Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Maryland Priest Denies Communion to Lesbian at Mother's Funeral

Father Marcel Guarnizo

I mentioned yesterday (in passing) the recent story of a priest denying communion to a woman at the funeral of her mother.  The priest in this story is Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of Saint John Neumann Catholic church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  When she approached him for communion at her mother's funeral, he told her, she says, that he could not give her communion because she lives with another woman and this is a sin. 

Jerry Filteau reported on this story yesterday at National Catholic Reporter.  As he notes, the archdiocese of Washington has issued a statement saying it is "looking into" the incident, and noting that the archdiocese's policy is not to reprimand a communicant as she approaches the altar, but to handle questions like this in a private pastoral setting.

At U.S. Catholic, Bryan Cones makes a strong appeal to the archdiocese to do more than tut-tut about Guarnizo's behavior.  As he argues, the behavior Guarnizo exhibited in this incident has scandalized Catholics around the world.  And so he thinks the archdiocese should suspend Guarnizo's priestly faculties until "he can demonstrate that he understands when and how to use his authority in the service of the gospel and the people of God."

As Johnson has told reporters (see Filteau on this), at critical life moments like the funeral of a parent, we don't get a "do-over."  She will never be able to go back now and relive this important moment in her life journey when, at the funeral of her mother, she sought to go to communion and was publicly humiliated by a pastor.

Guarnizo?  He's a Steubenville graduate active in a number of right-wing Catholic causes.  He's a signatory, for instance, to a statement by the militant right-wing Catholic academic watchdog group the Cardinal Newman Society, about which I've blogged a number of times in the past.

And he's now becoming the darling of the fringe-right Catholic blog world, so that what he just did to Barbara Johnson at her mother's funeral may well catapult him into a high-profile position in the fringe-right Catholic television circuit.  It will be worth watching to see how church officials handle the volatile situation he has created.

I'm not holding my breath, frankly, for any powerfully redemptive statement from them.

A quick addendum: through a comment by Terry Weldon below, I now realize Terry has blogged about this story at his Queering the Church site, and want to point readers to his powerful statement, with a follow-up statement here.

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