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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. HONESTLY!

    i personally dont believe that there is a man like figure sitting up in the sky watching your every move. He isn’t there making sure your sports team wins. He isn’t there talking to the pope, the rabbi’s, or any other religious leader. And he certainly isn’t there talking to any of you. sorry to say we're just not that important. He does have laws though, that must be abided by. For instance there are things you must do to live, and procreate (even though his laws have allowed us to do that outside of our own bodies), we must stay clear of certain elements while devouring other elements. His laws are made of laws you may have heard before. Like laws of gravity, laws of physics, and velocity, and logic. For god in completely undeniable! That he is the universe and more.
    Things you can’t even imagine are alive, reproduce, enjoy some elements while rejecting others just as we do. Our very own planet is alive (its not a rock) our solar system is alive the universe is alive, stars reproduce and die every minute. and its a great and beautiful display of gods power. gods plan is for the universe and beyond. stop thinking we are the most important beings in the universe, because we're not! we’re just a minuscule particle in a minuscule time period, no more important than a kitten, or a fish. however we have evolved intelligence that other species have yet to achieve. Our destinations will be laid out in time with "science" and true understanding of these (gods) laws. Be patient we”LL get there in time! until then we need to love, respect, protect, and feed one another so that we survive long enough to achieve the goal of god. One more thing. This gods laws, are proven everytime scientist have a new break through, or discovery another one of gods fascinating laws are revealed. Its important that we understand it, question it, and finally correct what we can, and accept what we can't. His laws are unforgivable. He's not an angry god waiting to punish anyone. he's the god that has given us life, in a place where his laws can't by any means be broken you have no choice in them, for they are already set. You can't break them if you wanted to. For god has made sure of this! Love god, your fellow man, the planet, the universe. And constantly remind yourself how small you are in gods creation. For this is your true god! For your bible was hand written by man to impart laws. And these laws are 2000 years old now. Its time to believe in what we know, and let go of what isn't real!
    Drop your religion and accept the real god!

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

      your blind and your lengthy comment has no sunstance

      March 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • humberto

      God did no reveal himself to man, to ponder on his wonders, Gods laws pertain to your acts alone .

      March 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • ....

      "has no sunstance"

      Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Truth

      @trav, thank you for saying that. I totally agree!!!

      March 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Teacher

      What the hell is "sunstance" ? Would it have anything to do with substance ? And these people think what they say is going to taken seriously. Heh heh.

      March 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  2. John John

    Casting stones, father?

    March 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  3. Ryan Meeks

    No mention that this lady was actually a Buddhist and LYING about her religious affiliation? Of course not, CNN. Will my comment be deleted before anyone can notice? Of course, CNN!

    March 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Patrick

      Oh my, a Buddhist! How terrible. Perhaps the woman merely wanted to blend in or honor her mother's faith at the funeral and not raise any drama. As a side note. The practice of Buddhism is 500 years older than Christianity and is well worth looking to. it is a spiritual path for adults who want to take responsibility for being human instead of playing dutiful little children for a father in the sky.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  4. Not ReportedOnCNN

    Do dems and libs like apples ? I ask because Obama's approval rating is sinking.How do you guys and gals like them apples ?

    March 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • longtooth

      Ley us know when Obama's approval rating sinks as low as Congress.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Scott

    I'm not a religious person, but it never ceases to amaze me how people stick up for their God and how their God will be offended....hmmm...sounds like judgement to me and I believe the Catholic faith leaves the ultimate judgement to God.. I'm sure he/she/it, can look after themselves just fine and wouldn't take any offense to this lady and who she is.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • trav

      people need to be taught to prevent judgement on themselves

      March 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  6. Poolchick

    The Catholics are a bunch of hyprocrites, always have been and always will be. They think they are so higher than anyone else but yet they do the most harm. Hiding behind their religion to do horrilbe unthinkable acts. What right does that priest have to judge someone else? To deny communion to her was wrong. She obviously believes in God and was there at the funeral to take part......in all of it. Does he not realize God is probably looking down on him in shame knowing he turned one of his children away. He probably doesn't since he thinks he rules who deserves to take part in communion. The catholics are one of the main reasons why no one trusts religion and don't blame them with their poor record.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • John C.

      Who are you to group all Catholics up together and pass judgement on them all?

      March 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  7. Dave

    Does anybody find it ironic that this woman was refused communion by the very church that is paying billions of dollars in settlements because of priests having 'inappropriate' relations with young men?

    March 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  8. fastidioso sand

    The archdiocese, Father Guarnizo & The pope should all be terminated from their duties in fact all the Catolic church should be dismantle, they are exist in this society just to create fear & pain and to bring child molestation memories to a buch of people, we should take a the money from all the archidioceses and distribute to the poorest countries in the world I am ashame to once be called Catholic.....

    March 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  9. Not ReportedOnCNN

    It's been reported that Obama's current approval rating is slightly higher than the approval of raping a stock boy in aisle 6 at your local grocer.Uh oooooh, spaghetti o's.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  10. Old Crispy

    Such a strange pseudo cannibalistic ritual. You'd think that living by the guys example rather than believing you are literally eating him would be enough.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  11. Nah

    It's hilarious reading all the comments by militant atheists who hate religion so much, and yet feel the compulsive need to talk about religion wherever they go.

    Lol. Morons.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Daydreamer

      You are the moron. All we want is for people who claim to be followers of Christ to simply act as Christ would; lay down the sword he never carried; desist from the constant judgement of others; actually love as Christ loved; accept God's children as Christ accepted God's children; forgive, as Christ would have forgiven. These are very simple concepts that appear to be lost on the Catholic Church. God would prefer that the Church embrace all of his children and let him decide if their lifestyle, their love choices are against his wishes.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Still neglecting to ensure the health of your kids, Nah?

      March 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Truth

      To be forgiven, you must first acknowledge the sin, repent of the sin, and then ask forgiveness.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Huh?

      "To be forgiven, you must first acknowledge the sin, repent of the sin, and then ask forgiveness."

      Being gay isn't a sin.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  12. donjoy

    I liked GYPSY's answere the subject of this priest was in fact after the incident with the woman.do you think that it places attention off the woman and onto other things and they don't mention what those other things are.was hey committing lewd acts or playing graba_ _ .this is usualy the time where the catholic church hides things.I believe the c/c got too big for it's britches so to speak and as usual had a great fall and a lot of people walked away,including myself.what the church does is of it's own will but they use god as a reason.wasn't the cruscifiction to shed the blood of christ so that all sin would be forgiven?I don't judge a person,thats gods job, I believe what I believe and unless asked I don't discuss religion.I don't like it when a religion practices rule by fear(you'll go to hell),or by intimidation(if you have relations a person of the same gender your an outcast).let's try to forget about religions and think about GOD and the Christ.have you ever had a talk with GOD,I mean sitting in your chair and communicating.don't you think he'd like to just hear someone talking but asking for nothing.religions are always fighting so they are of THIS world. do your own thing ,it doesn't mean you are against GOD it may mean you care and are not allowing these OH holier than thou people to manipulate you into thinking the church has become it's own god.Pay attention to what's going on around you and the world.somethin ain't working right "to thine own self be true.the womans rights were denied,Christ said while protecting the indescrete woman at the well let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  13. Jeebus gave Judas communion

    Catholics are holier than Thou.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  14. Skeptic

    I think that's the easiest job to have. If you do it by the book, you are guaranteed employment for life.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  15. HONESTLY!

    I am often called an atheist in here, by bible followers for not believing in the bible..
    But im not sure I can be classified an atheist, since I do believe in my god.
    However the bible was written by men for men. The laws of the bible can be broken at anytime. But The law of our true god, cannot be broken by any means!
    Jump as hard as you want, and gods law of gravity will bring you back down to earth every single time. Pray all you want, the end result will be the same! HIS LAW CANNOT BE BROKEN! if you wish to talk with god, you can’t accomplish that with words. But god will tell you what his laws are if you seek them through trial and error! For instance, while Laying out in the sun, pray that you wont be burned. What happens? Right! You get burned, because he has told you what will happen, through trial and error, and you are using your mouth, or thoughts to try and communicate with him. It doesn’t work! But god gave you logic, and if you use that logic, you will be protected from the sun, through avoidance. Its so easy to understand. Please try?

    March 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  16. Catholic Church is a scam!

    I was with a very famous friend of mine who was invited to sing at St Patrick's Cathedral in NYC one Christmas Eve for the mass. He should have declined, but given the kind of person he is, he graciously accepted and asked for NO fee although someone of his stature get's paid the BIG bucks when he's asked to sing anywhere. Well, after he sang and was "in line" to receive communion, he and every other NON catholic attending the service was informed that "they were not welcome to come to the table of the lord". NOT that he was more deserved than anyone else there , but if I was him I would have billed the Catholic church for my services an hour later if I was him! The Catholic church has a great scam going....wow!!!

    March 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  17. blondie

    The CATHOLIC Church makes me want to vomit all over the living room floor.

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

      Ewwe! Then you'd have to clean it up! Not all of us Catholics are bad. Some are hypocrites and others are not. I wouldn't put all Catholics in the same class. That's not nice people! I could vomit at the mere thought of a Methodist or a Jew or a protestant or an episcopalian. Why waste my energy! Grow up people!! I wasn't raised to be a bigot or to criticize someone else s religious beliefs. The priest was wrong in doing what he did and should be punished. We were taught that anyone who enters any church should be welcomed. When was the last time some of you went to church?

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

      No, honey, that's from the cheap booze. Try Ripple.

      March 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  18. David

    The church still can't admit that they are terrible hypocrites and they lie about the truth and face the fact that they received so much flack for this injustice. They are the biggest sinner.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  19. Not ReportedOnCNN

    According to ABC news, Obama's approval rating is its lowest yet.41%.Uh oh.Golden boy aint lookin so golden.Uh oooooh spaghetti o's.

    March 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Catholic Church is a scam!

      Actually YOU are not completely telling the truth..... Yes ABC News said this...but they were quoting "fox News" polls...Idiot!!!

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

      And this has what to do with this article?

      March 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  20. b4bigbang

    test

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

      You passed !

      March 12, 2012 at 7:01 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.