UPDATE: Fr Marcel Guarnizo’s Response to the Eucharistic Incident here.
Barbara Johnson knew last Saturday, the day of her mother’s funeral, would be difficult. But she and her lesbian partner of 20 years had no idea that the priest at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., would be a source of her grief.
Johnson, 51, of Washington, D.C, walked into the church, mourning the mom she described to msnbc.com as “a really cool woman; she was 85 going on 58.”
When Johnson and her partner arrived at the church – which her mom had attended, and her dad, too, before he died years prior – they were summoned by Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, a man they were meeting for the first time. He didn’t express his condolences, Johnson said, instead curtly getting down to business.
Johnson had painfully written a eulogy; her niece had also penned one. “We only allow one eulogy,” Guarnizo informed them, despite the fact that the church’s music director had told them otherwise, Johnson told msnbc.com. Johnson said she asked her partner to plead with Guarnizo to allow for two while she was called away for her pallbearer duties.
The day, already tense, was about to get significantly worse. Johnson said the priest denied her Communion at her own mother’s funeral, telling her he couldn’t give it to her because she was gay.
When it came time to hand out bread and wine, Guarnizo “issued a strong admonition that only Catholics in a state of grace can receive Communion,” Johnson told msnbc.com. “I went up. I was standing next to my mother’s casket and he covered the bowl, and said, ‘I cannot give you Communion because you are with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ I stood there with my mouth open in a state of shock for – I don’t know how long.”
But he wasn’t finished, Johnson said. Guarnizo had finally agreed to allow two eulogies, but she said family members told her that he proceeded to walk out of the service in the middle of Johnson’s dedication to her mother – something he didn’t do during her niece’s eulogy.
As the final insult, Johnson told msnbc.com, Guarnizo failed to attend her mother’s burial: “When the funeral home director appears, he says, ‘Father Marcel has taken ill. He says he has a migraine and is unable to accompany your mother’s remains to the cemetery.’ This was, for me and my family, his most egregious act.”
The Johnsons now want Guarnizo removed from his post, and are seeking an apology from him.
“You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” Barbara Johnson wrote in a letter to Guarnizo. “I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”
Msnbc.com emailed Guarnizo on Wednesday but did not receive any response from him. Long videos online show him delivering anti-choice speeches, calling abortion clinics “veritable death camps.”
Priest doesn’t apologize, but archdiocese does Johnson, whose story was first reported in The Washington Post, said that Guarnizo has yet to apologize to her family or make any public remarks, but on Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Washington sent Johnson a letter of apology after she spoke with the secretary there…
Here it is:
UPDATE: Fr Z with The “Lesbian Denied Communion” issue: some posts and updates.