The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo has said he
was placed on administrative leave because he denied a lesbian
communion at her mother's funeral.
Barbara Johnson, a 51-year-old District
of Columbia artist, has said that Guarnizo denied her communion
during her mother's funeral Mass, saying she could not receive the
sacrament “because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the
church, that is a sin.”
The Archdiocese of Washington
apologized to the Johnson family for Guarnizo's actions and placed
the priest on leave from his post at St. John Neumann in
The diocese, however, denied Guarnizo's
removed was related to the Communion incident. The Rev. Thomas
LaHood said during Sunday Mass at St. John Neumann that it “pertains
to actions over the past week or two.”
In a statement released to the Catholic
News Agency, Guarnizo asserted that the reasons for his
suspension “have everything to do” with the incident.
“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,” he wrote.
Guarnizo also denied press reports that
he walked out of the service, explaining that he “quietly slipped
for some minutes into the sacristy lavatory to recover from the
migraine that was coming on.”