Priest Who Denied Lesbian Communion Placed on Leave

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday March 13, 2012

A Gaithersburg, Md., priest was recently put on administrative leave from the ministry in the Washington archdiocese for allegedly refusing to serve communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral last month, the Washington Post reported.

Gaithersburg is about 28 miles northwest of Washington D.C.

A letter written on March 9 from Bishop Barry Knestout, a top administrator in the archdiocese, which covers Washington and the Maryland suburbs, said Rev. Marcel Guarnizo was placed on leave because he was "engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry."

Knestout's letter was read at all Masses at St. John Neumann church in Gaithersburg. The archdiocese also confirmed that Guranizo had been removed this weekend.

"I write to inform you that effective today, Father Marcel Guarnizo's assignment at St. John Neumann Parish is withdrawn and he has been placed on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed until such time as an inquiry into his actions at the parish is completed," Knestout also said in the letter.

"This action was taken after I received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry," he continued. "Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners, 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."

The letter does not directly mention Barbara Johnson who says Guarnizo "humiliated" her during her mother's funeral Mass when he allegedly did not serve her communion because she is "living in sin" for being a lesbian, the Washington Blade reported.

Last month she told the Post that Guarnizo "put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, 'I can't give you communion because you live with a woman and in the eyes of the church that is a sin.'"

Johnson, 51, is D.C. artist and made a statement about Guarnizo being placed on leave.

"The Johnson family 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. We urge all Catholics to put aside political points of view, and pray that our Church will remain in Christ's love.", an extreme right-wing advocacy group dedicated to exposing supposed "liberal bias" in the (so-called) mainstream media, took issue with Johnson calling herself a Buddhist.

"Does a Buddhist who's rejected Catholicism stand in line for communion? Does a Buddhist who's rejected Catholicism call what she's going to receive 'the body of Christ'? (The Post called it the 'wafers')," the website said.

A number of people left hateful comments on the posting. One user wrote, "But when they told me I may be reincarnated as a termite, a mudskipper, or even worse, as a fat liberal dyke, and I had no choice in the matter, I picked up my bong and sitar and left." And other said, "The intrusive lesbian thinks that her beliefs and lifestyle should receive equal value treatment by the Catholic Church. And, because she has met resistance, she apparently, plays the political correctness card of letting people know that she is offended and the recipient of bigotry and intolerance. On that basis she makes a big [unreasonable] stink."

The conservative right-wing website Life Site News also pointed out that Johnson is a Buddhist and that she "describes herself as a 'naturally born agitator' committed to a 'culture war.'"

"As a Buddhist, my role model of an enlightened, highly realized, and happy human being is Gautama Buddha," Johnson said in an interview.

The website added, "Under canon law, only Roman Catholics are permitted to receive the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass." Many people who are practicing Catholics, Protestants and Jews consider themselves Buddhist, however, and many people consider it a philosophy more than a religion as there is no governing deity.