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Three recent questions in the wake of the lesbian/Communion controvery
In the Light of the Law ^ | March 13, 2012 | Edward Peters, JD, JCD

Posted on 03/13/2012 1:44:26 PM PDT by NYer

I get paid to explain canon law in the calm context of the graduate classroom, where things like definitions, nuance, history, and values can be reflected upon by well-informed peers (or at least by students who do the readings!) But I never let my students forget that canon law is fundamentally a legal system, and that legal systems deal with real people, and that real people can make a sorry mess of their lives and the lives of others in pretty short order. So, if the recent lesbian/Communion controversy affords us an unlooked-for opportunity, perhaps even a necessity, to explain some of the working of canon law, so be it. I’m game.

Here, I consider the three common questions about this case. Sometimes, yes, the questions are rhetorical and seem designed more to taunt than to inquire, but to the degree they nevertheless help surface issues that others might find instructive, let’s look at them.

Isn’t it just splitting hairs to describe Fr. Guarnizo as being on “administrative leave” when everyone knows he is suspended?

We are talking canon law, right? Well, canon law is an ancient legal system that, over many centuries, has developed numerous terms of art. Canon law is not secret, but neither is it simple. Those who want to discuss canon law intelligently must understand and observe canonical definitions, or risk talking nonsense. In any case, it is not incumbent on canon lawyers to run around explaining their terms to everyone under the sun who wants to express an opinion about this canonical issue or that. Instead, it is incumbent on those many others to find out (or at least to take some guidance on) how canon law uses certain words before pronouncing judgment.

The word “suspension” denotes a canonical penalty imposed only upon guilt for a canonical crime (c. 1333). In the not-too-distant past, some ecclesiastical officials, including bishops, misused the word “suspension” to describe what may be more accurately described as “administrative leave” (more about that in a sec), but when they did so, canonists, publicly and privately, corrected that misuse of terms and, for some time now, the mistaken use of “suspension” seems to have faded out among ecclesiastical leadership. Deo gratias. Only to reappear now among some bloggers. Sigh.

But: if you are talking canon law, and you describe a cleric as “suspended”, you have described him as being guilty of a canonical crime. Therefore, those describing Fr. Guarnizo as “suspended” are canonically defaming him. Whether they know it or not.

Now, about “administrative leave”. Canon law, a living legal system serving a living Church, is trying to catch up to some recent developments in, among other things, the theology of holy Orders, which developments have brought about, among things, the eclipse of the Pio-Benedictine category of “simplex priest”, leaving a hole in the law, or at least in its terminology, to describe a priest who is not under a penalty (c.o.), nor irregular for orders (c. 1044), nor restricted pursuant to a penal process (c. 1722). This category of priest undoubtedly exists (because faculties for preaching, confessions, sacramental acts, and so on, can undoubtedly be restricted or taken away without any suggestion of guilt, etc.), but the 1983 Code does not give us a neat term to denote such priests. Until such time, if any, as the Legislator chooses to give us such a term, the phrase “administrative leave” seems to cover that gap fairly well, or at least, it does so among people who know what they are talking about.

In short, the phrase “administrative leave” protects the reputation of the cleric in question; the term “suspension” marks him as a canonical criminal.

So, are priests supposed to help lesbian Buddhists commit sacrilege against Our Lord by giving them holy Communion?

Deep breath, Ed….Okay. Let’s break this down.

Lesbian. First, the Church regards the homosexual/lesbian condition as “disordered” in somewhat the same way that one may regard alcoholism as a “disorder”. According to our tradition, one may not deny holy Communion to an individual suffering from a “disorder”, so, those Catholics calling for the banning of “a lesbian” from Communion are violating our tradition (not to mention our canon law). That said, however, it is possible to deprive one of holy Communion who engages in conduct that amounts to canonically verified “obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin” (c. 915), as canon law uses each of those terms. I have said from the beginning of this mess, verifiable conduct, not asserted status, is the only question relevant here. Now, if someone wants to make the case that all five (per c. 18) of those banning conditions were canonically satisfied a few minutes before Mass one day, they are free to try. I think they would fail in the attempt, but that’s just my opinion. In any case, at least such persons would be talking about what is relevant here, the law on holy Communion, and not just using rhetorical questions as cudgels.

Buddhists. Buddhists have no right to holy Communion; baptized persons, in accord with law, have the right to holy Communion (c. 912, etc.). This woman was baptized Catholic. The presumption is, therefore, that she had a right to Communion, and the burden is on those who would deny her same to prove that she is no longer permitted by law to receive holy Communion, here, on the grounds that she is a Buddhist. That is a heavy burden of proof, of course, and one not likely sustainable in a short conversation before Mass one day, and one made even more difficult in the wake of a Notification handed down in April 2006 regarding the “formal act of defection” and its relation to, among other things, the canonical crime of apostasy (cc. 751, 1364), and in turn its impact on the application of wider canon law to such individuals. In short, canonists know that a Catholic’s claim to be a Buddhist, and a Catholic’s being canonically recognized as being a Buddhist, are very distinct things. Those who are not canonists may be excused not being aware of the difference, but not for ignoring it once it is pointed out to them.

Given all the hoopla this lady has generated about herself, wouldn’t it be fair to say that if she presents herself for Communion again, she should be denied?

Yes. With one caveat common among the doctors who have discussed these situations for several centuries—in contrast to most bloggers who have been aware of these questions for maybe several days.

Notoriety (of the type needed for denial of the Eucharist) in one place is not necessarily notoriety in another. Like other human communities, the cyber-community exaggerates how widely known are matters of interest to it. I would not want to see a priest unaware of this woman’s profile, etc., and giving her Communion, being torn to shreds by Catholic hotheads for desecrating the Eucharist. This is one more reason why Canon 915 (and a half-dozen other relevant norms) are so narrowly drawn: the primary responsibility for approaching holy Communion worthily rests with the individual (c. 916).

This, mind, from someone who has labored for years, and who will continue to do so, to get Canon 915 enforced properly. + + +

Ha! That’s the second time the “s” in “controversy” has dropped out of my title! How funny.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 03/13/2012 1:44:27 PM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

2 posted on 03/13/2012 1:45:49 PM 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

Thanks for posting this. I was curious about these points myself, although I am not a Catholic. Yet, anyhow.


3 posted on 03/13/2012 1:54:15 PM PDT by Ronin (Sarah.... We really need you now!)
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To: NYer

This comment is directed at the Author of the article:

Hmmmm. This must be the same reasoning that let Fat Teddy off the hook for murder, adultery, aggressive support of abortion, etc. After all, he was such an exemplary Catholic that he had 2 Cardinals officiate at his funeral.

I guess the same applies to Pelosi, Shaheen, Biden and the rest of the Pro-abortion crowd. They only SAY they support abortion and that the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops and theologians are interpreting scripture wrong.

Wow, it must be great to be an expert in Canon Law. I guess the Ten Commandments and the rest are really just the Ten Suggestions. Cool!!!


4 posted on 03/13/2012 1:58:53 PM PDT by NHResident
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To: NHResident

Sorry, that should be ‘Senator ‘Fat Teddy’ Kennedy’ - don’t want to insult anyone who may share the nickname.


5 posted on 03/13/2012 2:01:53 PM PDT by NHResident
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To: NYer

I’m quite certain that the Catholic church does not want Lutherans, Baptists, or Methodists to partake in their communion either.


6 posted on 03/13/2012 2:05:07 PM PDT by MNDude
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To: NYer
...verifiable conduct, not asserted status, is the only question relevant here...

So is the author arguing that the woman claiming to be a lesbian is "asserted status", not "verifiable conduct"?

My understanding is that she had her girlfriend join her in her argument with the priest prior to the service. It seems to me that this constitutes verifiable conduct.

I wonder if the author would argue that Nancy Pelosi's public support and votes for abortion legislation constitutes "verifiable conduct" or not. I seem to recall other Canon law that allows for excommunication of elected officials that openly promote abortion.

7 posted on 03/13/2012 2:07:50 PM PDT by kidd
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To: kidd
My understanding is that she had her girlfriend join her in her argument with the priest

If the pair weren't groping each other and had their clothes on then there was no verifiable lesbian conduct.

8 posted on 03/13/2012 2:20:44 PM PDT by arthurus (Read Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson.")
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To: NHResident
This comment is directed at the Author of the article:

If you click on the above link, you may post all the questions you like .... to the author. He is a Canon Lawyer so he knows his stuff. Just so you know.

9 posted on 03/13/2012 2:36:13 PM 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: kidd
So is the author arguing that the woman claiming to be a lesbian is "asserted status", not "verifiable conduct"? My understanding is that she had her girlfriend join her in her argument with the priest prior to the service. It seems to me that this constitutes verifiable conduct.

No - nothing less than photos of the "lovers" in flagrante delicto constitutes sufficient proof in this particular case./S

Apparently, the priest is being punished for believing the lesbian's own "assertion" regarding her lifestyle.

Right from the horse's mouth:

Johnson said she was denied communion during her mother's funeral Mass Saturday, Feb. 25, when the presiding priest, Guarnizo, told her, "I cannot give you Communion, because you live with a woman and in the eyes of the church that is a sin." The Washington Archdiocese acknowledged in a statement that Guarnizo had acted inappropriately.

http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7144

After the incident, this woman loudly announced she would have the priest removed. The AoW wimpily complied.

10 posted on 03/13/2012 3:28:17 PM PDT by BlatherNaut
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To: NYer

“Our primary job is to teach and try to convince people. The tradition in our country has not been in the direction of refusing Communion, and I think it’s served us well.”

—Cardinal Wuerl, of Washington

Oh yes, it’s just working out smashingly, Cardinal. Look at all the public Catholics that have been convinced.

Another opportunity seized to let everyone know the Eucharists isn’t really a big deal when you get right down to it. One can’t teach without discipline, any sane first grade teacher could tell the Cardinal that.

As far as this canon expert guy goes, well is there anything one can say to the priest before Mass that is enough to deny the Host? Satanism? Cannibalism? Seems to me that if one takes the time to admit to an ongoing mortal sin right before Mass, then I reckon one has to live with the priests judgement. Anything else doesn’t make sense. The Washington Diocese looks like a bunch of fools.

Freegards


11 posted on 03/13/2012 3:28:34 PM PDT by Ransomed
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To: NYer
Ed Peters is a lawyer. I initially approached his writings with an open mind but found him rather arrogant in his pronouncements ("I'm the expert, and the rest of you are just wrong"). He has resolutely refused to consider the fact that this particular lesbian was open and notorious in her sin, not only because she wrote and published about it, not only because she was dragging her "lover" around with her and introducing said lover in that manner, but particularly because she gave an eulogy for her mother in which she proudly proclaimed her lesbian practice, and announced that the deceased, her late mother, was in active support of her lesbian lifestyle. So the matter of her flagrant rejection of Catholic doctrine makes her sin open and manifest, which meets the standard for denial of communion. Unfortunately Mr Peters keeps moving the goalpost for this standard.

At this point it's irrelevant. The Lavender Brigade at the Archdiocese of Washington, in fear of being outed, have kicked this holy and noble-spirited priest out. Call it a suspension, call it an administrative leave, call it pecan pie if you like, but he's out of the parish, out of a job, and doesn't have a realistic chance of getting one around here again.

Thanks, guys. We had a superbly-educated warrior priest who knew how to face down atheists, Muslims, and the wicked. He fought courageously against the evil taking place at the local late-term abortion clinic. He imparted true Catholic doctrine to children and adults. But your bureaucracy has allowed evil to remove him. At least we know what side you're on, and it's not the side of the angels.

12 posted on 03/13/2012 4:13:25 PM PDT by ottbmare (The OTTB Mare)
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To: kidd; arthurus; BlatherNaut
There is no question that as a self-proclaimed practicing lesbian Barbara Johnson should not have presented herself for Holy Communion. This is governed by Can. 916:
A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.
But the question is whether Fr. Guarnizo was correct in withholding Communion. This is governed by Can. 915:
Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
The correct interpretation of this canon revolves around the meaning of "manifest." My first impression was that this meant only that it was made clear or evident. Thus Miss Johnson's mere declaration to Fr. Guarnizo would seem to satisfy this condition. However after reading Dr. Peter's commentary on Can. 915 I tend to come down on the other side. Canon 915 in the present 1983 Code is a restatement of Can. 855 in the 1917 Code:
§ 1. All those publicly unworthy are to be barred from the Eucharist, such as excommunicates, those interdicted, and those manifestly infamous, unless their penitence and emendation are shown and they have satisfied beforehand the public scandal [they caused]. § 2. But occult sinners, if they ask secretly and the minister knows they are unrepentant, should be refused; but not, however, if they ask publicly and they cannot be passed over without scandal.
Here it is clear that the canon is addressing public knowledge of the sin. The object is that of avoiding the scandal of giving Communion to someone publicly known to be unworthy and also avoiding the scandal of withholding Communion to those not thus publicly known. It would thus seem that the meaning of "manifest" in Can. 915 of the present Code should be understood as publicly known.

The fact that Miss Johnson found it necessary to declare herself as a lesbian to Fr. Guarnizo would indicate that it was not publicly known and her declaration in the sacristy would not have made it such. For Can. 915 to come into play she would have had to made the declaration before the entire church.

In any case, what is clear is that the wording of the present Code is at fault. One should not have to be a canon law scholar and have familiarity with former codes in order to properly understand the present law.

Additionally, now that it has, because of Miss Johnson's own actions, become publicly known, it is incumbent upon the bishop to instruct her to refrain from presenting herself for Communion until she has publicly repented and received absolution in Confession. Again, since her unworthiness is now publicly known, the priest of the diocese should be instructed to withhold Communion.

13 posted on 03/13/2012 4:36:26 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: Petrosius
Her schtick was apparently known beyond the sacristy.

http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=27899

Additionally, now that it has, because of Miss Johnson's own actions, become publicly known, it is incumbent upon the bishop to instruct her to refrain from presenting herself for Communion until she has publicly repented and received absolution in Confession. Again, since her unworthiness is now publicly known, the priest of the diocese should be instructed to withhold Communion.

Will they dare? Judging by past actions, it's more likely we'll see Johnson at the head of the Communion line, with Pelosi and her gang hot on her heels.

14 posted on 03/13/2012 5:02:15 PM PDT by BlatherNaut
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To: Petrosius

“The fact that Miss Johnson found it necessary to declare herself as a lesbian to Fr. Guarnizo would indicate that it was not publicly known and her declaration in the sacristy would not have made it such.”

So, you think she was telling the priest right before Mass because it wasn’t publicly known?

I think it was simply everyone at the funeral Mass for her own mother knew about her lesbian practices through her mother or herself, and she was going to use the opportuninty to make a point about her views to her mother’s family and friends present, and anyone who would read about it later in the media she herself would notify. How in the world could she make a big deal about it, if the priest gave her Communion? She had to tell him. If the priest had a reputation a being conservative as many have said, he was the perfect patsy, some other priest might have no problems with it. “Priest Unknowingly Gives Communion to Grieving Avowed Lesbian” or “Priest Knowingly Gives Communion to Grieving Avowed Lesbian” are not the headlines that she was after, and I doubt we would have heard about it at all if such was the case. She wouldn’t have called the papers, and they wouldn’t run the story if she did.

Didn’t she talk about being a lesbian before this funeral in a public way? In any case, the whole church did know because she talked about it during her mother’s eulogy to my understanding, but I’m not sure if it was before,during or after communion. I mean, I would find it suprising if these folks didn’t know, and were just finding out during some kind of “big reveal” at her mother’s funeral. She showed up with “her lover,” as she told the priest.

Freegards


15 posted on 03/13/2012 5:53:20 PM PDT by Ransomed
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To: Ransomed

Eulogies are usually given after the Mass. But you are right, if her “lifestyle” was publicly known then it is whole different question. The truth is I do not know. In any case, the priest had to make a snap judgment and did not have time to either consult with a canon lawyer or poll the people about who knew what. The worse that the Fr. Guarnizo was guilty of, if he is guilty of anything at all, would be poor judgment. Given the situation he should be given some slack even if he may have violated the canon. Miss Johnson, by her own testimony, is guilty of the greater sin. Wether or not she was publicly known as a lesbian she should not have presented herself for Communion.

But there is the other important issue that Can. 915 is ambiguous without special training in canon law and reference to a now obsolete code. On his own website Dr. Peters states: “Serious discussion of Canon 915 requires access to key documents on the law and awareness of the positions taken thereon by qualified commentators.” This should not be. The canon should be rewritten to remove any doubt as to its meaning.


16 posted on 03/13/2012 7:13:17 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: Ransomed

Eulogies are usually given after the Mass. But you are right, if her “lifestyle” was publicly known then it is whole different question. The truth is I do not know. In any case, the priest had to make a snap judgment and did not have time to either consult with a canon lawyer or poll the people about who knew what. The worse that the Fr. Guarnizo was guilty of, if he is guilty of anything at all, would be poor judgment. Given the situation he should be given some slack even if he may have violated the canon. Miss Johnson, by her own testimony, is guilty of the greater sin. Wether or not she was publicly known as a lesbian she should not have presented herself for Communion.

But there is the other important issue that Can. 915 is ambiguous without special training in canon law and reference to a now obsolete code. On his own website Dr. Peters states: “Serious discussion of Canon 915 requires access to key documents on the law and awareness of the positions taken thereon by qualified commentators.” This should not be. The canon should be rewritten to remove any doubt as to its meaning.


17 posted on 03/13/2012 7:13:33 PM PDT by Petrosius
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To: NHResident
After all, he was such an exemplary Catholic that he had 2 Cardinals officiate at his funeral.

Wrong. The only Cardinal there was Sean O'Malley, and IIRC, he didn't 'officiate'. He simply sat on the altar part of the time while Mass was being said, or stood by during the Consecration, because that is about JESUS, not Teddy the Swimmer.

Cardinal O'Malley stated that the only reason he was there was that he thought he should be, in deference to the fact that the President of the United States would be in attendance. I think he would rather have been anywhere but there.

18 posted on 03/13/2012 8:21:13 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Petrosius

Yes.


19 posted on 03/14/2012 2:19:48 AM PDT by arthurus (Read Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson.")
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To: ottbmare; NYer

The priest in question is not removed, not suspended, just this is being reviewed. I have no doubt that it will be stated that he was correct.


20 posted on 03/14/2012 3:17:38 AM PDT by Cronos (Party like it's 12 20, 2012)
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To: NYer

The Real Story: Canon 915 and Fr. Guarnizo’s Denial of Communion to Lesbian Barbara Johnson
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 12:33

Source: http://exposeapostasy.blogspot.com/2012/03/fall-guy-priests.html

Posted at: http://www.catholicintl.com/index.php/latest-news/722


21 posted on 03/14/2012 9:11:40 AM PDT by BonRad (Ut Roma cadit, sic omnis terra -As Rome falls, so the entire world)
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