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. TheTruth

    The Church is there to minister to the people. The people should never minister to the Church. Stupid Catholic Church. They have lost their way a few thousand years ago. No wonder they will be brought down.

    March 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • concerned

      Well hopefully they go down because people realize they're a joke, and just stop going.
      Not because the church is destroyed by others who believe differently, cuz that would be wrong!
      advocate education, not destruction!

      March 13, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  2. Snarkytart

    This priest suffers from arrogance and ignorance. Every vocation has them. Judge not lest ye be judged. He had no right to pass judgement....we are all Gods' children. It is very sad to me that this predujice still exists. He needs help.

    March 13, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  3. Bill

    The Liberal party ,here in Canada .Wants to legalize marijuana should they get voted in.Reading some of these blogs I think they,re a little late.If before You could buy a PC you were reqiired to pass a mental compitency test ,many of You would get a box of crayons and a sheet of paper.If Aliens are watching Us and they read these comments You can bet they won,t be coming here for a long time to come.Would You?

    March 13, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • concerned

      Why shouldn't it be legal. God made it, didnt he?

      March 13, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • sam stone

      Gee, Bill, you sound like a real mental giant yourself. Tell us why it should not be legal.

      March 13, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • sam stone

      Why are you capitalizing "you"?

      March 13, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  4. concerned

    It is more honest to admit we dont know.
    Isn't it better to be honest?

    March 13, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  5. concerned

    We need to make it a law that churches are for adults only. Stop the brainwashing of our children. Then as an adult with a sound mind let them make their own choice on what to believe. My guess, is most wouldn't give the bible a second thought.

    March 13, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  6. sounds delicious

    Wafers are delicious if they are cone shaped, and have ice cream inside.

    March 13, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  7. sounds delicious

    Im starving, anyone have a wafer, and a glass of wine?

    March 13, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  8. unowhoitsme

    It's not the priest's job to judge, but to pass out the bread. He oopsed. "Get in line behind the child molesters," replied God.

    March 13, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  9. Joe

    When I was trained as a eucharistic minister in the Catholic church, many years ago, we were taught that the communicant's fitness to receive the eucharist was between him and God. The question of refusing to give the eucharist to anyone never came up. This priest is off the rez.

    March 13, 2012 at 6:29 am |
  10. Bootyfunk

    christianity is an accepted cult, no different than any other. the only reason it's not called a cult is because most of society are members of the cult. you never call a cult "a cult" if you're a member.

    "no, no, no, the other religions are cults. not ours. those cults think crazy stuff. i've heard of cults that think there are alien gods with space ships or that the whole world is only an illusion or that there are both male and female gods. crazy stuff. not like our religion with its fiery, talking bush, also talking snakes and donkeys (just like in Shrek!), people with wings on their backs like birds, and unicorns, satyrs and dragons (yes, all really in the bible), zombies rising from the dead and other stories that are true, man, cults sure are crazy."

    yes, they sure are.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • just sayin

      It looks like you have convinced yourself but the rest of the world thinks you're the one that is out to lunch.

      March 13, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      yep, members of a cult always call it a religion. break the chains, my friend. think for yourself. you won't regret it.

      March 13, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • Barry Davis

      They also don't call it a cult because if they did it would drastic to the economy.Christmas and Easter are the 2 biggest holidays for commercial profit.

      March 13, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • sam stone

      just sayin'....you are the one out to lunch. but, by all means keep on posting here, it entertains us tremendously. now, boy, go home and get your shinebox

      March 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 13, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • redrong

      Did you know that the odd of a prayer coming true is the same as making a wish at a wishing well?

      March 13, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • AGuest9

      When you wish upon a star...

      March 13, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~~... .

      March 13, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  12. lastofall

    So another church gives into secular pressure, and chooses the friendship of the world over God´s will.

    March 13, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      What this guy did was wrong!! How you fail to see that is simply disgusting. It's people like you that hold the world back with your backwards thinking. The lady in question was denied communion for being lesbian...something that science has stated is purely natural and science trumps 2000 year old stories.

      March 13, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • Prayer for the country

      Not so and you know it TP. God is honored in the prayer of the Canadian national anthem, "God keep our land"...

      March 13, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Actually it is so you dolt!!! Science has provided the evidence over and over again that being gay is not something a person chooses.
      As for the Canadian Anthem...who gives a rats ass? This article does not pertain to that and thus, once again your stupidity shows through. Try to keep up with the topic child.

      March 13, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • Oakspar

      Downs, diabetes, predisposition to obesity, alcoholism, and baldness and a host of other things are "natural" and "not a choice." That does not make them good or mean that they should be passively accepted.

      In the Christian faith, taking communion in an unworthy manner is believed to have potentially fatal consequences ("it is for this reason that some of you sleep [ie are dead]"). A priest keeping someone stuck in habitual sin, as the church teaches, from communion is merciful, not condemning.

      And arguing that those beliefs are hookum does not change this, because Johnson's level of insult can only be measured in the signifigance she puts upon communion. If she does not believe in their power, then she was denied nothing more than a small snack. If she does believe that they are important, then she is held to the entire belief of the church. She does not get to go into a religious house of worship and pick and choose her doctrine. She had her chance to choose her doctrine at the door.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • concerned

      how many obese people are denied communion?
      Not a freaking one of them. Even though, they get more and more obese, everytime the the preist see's the they are not denied communion!
      Glutany is a sin. And if you are obese, and still over eating, then you are no different than a lesbian, and should be denied communion.
      The thing is, the church, just as they have always done, picks a small minority, then oppresses them. No matter how you look at it, your bible, isn't such a good book. And church leaders, time and time again have proven, they worship money, more than Christ, or Christ teachings.
      If you are going to adhere to the bible, then adhere to it in everyway. You can pick and choose what's okay to accept, and what isn't!

      March 13, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • concerned

      So you would deny, someone with down syndrome, diabetes, genetic predispositions, communion, simply because they are not like you?
      You're disgusting!

      March 13, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Ozymandias71

      Yep, because publicly refusing to give a woman Communion is 'God's will'.
      Refusing to stay in the room when that same woman stands to give her eulogy is 'God's will'.
      Refusing to officiate the actual FUNERAL of a faithful Catholic is 'God's will'...

      You know, your 'God' is pretty cruel. Glad I don't know him.

      March 13, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • sam stone

      pretty pompous claiming to know "god's will". of course faith and pompousness are not necessarily strangers

      March 13, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  13. Easternsailor

    Hey! Hay it can not hide.

    March 13, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  14. Easternsailor

    One Nano in my Temple and I never let the Anti-Christ in and one inch of the face of the Holy ground of the earth and it never stand! And No evil generation enter into my rest.

    March 13, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Um ... what?

      English is temptuous holy failing of not but unrighteous.

      March 13, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  15. RightTurnClyde

    SO for months all of the detractors rail on the Roman Catholic church .. condemnation upon condemnation .. pedophiles, celibacy, refusal to pay for the law students birth control pills (poor little rich girl), papal abuses, cardinals appoints .. and so not liking or believing or caring about the Roman Church .. why NOW does everyone hop on a band wagon defending someone's right to get what has been called a meaningless wafer. Can't she buy a package of Oreo cookies if she's hungry? Why the fuss? What do the Atheists care? Or the anti-Catholics? Who cares? Why does anyone care?

    March 13, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Jeff

      Go take off your tin foil hat

      March 13, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • mmohammad

      you cannot force your religious beliefs on me, same way I cannot force mine on you and as long as it is not affecting your rights, I am allowed to do what I want. So wearing a cross in no way infringes upon someone's right to exist/practice their religion whatever, but preventing my insurance from covering birth control does infringe upon my right so you cannot enforce that law on me, but wearing a cross/scarf/turban does not.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • Lewis Keseberg

      Oreo Cookies are no substitute for human flesh. What's next, comparing tomato juice to blood?


      March 13, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • SWAN!

      I dont think it was about the cookie/wafer.
      I think she just lost her mother and was looking for some spiritual guidance. He missed the perfect opportunity to help her get on the right path. He let his hom*ophobia distract him from saving her. Stupid stupid man.

      March 13, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  16. Jeff

    Wake up America! The biggest thing we need to fight right now are the Muslims trying to drag this country down with their sharia law. Some Muslims moved into my neighborhood a few years back and since then my property value has been decreasing. This is what they do. They drive property values down then once you decide to give up and sell they buy the land for cheap and throw up a minaret or mosque!

    March 13, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Wow

      Tin foil hat screwed on a little too tight today?

      March 13, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Jeff

      LOL I just made a comment about a tin foil hat to someone! I'm not crazy this is all true my preacher has been telling us all this for years and you can see the signs all around you!

      March 13, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • mmohammad

      Really your preacher has been instructing you about the evil of Muslims instead of teaching about Jesus? You do understand that was the argument used by white supermacists to prevent blacks/hispanics/asians from living in their nieghborhood?

      March 13, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • SWAN!

      They have signs that say they're gonna lower the value of your house, then buy it from you for a cheap price, then build a mosque on it?
      really? Like realty signs?

      March 13, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • logical

      You numnutz are what is wrong with america today. You sound like the Nazis during WWII justifying the extinction of the Jews. It's people like you that give western religion a bad name.

      March 13, 2012 at 3:52 am |
    • Bill

      Muslims are devaluating your property values?Hows about the Blacks? Polish ?Irish?Jew,s?Seems theres no place left for a white anglo saxon protestant all American person left on this planet.Why don,t you move north to the Arctic?Of course then you get Indians and Eskimos.Antarctic? bet You hate Penguins too.My heart bleeds for you.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • concerned

      America is a melting pot of all race, and religion, or lack there of. For this country to succeed, you have to realize that. Live and let live. And love your neighbor, no matter how different from you he might be.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • sam stone

      Right, Jeff...our biggest worry is not the economy, or a war, or out of control spending, or environmental issues, it is the muslims. Yeah, the tin foil hat is appropriate. You and your preacher sound like the cream of the crop, allright

      March 13, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • sam stone

      So, Jeff...looks like you and your preacher share the same bigotry. Congratulations, pendejo

      March 13, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  17. Reality

    Dear Rev. Guarnizo,

    "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "
    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

    To wit:

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay se-xual activity is still mutual ma-sturbation caused by one or more complex se-xual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    Yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.

    March 13, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  18. Easternsailor

    Any ones is against the Holy Bible of the Most Holy Catholic Church or changed the name of My Church is the Anti-Christ and you is it! And No Dead dog allow in the Kingdom of God!

    March 13, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • logical

      learn to spell. Your god has never existed it's funny to see just how stupid humans can be. If you had any intelligence at all you would notice that the bible are nothing more than retold stories. Learn your history it's people like you that are dragging down this great country.

      March 13, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • sam stone

      Easternsailor: Ooooh....empty proxy threats.....your beliefs are only valid for those who accept them.

      March 13, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  19. Warrior 4 His Love

    I'd have kicked her in her teeth

    March 13, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Jeff


      March 13, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • daniel

      Do you think he'd want you to do that?

      March 13, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Easternsailor

      Would you for real! I wouldn't and the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God say, I put end of it!

      March 13, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Jeff

      Knock her teeth out

      March 13, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Easternsailor

      We are man and we have the right of freedom of speech. Man have walked by the Lord Jesus' faith. And the Dead got none.

      March 13, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • sam stone

      Wow, what a brave one.

      March 13, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • sam stone

      Yeah, big man Jeff...looks like people see god as they choose. You see a petty punk. What does that tell you?

      March 13, 2012 at 10:21 am |

    Its funny how if you don't believe the same, as a large religious organization, you’re called an atheist! I guess I am an atheist as in I don't 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. At 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!

    March 13, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • S.Lutz

      Yes..that is so. Everything else is a bizarre fairytale. Religion is evil and has long had no place in this world. let nature be the god and peace be the message. That is all. it is no problem. Just go with the flow, stop the hate and accept the laws of the planet.

      March 13, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • humberto

      Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by.

      March 13, 2012 at 2:55 am |
    • concerned

      thats how the church leaders intice, children.. Of course they wouldn't get naked, until they were out of sight, and under the protection of the church!

      March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am |
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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.