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The betrayal of Father Guarnizo
Catholic Culture ^ | March 15, 2012 | Phil Lawler

Posted on 03/17/2012 7:07:44 AM PDT by NYer

In an earlier column on all the things we don’t know about the case of Father Marcel Guarnizo, I failed—as many critical readers pointed out—to take account of the apology issued by the Washington archdiocese soon after the fateful incident in which Father Guarnizo refused to administer Communion to the lesbian activist Barbara Johnson.

At the time there were many important things we did not know—we know much more now, since Father Guarnizo has issued a statement in his own defense—but that first public statement from the archdiocese gave readers good reason to fear that the archdiocese was ready to sacrifice the reputation of a priest (and, not just by the way, the integrity of the Eucharist) in order to deflect political criticism. I am sorry that I did not make this point in my original piece on the matter; let me undo the damage at least partially by elaborating on the point now.

After Barbara Johnson angrily protested the denial of Communion, Bishop Barry Knestout, the vicar general of the Washington archdiocese, issued a public apology. Apparently without having consulted the priest involved, to learn details about the incident, he wrote to Johnson: “I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity.”

Bishop Knestout’s letter was entirely sympathetic to Johnson, entirely unsympathetic to Father Guarnizo. There was no hint that under some circumstances the priest might have been right to refuse Communion, and no hint that Johnson had been wrong to provoke the refusal. The message was a betrayal in two ways:

First, it is not clear whether Father Guarnizo was right to deny Barbara Johnson the Eucharist. But it is quite clear, and has been from the outset, that Barbara Johnson was wrong to present herself for Communion. She is an avowed lesbian, actively involved in a relationship that flouts the laws of God and of his Church. She has distanced herself from the Church by her public advocacy for an immoral way of life, and in her angry public reaction to the incident she showed her intent to use this controversy as a way to broaden public acceptance of homosexual conduct. Since she was evidently raised in a devout Catholic household, it is very difficult to believe that she was honestly unaware of her status vis-à-vis the Church. But insofar as there was some slim chance that she honestly did not know that she should not receive Communion—and for the benefit of many others in similar circumstances—the archdiocese should surely have made that point. This ugly incident had given rise to a genuine teaching opportunity: a chance to remind wayward Catholics that one who receives the Eucharist unworthily risks damnation. The archdiocesan statement missed that opportunity. An editorial that appeared later in the archdiocesan newspaper hesitatingly made the necessary point (although that editorial created some confusion on other points), but the initial statement from Bishop Knestout did not.

Second, the vicar general’s public statement did something very similar to what it accused Father Guarnizo of doing. Let me explain: The Code of Canon Law presumes that priests should administer the Eucharist to those who come forward, except in certain carefully defined circumstances, because the faithful have the right to the sacraments and because priests should not substitute their own personal judgments for those of the Church. (Thus Father Guarnizo does himself no favors in his own public statement, when he says that he based his decision not on Canon 915 or any other particular law but on his own common-sense judgment.) A priest cannot lightly refuse Communion to someone he deems a sinner, because—among other things—by doing so he creates a scandal, exposing that “sinner” to public humiliation. Yet the archdiocese exposed Father Guarnizo to public humiliation.

And why did the archdiocese leave this poor priest dangling? Because he violated a policy of the archdiocese—a policy that may be in conflict with the law of the universal Church? At worst Father Guarnizo was guilty of a minor infraction against a local policy, not a serious transgression against God’s law. The archdiocesan policy weighed against refusing the Eucharist even when that action was justified (in fact obligatory), and the first statement from Bishop Knestout spoke only of the archdiocesan policy without making reference to the more serious questions about God’s law. So the faithful had every reason to worry that a good priest might be wrongly disciplined. And the subsequent statement from Bishop Knestout, claiming that Father Guarnizo had been removed from ministry for reasons unrelated to the Eucharistic incident, strained the credulity of the most loyal Catholics. We still do not have all the facts. But faithful Catholics cannot be blamed for harboring strong suspicions.

When she launched her campaign for vindication, Barbara Johnson warned Father Guarnizo, “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.” Now the lesbian activist has had her way; the priest who rebuked her is sidelined. Even if every charge against him is completely accurate—even if he is imprudent and intemperate and intimidating—Father Guarnizo could have been reassigned quietly, without ceding such a thorough propaganda victory for the homosexual cause.

The betrayal of Father Guarnizo sends a chilling message to every priest in Washington: that if he is zealous in defending the Eucharist, he cannot count on support from the archdiocese. Since other radical activists will no doubt follow Barbara Johnson’s example, we can expect another test case soon. Let’s hope and pray that the next time, the archdiocese will show at least as much solicitude for the Eucharist (not to mention the accused priest) as for the critics of the Church.

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TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Worship

1 posted on 03/17/2012 7:07:46 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 03/17/2012 7:08:39 AM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: NYer

I support Fr Marcel Guarnizo. I don’t see anything wrong with what he did nor his public statement that he released.

3 posted on 03/17/2012 7:38:01 AM PDT by surroundedbyblue (Live the message of Fatima - pray & do penance!)
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To: NYer

The franchise known as the American Catholic Church has been mired in deep trouble since the evil known as Vatican II.

This priest is one of the few authentical clergymen left in the new religion established as a direct result of Vatican II.

Fortunately, true Roman Catholics have traditional chapels scattered about the nation where they’ll not only know what’s going to happen but their spirit will soar.

4 posted on 03/17/2012 8:04:53 AM PDT by IbJensen (We now have a government requiring citizens prove they are insured but not that they are citizens.)
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To: IbJensen

The same way Christ physically cleared out His Father’s House, (He tossed out the money changers) will also happen in His Church on earth.
All the literal perverts and perverters of His Church will go.

5 posted on 03/17/2012 8:46:13 AM PDT by catroina54
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To: IbJensen

Just one minor point, it is not the American Catholic Church, it the Church in America.

As for Vatican II, I do not know if it is evil, but I do know it has been misused to bring about changes it was not meant to do.

6 posted on 03/17/2012 8:59:12 AM PDT by Jvette
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To: Jvette

Well said

7 posted on 03/17/2012 10:44:33 AM PDT by surroundedbyblue (Live the message of Fatima - pray & do penance!)
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To: catroina54

all I see is the wicked and evil prospering. Where is God and His intervention

8 posted on 03/17/2012 10:51:49 AM PDT by yldstrk ( My heroes have always been cowboys)
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To: NYer

He’s fighting apostate “catholic” organizations like this.

9 posted on 03/17/2012 8:10:59 PM PDT by tiki
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