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. Aesops

    Life is like a vapor.
    You are not going to suffer forever. YOu can have all of eternity in joy and bliss.
    For the pain and suffering of this world is incomparable to the glory to be revealed.
    Your time is limited. Seventy or eighty years maximum, if you have strength.
    You don't have all of the time you think you have to play with the sin and pleasures of this world. Live for Jesus now. For it is appointed for man or woman to die once, then afterwards comes judgement. Be heavenly minded and do not dwell on things of the earth that shall pass away.

    March 13, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  2. bob

    You are the one that needs pity Mary, you believe in that dogma. I believe in God, Christ, and the human soul. I do not believe any religion has a lock on God's law, actually I think most of them have it a** backwards.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  3. Easternsailor

    We have the right of freedom of speech. I never judge any ones! The Lord Jesus say, Let me do it for you and the vengeance is I!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • atkins dieter

      Sweet of god, to create people then take vengeance out on them.
      nice belief you got there buddy!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  4. CSX

    Make fun of the wafer, but understand it is a reminder of the one who died that you might live.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • atkins dieter

      Might live? What? Do you think im posting on CNN from the other side? You think im linked to CNN through my Ouija board? Get a brain! Stop filling your head with BS, and get a real education!
      GOOD LORD!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  5. its just a test! and youre failing miserably!

    Man made the bible!
    God made gay people!
    So when man says to hate, or kill gay people, its gods way of testing his followers.
    This is why Jesus never mentioned gay people, not even once. But you are all being tested for the love of your fellow man. And sadly, many of you chose discrimination over salvation!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  6. Easternsailor

    We are the Holy Catholic Christian. We had heard that do not shake hands in the church and the church is not a sign for the union! If you are not the priest or nuns then you never touch and hand out the Body of Christ! And if you do that then the Body of Christ turn to manna! the Body of Christ is no longer the Bread of Life!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • atkins dieter

      Bread is not good for you!
      It causes diabetes
      High blood pressure
      Clogged arteries,
      And eventually death.
      jesus should have been handing out apples, would have been a much healthier choice!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  7. cosprons

    If Catholics truly believe the wine they drink at Commiunion is the blood of Christ, know what that make s them? Vampires! Stake 'em!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Easternsailor

      So u r the killer and the guilty from the beginning and still guilty now, Blood Sucker and vampire is it! No it allow in My Kingdom.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  8. Hungry

    Revelations was stolen from the book of Daniels!
    The book of Daniels was written some 400 years before the bible!
    The bible plagiarizes! Who knew?

    March 12, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  9. RightTurnClyde

    No big deal. Who cares?

    March 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  10. Hungry


    March 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  11. Hungry


    March 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  12. Hungry

    Im starving!
    Anyone have a wafer?

    March 12, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  13. Hungry

    Im starving! Anybody got a wafer, or a glass of wine?

    March 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  14. Easternsailor

    If you intend to commit sin then you are the dead! And would you say that you love the Lord Jesus and His Church and you make His Cross is heavier! I would not!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  15. liveit

    I wonder how many starving children we could feed with these wafers!
    Don't get mad, im not gonna comment on your wine, I know the little boys need that before you can have your way with them!

    March 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  16. Mary Graham

    First of all, the person who "blogged" this does not know anything about the Church. Transubstation is not "literally eating the body of Christ." Secondly, if a church has rules, and members are supposed to follow them to be a member of that church, where is the crime in that? If this person doesn't want to follow the rules, then he/she should join another church.

    March 12, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Hungry

      Its that the church, picks and chooses what sinners they allow, and what sinners they dont allow. Its not about the religious aspect, its about the discrimination of those who want to follow Jesus.
      People can chose to follow, or not follow Jesus.
      Unfortunately people can't chose to not be gay! Its who they are! Its how god made them!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Morgan

      I strongly suggest you speak with your local parish priest on this. The doctrine of transubstantiation is most assuredly a part of Catholic belief. In many other faiths, it is simply symbolic, but for Catholics, it is not.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  17. Easternsailor

    Where is the Name of the Roman Catholic Church come from? Remember! In the Profession of Faith never mention it!

    March 12, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  18. catholic

    Listen, I can't reply to you all but wanted to explain somthing. We are all sinners. The church recognises that. Some sins though separate us from the Eucharist because of their grave nature and their inherent disreguard for the Almighty. You bring up priests who molest, I'd argue they too need to be counseled before receiving again. It seems everyone who is complaining seems to think the church needs to bend to their ideals, when actually they need to follow the church's teaching or leave. They can still be Christian,or Jew,or anything of your choosing.You just can't say you are something and do everything contrary. Doesn't work like that. That's all. The church can decide. We are all sinners but some of us choose to turn our back on Christ. That must be reconciled before receiving again. Why is this a hard concept

    March 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Mary Graham

      Good for you! I could not have said this better. Of course, the people who post on here will have no understanding of what you said, and argue about it for hours. Some of them seem to be remarkably obtuse.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Easternsailor

      In t he Book of Revelation, Who does not have the sign of the Father on their foreheads and they are the Anti-Christ!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Fine. Then your church deserves to lose members, and eventually, to die out.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you look at a baby and see a sinner? something is wrong with you. actually, something is wrong with your belief system that they say you are worthy of h_e_l_l unless you "repent". you guys made up hell - you go there.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  19. Terra Coeli

    I was wondering why some of the people commenting here who call themselves Christians seem to enjoy insulting those who disagree with them. What a fine example of Christian love...

    March 12, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • aj

      Yea, that's so disrespectful. This is why America was founded by protestants who were running away from the Catholic Church rofl.

      How ironic.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Mary Graham

      AJ, your history books seem to have been missing something. Perhaps you should read them again before you comment.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Easternsailor

      Faith without action is dead!

      March 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • bob

      Many of our founding fathers wanted no part with any church including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

      March 12, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • ljf88

      Benjamin Franklin was a Quaker buddy, I'm not religious by any means, but revisionist history does a disservice to everybody.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • TR6

      Hey, this is a distinct improvement. They use to burn you alive if you disagreed with them

      March 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |

    Its funny how if you dont believe in the same god, as a large religious organization, you’re called an atheist! I guess I am an atheist as in I dont believe in their simple minded deities. I think im apart of something great, and something of insignificance at the same time. I am part of alpha and omega! Of everything, including nothing! When I die, my body will break down to dust just as everyone else’s does. I will have to relinquish control of my body, and be apart of something much bigger, the planet earth. My body may become part of a tree or flower, or part of an insect that devours my flesh. Anyway, I will go on. Not in human form as I will not be needed for that purpose any longer. However I will be needed in some fashion forever! Cuz I am apart of everything, including nothing! As we all are. Religion is dogma, dogma is of man, not god, so let it go and lets start living together in peace, and harmony. You dont have to look or act like I do, for me to respect you, and treat you kind! It seems the religious bigots, are the most extreme carriers of the disease called hate! Inoculate yourself from fake deities, before it's too late for man kind. Your religion is our planets cancer, lets cut it out already! I dont mean to destroy anyone Or to advocate violence in anyway. Im simply asking the religious to educate themselves, and let go of what they know isn't real!

    March 12, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • rolling eyes

      couldn't have said it better ........

      March 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Mary Graham

      I pity you from the bottom of my heart. Some day you will have real troubles in your life, and without faith in a Higher Power, it will be like swimming against the current. Some day you will be on your death bed, and I wonder how you will feel then.
      Incidentially, I am an M.S. Psych. "Science" and spiritual can and do coexist. I hope you discover this for yourself, and soon. God bless you.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:58 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.