Communion-denial-for-lesbian controversy update
The story of Barbara Johnson continues to create a fairly huge stir — Johnson was denied communion at her mother’s funeral by a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington because he discovered she is a lesbian. Lisa Fullam posted on the heartening response to Johnson by others at the parish and archdiocesan authorities, who later removed Fr. Marcel Guarnizo from ministry. (That’s him in the photo; apparently he looks like “Neo” all the time, not just at “Matrix” parties.)
Fr. Guarnizo is not going quietly, and released a strong defense of his actions in a statement given to conservative Catholic websites. Guarnizo’s account differs in some details from that of Johnson’s (she says she never told him she was a lesbian, and he only found out when questioning her partner while Johnson accompanied her mother’s casket into the church).
He also says that a migraine attack caused him to leave the altar for a few minutes during mass, and that was the reason he did not accompany the family to the interment.
Guarnizo actually spends much of his time criticizing the archdiocese and its actions, which he insists were related to the communion incident rather than his “intimidating behavior toward parish staff,” as the archdiocese said. Writes Fr. Guarnizo:
Such circumstances can and will be repeated multiple times over if the local church does not make clear to all Catholics that openly confessing sin is something one does to a priest in the confessional, not minutes before the Mass in which the Holy Eucharist is given.
I am confident that my own view, that I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation, quietly, with no intention to hurt or embarrass, will be upheld.
Otherwise any priest could-and many will-face the cruelest crisis of conscience that can be imposed. It seems to me, the lack of clarity on this most basic issue puts at risk other priests who wish to serve the Catholic Church in Washington D.C.
He does add at one point, about Johnson:
If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either. If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbiter of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.
Canon Ed Peters, no lily-livered liberal, I think, has been schooling Fr. Guarnizo and his many defenders throughout this saga, and he returns to the battlements with another lengthy demolition of Guarnizo’s actions and defense. Here is his kicker:
I, too, believe that this case is warning to the Church, a warning to make sure that ministers of the Eucharist understand and observe the Church’s sacramental law. The Church can best defend herself from a hateful world seeking her harm when she follows her own rules; but when she, or hers, fail to do so, the problems become legion.
Read the whole thing here.