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 Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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.”