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. J R Brown

    The lesbian was looking for a fight. She had rejected Catholicism because she didn't agree with it's rules and found herself a new religion. Going back to a Catholic Church and deliberately trying to participate in what she knew to be a sacred ritual for which she had no business in trying to participate only demonstrates that she CLEARLY was there to give a big F U to the Catholic Church.

    Her mother was Catholic...not her. The funeral was for her mother...this lesbian ruined her mother's funeral trying to screw over a religion she doesn't even believe in. THAT says more about her character, integrity and motives than anything else in this pathetic story.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • liveit

      Even still, he should have give her communion, and then lead her on the path of righteousness! Isn't that his lot in life?
      Wait a minute, im acting as if a priest should try to lead his flock! What was I thinking? Big brain fart!
      However, if he was a little boy, I bet things would have been a lot different!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  2. Terra Coeli

    Any priest from the church I attend would also deny this lady Communion. Like the Roman church, mine is not an open communion religion. From what I understand, in the Roman church, a person has to attend catechism classes before they can receive the sacrament of communion. Like it or not, the priest had every right to deny this lady, although it would have been nice if she hadn't put him in that position in the first place.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • liveit

      I think he put himself in that position when he joined the church!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • liveit

      You think it's funny that religious folk use their bible in ways that's detrimental to society.
      do you feel the same way when Muslims kill Christians and Jews? Remember they're just doing what there bible tells them to do (destroy the infidels)!
      And you think that's ok?

      March 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • They Must Follow God Not Man

      Terra Coeli, any priest or minister in denying the Holy Eucharist to those whom God has called forth to receive is committing a grave and mortal sin! It is not for man, thus, a priest, to determine who is worthy or who is not. God has clearly ordained the person to go and receive His Body and His Blood because He knows that person much better than the priest and makes that determination to invite them to Holy Communion. If a priest denies communion to anyone for whatever reason, they are following man's predilection and that is very offensive to God as that is not what God has ordained. End of story.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  3. Rob

    Just glad the Bishop knew better. I sometimes wonder if I should become a priest I am catholic and I feel I would represent the church well. I honestly think about it.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  4. Paul

    Everyone commits sin and one sin in the eyes of God is no different from another. I ask has a priest ever denied the Eucharist to a convicted murder or rapist? As far as I know it has never happened so why all of a sudden denying it to a lesbian?

    March 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • catholic

      Can't be Catholic and lesbian.Duh

      March 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Why not? Most of the nuns are!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • catholic

      Just shows your ignorance and misplaced anger. Sad really

      March 12, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • buckcameron

      For "Catholic" Since you are ignorant of the faith please find another name to call yourself, as shall I.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Three of my grade school nuns left the order, and later lived with their respective girlfriends. "catholic", it looks like you need to deal with reality.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • AGuest9

      I won't even START on the child-molester priests. Yes, we had one convicted from the time-frame that I was in school there. He never touched me, but you could tell that there was something weird about him. One of the nuns was also released from an asylum, and used to beat the children. She was a tall, cross-eyed red-headed freak.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  5. Lizzy10

    The Catholic Church isn't the Pope, Cardinal's, Bishop's or Priest's, it is the people. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe this priest should re-read the bible.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • catholic

      Maybe you should read the catechism. Can't be a lesbian and Catholic. Simple.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • just sayin

      Can't be a Catholic and Christian, either.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • catholic

      What? Your comment shows your ignorance. Christians believe in Christ, um Catholics do....so...here's your sign

      March 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Evenin' Cap'n!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  6. Danny

    Funny...Jesus died for the sinners. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Perhaps this priest did not get to read through the entire bible because he was busy raping children. Does this same priest deny communion to the MANY divorced people who are just as much sinners? Because it appears in this society they scream sin at the gays and lesbians but ignore the fact that DIVORCE IS A SIN!

    March 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • catholic

      The old "your sin is a sin too, so you should ignore their sin..." is just that, old. Can't pick and choose, she's NOT Catholic.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • just sayin

      And neither are you. No one is Catholic except me and thee, and i have my doubts about thee.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • bob

      Well Catholic actually first being Gay is NOT a sin and second religion is a Crutch for the week minded.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      And your missing the point. If they want to deny communion because they believe she is "living in sin" then they should deny it to all divorcees, or people who have unclean thoughts, or the myriad of other "sins". To pick and choose who you deny communion to just shows bias.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Pat In IL

      And it's okay for gay child aabusers to actually perform the sacraments???

      March 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Danny

      @catholic obviously your tiny brain cannot comprehend what is being said. Let me try to dumb it down for you.
      DIVORCE=SIN just as much as anything else...infact Jesus mentions divorce himself however Jesus doesn't mention anything regarding gays and lesbians from his own words. I am really just quite sick of hearing about how gays and lesbians are so horrible and it may not bother me at all if at least it were mentioned equally how horrible people who are divorced are. I mean when you get divorced you have a choice...gays and lesbians are born that way and don't have a choice. I know several gays and lesbians who if they could choose would not be such if you are ignorant enough to believe that it is a choice to be hated and tormented on a daily basis well then there is no use even trying to explain to you the level of stupidity that has taken over your being. Jesus loves everyone and if you don't like it well then you can go find an island to live on by yourself in your hate filled soul.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  7. Greg

    Gay people have been persecuted for thousands of years... don't ya think its time to practice less hate and more love for one another?

    March 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Angel03

      I totally agree..it seems as though they want to hate on gays yet don't realize their hate and judgement is a sin!! As long as the actions are not hurting anyone don't worry about it!! Besides you radical Christian know it alls are doing nothing but causing debates! Shut it for once!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • T.I.N.G.

      With Blacks having rights and women being allowed to vote, this is all they have left.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • catholic

      You people are either crazy or nonCatholics. The church says you can't be a lesbian and Catholic. Enough said. I don't claim to be Hindu without doing any of their practices. Why is this different? Judgemental? Saying someone isn't able to receive the Eucharist because they're not Catholic is true.Hate the sin, not the sinner. Seems like the church made the right call.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  8. sdgman

    If god's message is hate than this man is a great representative. Maybe he can join the Westboro Baptists.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • really?

      Sounds like he's already a member.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  9. Ted

    Those who are not sick are in no need of a doctor – it should not be surprising that you find sinners in church

    March 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Anti-Ted

      You've distorted that saying quite disingenuously.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • really?

      Perfectly said Ted!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  10. WhatDoYouExpect

    This issue is such a joke. It is nothing more than a gay activist pushing her agenda. First off, the priest did annouce that only Catholics are allowed to take communion. This person CHOOSE to still come forward even though she is a Buddhist and NOT a Catholic. She forced the issue. I admit the priest handle it poorly with his word choice. He should have said you are not Catholic and I therefore can not administer communion to you. My guess, this person would have still force the issue in the press. Why else would she even go forward in the first place? When I go to a Catholic chuch, I know the rules and I RESPECT the churchs rules in this regard so I do not participate out of RESPECT. Suppose I walked into her template with my hat and shoes on. Sure, I see the pile of shoes outside, but I don't care. Their are my shoes and I want to ware them whenever and wherever I go. I am sure everyone would let me know what I was doing was wrong. So, I have ABSOLUTELY 0 sympathy for this person. I see no stories where the 1000s of people each week are denied communion at a Catholic church because they are of a protestant faith. I see no stories about Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts who are denied the host because they are not Catholic. And yes, this does happen. But, it is headline news that a Buddhist gay activist is denied receiving communion from a servant of a God that she doesn't believe in. Go cry your crocodile tears somewhere else.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • ImpishLisa

      I agree with you. Someone knowing the lay of the land that demands special treatment is only trolling for trouble.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Aezel

      Once again a post from an ignorant religious fool who doesn't even know the rules of their own religion before they spout off. Although it is the policy of the Catholic Church to ask Catholics only to take communion, the official rule is that a priest may not outright deny communion to ANYONE for ANY REASON. It doesn't matter if you are a gay Buddhist serial murderer that uses a picture of the pope for a dartboard, they cannot be denied communion.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • really?

      No it doesn't happen, nearly as often as you would like to portray.
      Communion is not to be given, to those who...
      Are divorced or remarried!
      Anyone using contraception (90% of catholic women)
      Anyone who master bates (100% of all catholic men).
      But the church leaders let those things slide, because if they didnt there would be no one in the church, and no money to collect in their trays.
      This is just another example of religious using the bible to divide society!
      Just as they do with women.
      Just as they did with slavery.
      Face it, your church is butt evil! And your bible is that of man made lies!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  11. jim

    I think the priest was absolutely right. Gays shoudnt be allowed in the church or be allowed to get communion. If you wanna be a raging gay stay in the closet or get out of my country:-)

    March 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      And if you want to be a raging hateful azz then go live in a theocracy.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      Sure thing. As soon as morons like you get out of mine.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • bob

      First it is not just your country it belongs to all 300million of us, including the millions of Gay Americans. Secondly she is not committing a sin by being Gay. Jesus Christ only used the word abomination once when her referred to the worship of money as an abomination.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  12. Dejabrewer

    Leviticus 20:13 = Gay Genocide

    March 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  13. Ruff Locks

    Well, they are going to be denied entry into heaven, so they should get comfortable now with the feeling of rejection!

    March 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      if i don't go to hell, i'll miss all my friends.

      March 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • T.I.N.G.

      Who wants to go to heaven and hang out with Warren Jeffs and pedophile priests?

      March 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • stonrdude

      never fear Ruff, we will be in hell together, me being gay and you being a bigot! bring some warm beer and i'll bring the burgers for grillin, you n me buddy boi!

      March 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Carlos

      @Ruff Locks,

      you have absolutely no right to say that. no human has the right to know who and who does not enter heaven.. 🙂

      March 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who wants to spend eternity with any of these sh!t-for-brains idiots?

      Really. I have more interesting discussions with houseplants.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  14. ytuque

    No wafer or wine but the priest kindly allowed her to lick the carpet.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  15. Rod C. Venger

    Go, and sin no more. It's not a joke. Catholicism is a cult but the priest had it right.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sin = fun

      March 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  16. Bootyfunk

    the flying spaghetti monster is superior to yahweh in every way. and ten times as delicious.


    March 12, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  17. Bob Dobbs

    It's all about Ezekiel 23:20. Those who don't follow it are sinners and will pay the price.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • T.I.N.G.

      Doesn't say much considering the book was written by ignorant men.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  18. Rallph Smith

    c.s. lewis was another christian idiot

    March 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Kevin

      What does this have to do with the article?

      March 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  19. Eleni

    One interesting thing not mentioned in the article but is verifiable on the net through other news sources - the woman in question is also Buddhist and declared this to the priest before the Mass had started. The Catholic Church is not an open Communion such as the Protestant churches have. I wonder if perhaps her wording on the issue is accurate or if perhaps the priest involved based his decision on her religious statements as well.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • humberto

      the so called power of the press is good at doing that.

      March 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sez humberto, who can't spell his way out of 5th grade.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  20. Ashrakay

    @Bootyfunk, Christians hate it when you quote their bible at them.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • humberto

      two arms, two legs and still no mind.

      March 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yeah, they sure do. but since they obviously don't know what their book says, i feel obligated to give them a few gems that may have been skipped in sunday school. survey after survey show that atheists know more about the bible than the people who say they live by the words inside. maybe that's why we're atheists...?

      March 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • humberto

      Ruff Locks says:
      March 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm
      Well, they are going to be denied entry into heaven, so they should get comfortable now with the feeling of rejection!

      Bootyfunk says:
      March 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm
      if i don’t go to hell, i’ll miss all my friends.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Says humberto, who can't figure out how to spell "Caesar".

      Go suck frogs.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Bootyfunk, for me it was a nice blend of reading the bible, dealing with close-minded religious folk, educating myself in the sciences and philosophy and then learning to reason.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • AGuest9


      March 12, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
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