevent sinners from celebrating Holy Communion. If it did, no one would be allowed to partake. Anyone who has a personal relationship with God should be permitted to receive the Sacrament.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • trav

      Deborah
      Read the whole text..He said go and sin no more. Communion is for a believer who recognizes hat Jesus did. If not..u bring judgement on yourself

      March 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  4. Pheadrus

    Reading over some of the responses here I am beginning to get an idea of what Santorum is on about. Apparently religion *does* trump higher education. Who needs college when you have a preacher...?

    March 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • LouAZ

      Now you're catching on . . .
      “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Sinclair Lewis 1935

      March 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Pheadrus: "religion trumps higher education".

      Nope. Apples and oranges my friend, apples and oranges.
      signed – a Christian with a biz degree.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  5. rob

    Why did she even go to communion?

    March 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      My thoughts exactly.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • LouAZ

      Why did you comment ? You did not even read the "article" .
      She was at her Mother's Funeral Mass !

      March 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Dr. Edward Sterns

      Maybe you should READ more and learn WHY this lady wanted communion! She was paying the catholic church and it's "workers"-(priests) to perform a funeral for HER MOTHER!!!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Dan613

      @ LouAZ: No, she went to receive the cookie, and THAT is what we question. Maybe she could be there out of respect for her mother's beliefs (I would have done the same, although the church disgusts me and christianity makes me sick). But she walked up for communion? what a joke. That is a joke.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • LOVE IT!

      How about reading about why she was there!!!!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Mavent

      Maybe because, unlike you hate-mongering ldiots, she's a Christian. Or maybe just because it's a social thing, and it was her mother's funeral. Too bad you guys can't stop being d ouch bags for even the hour it takes to bury someone.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • trav

      dont matter if a funeral or not..dont take communion for wrong reason

      March 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • rob

      Going to communion means you agree that you are in "communion". She could have gone to the mass and not go up for the Eucharist. Many do just that.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  6. EuphoriCrest

    So loving someone is a sin but eating human flesh is a ritual. What a F'ed up religion.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • humberto

      It's not eating flesh, you receive the Holy Spirit, but not if your attempting to decieve.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Dan613

      @ Humberto, you are SO wrong, you are ignorant of catholic mythology. They believe it is the real body and blood of jesus what you eat there, although it appears as a regular cookie. What a lie1 but it is what they say.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      Humberto: They call it transfiguration and believe it actually IS Christ's flesh.

      March 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  7. GrouchyKat

    What a joke. The Catholic Church is kowtowing to public pressure to accept this woman's lifestyle.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Dr. Edward Sterns

      Uh....The Catholic Church and it's attendees are a bunch of hypocrites of the highest order. It's fine to molest your alter boys and then conceal it, but to deny communion to someone who is PAYING the church for a funeral for her own mother is a true abomination to your religion!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      Your god made her the way she is. Some god ya got there.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Steve

      Paying for a funeral mass? Last time I checked they were free. A donation is suggested but not required. Why she presented herself for communion when she had on her own website she is a Buddhist makes me wonder if she used her own mothers funeral to cause a scandal. Anyway none of us were there, so I guess we can all shut up. Leave your child abuse arguments out and save them for when they apply. Otherwise you' come across as just another bigot and your argument loses any credibility. Oh, and I'm gay by the way, I don't like bigotry or hypocrisy in any form.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  8. LouAZ

    Shouldn't be eating body parts of old dead guys anyway. But what can be expected from men in dresses ?

    March 12, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • humberto

      A human being that hurt no one and only helped others, who died on the cross to open our eyes, to gloating peice of s*it's like you.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Dan613

      "communion" isn't more than a piece of cookie, nothing more than bread. The rest is pure mythology.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      He was executed because he was a public nusiance.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  9. Nativewoman

    As a former Catholic member, screw the church!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Dan613

      as a former catholic, I say: Amen to that !! 🙂

      March 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • humberto

      in name only.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Dan613

      "in name only" humberto? do you mean "nominal"? If it s so, I can tell you, you are wrong. I used to be a roman catholic priest and I left all faith and religion, I've never felt more FREEDOM ever. Church makes people sick.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  10. Franko

    Evolution is all based around the big bang theory. In short the big bang theory, IS that ALL matter (which is everything) and life came from NOTHING. One day, out of nothing, an explosion to large for words to describe happened. Before there was oxygen fire or anything combustible, a bang happened. That bang happened with such a force, it created the universe in BILLIONTHS of a second. 8 billionths according to modern astrophysicist. Let's sum this up again, there was NOTHING, then a "bang" then 8 billionths of a second later there was an infinite, and some how growing universe. That means the universe was created faster then the speed of light.
    All of this is true, and accurate. I herd it from the mouth of such geniuses as Mr. Hawking, and other world renowned astrophysicist. These SAME people who call Christians hypocrites. SMFH.....

    March 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      The Theory of Evolution has NOTHING to do with the Big Bang. Take a Physics course, idiot. Then take a Biology course.
      Your as'sumptions are ALL wrong.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • RDM

      So... is it more reasonable to believe that an all-powerful being sudenly appeared out of nothing and created the entire universe out of nothing – and just for the benefit of humans? Why can't we all just agree that we don't know how the universe began and it doesn't really matter.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Franko

      I'm not saying one is more reasonable then the other, they both sound nuts. Hard to believe anyone has the never to discredit the other. The thing that annoys me is that most of people who believe in big bang which lead to life and evolution, have no idea what they're putting faith into, and that its just as far fetched as creationism.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Franko

      there*

      March 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  11. SDFrankie

    I long for the good old days when a priest was a priest and knew what his duty was: cut the heart out of the human sacrifice and then kick his lifeless body down the steps of the pyramid. Now that was religion!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • msadr

      Sounds like the perfect way of getting rid of unbelieving rif-raf.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Tr1Xen

      Sounds like something George Carlin would have said! LOL

      March 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  12. LilySue

    Whatever happened to "we are all children of God?" The new century has seen an awful lot of religious intollerance all over the world. It's very disturbing.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Tr1Xen

      Really more of the same, though. Most of the deadliest conflicts in human history have been rooted in religious hatred. If anything, we've become MORE tolerant (well, those of us who don't fly planes into buildings or bomb abortion clinics have).

      March 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  13. David

    Honestly, I suppose you think Scientist discovered America for political purposes. It was the church leaders running from the tyranny of the Catholic church that discovered America

    March 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Jim P.

      Well, no. Part of the way to get both funding and religious brownie points was to swear that the main reason for exploratory missions were to spread Catholicism to unknown lands.

      The Spanish especially were into this and almost always hauled a priest or monk along to start baptizing/burning the local inhabitants depending on the reception given to their "message".

      Gold, slaves and proselytrizing.were the initial reasons most of the New World was explored. Land and colonies came later.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • J

      Actually, to get technical, America was "discovered" by non-Whites who wandered thisaway across the land bridge formed when Siberia was touching present-day Alaska. They were there a LOOOOOONG time before any Catholics visited!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • HONESTLY!

      Why would you suppose that? What part of my comments make you think im defending the catholic church?

      furthermore, those who explored, explored because it was their passion. They loved to explore, as exploring is part of human nature, Explorers are simply who we as humans are by nature, not Zeus, or Hercules, Zephyr. Get it?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • History Buff

      The pilgrims weren't escaping the Catholic Church, they were escaping the Anglican Church, the Church of England... which was regulated by the King, not the pope.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Steve

      Ditto to what he said, they were escaping the Protestant Church of England. So save your bigotry and lies for something else, or at least learn your history

      March 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  14. Hmm!

    So we will suspend priests for failling to give communion to a lesbian, but we okay letting the pedophiles continue on. I gotta say this is pretty interesting....

    March 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Evskie

      Actually, you inquire about a priests availability and wish to perform the funeral in advance. This priest knew the family and waited untill the moment of the comunion to deny the daughter. He could of brought it up in advance. Clearly this was a personal attack and as antichristian as it gets.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  15. Fheal

    Thank you Rev. Marcel Guarnizo and GOD bless.... this woman shouldn't be surprised, unless she's also a high school dropout and not able to read as well.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Now now. Don't be puttin' down publik edumacashion. We've got so much to show for the trillions spent on teacher's unions

      March 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • SBFW

      Fheal,
      It is not up to the priest to deny people communion because of their sins. Everyone sins, even the priest. It is up to the conscience of the person RECEIVING communion to partake or not. True, it is a mortal sin to take communion with mortal sin on one's soul but the priest probably didn't know the full extent of the woman's life. Maybe she was a celibate lesbian and therefore was not in a state of sin (being a lesbian is not itself a sin). The Church does not condone public punishment for sin.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Huh?

      "this woman shouldn't be surprised, unless she's also a high school dropout and not able to read as well."

      Actually I always thought it was the religious nuts that were uneducated because they can't seem to comprehend the reports from the hundred of thousands of experts that state that being gay isn't a choice, it's not a mental illness and it can't be voluntarily changed.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      She's a Catholic school teacher. Fool.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  16. Dorkus

    Vote Republican. Better yet, vote for Jesus' spokesman, Rick Santorum. Once we get him into the White House, this will no longer be news, it will be an everyday occurrence. I for one can't wait.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  17. kelsey

    by his standards nobody should be allowed to take communion becasue EVERYBODY sins no matter how religious they are

    March 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • humberto

      Go swing a dead cat over your head in a graveyard at midnight, thats about your standard.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • msadr

      It's not HIS standard. It's the catholic church's standard. And it's not everyone who sins who gets denied communion. It's the people who refuse to admit their sin and refuse to give it up.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Kelsey grammer...its the sinner who won't admit to sin. Read up.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • What's wrong with this picture ?

      msadr,
      Jesus gave Judas communion. Ya better than him ?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  18. HONESTLY!

    Priest VS. The Palm Reader!
    both think they can tell you your future.
    Both expect you to put money in a tray.
    both dress in ridiculous garb.
    both talk to so called spirits
    Both expect you to reject science, and believe in what's not true.
    And most importantly....
    BOTH ARE WRONG!

    If you wouldn't go to a Palm Reader every Sunday and give them money, why do you go to the church?
    they're the same thing,, only the church has been pulling the wool over your eyes for alot longer!

    WAKE UP! you're talking in your sleep!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • humberto

      Both are more honest than government .

      March 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • HONESTLY!

      No Humberto, they are not!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • humberto

      you're delusional.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • HONESTLY!

      And Humberto! You are a church zombie!
      A mindless human tool for the wicked!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  19. Keith

    Even though he's catholic (and probably a pervert) I'm glad he is a warrior for Christ!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee, your life is just SO rewarding.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • rob

      Right, because if you are a priest you are probably a pervert. Just like if you are black you are probably a criminal, if you are Muslim you are probably a terrorist and if you are a Jew you want to to control the world, probably. What blatant bigotry.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • JJ

      What's funny is that 90%+ priests are gay and/or pedophiles and feel that their god thinks they are more special than you.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • rob

      and how are things at Westboro – JJ

      March 12, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Billy

      Yep JJ next to Muslims and Islam Catholicism is one of the most dangerous religions. The fact that parents would hand their children over to pedophiles to be alter boys is a disgrace!

      March 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • rob

      Billy?? Billy Bob????

      March 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  20. BobZemko

    Jesus, save me from your followers.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • humberto

      heal you're self you dumb poll lock.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Dorkus

      Yes, humberto, heal you are self. Makes perfect sense to me. And what's a poll lock, something you lock voting booths with?

      March 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • humberto

      your catching on.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Cute saying, but it won't wash when you stand before Him. At least you seem to think Christ was all He said He was. We'll pray that springs into saving Faith on your part.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • msadr

      If you're that frightened of me, you'd better get off my forum.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
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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.