Skip to comments.Father Marcel Guarnizo: 'I Did The Only Thing a Faithful Catholic Priest Could Do' (Ecumenical)
Posted on 03/14/2012 2:13:02 PM PDT by Pyro7480
I would like to begin by once again sending my condolences to the Johnson family on the death of Mrs. Loetta Johnson.
I also feel obliged to answer questions from my parishioners, as well as from the public, about the incident on February 25th.
Here are the facts: On Saturday, February 25th I showed up to officiate at a funeral Mass for Mrs. Loetta Johnson. The arrangements for the Mass were also not my own. I wish to clarify that Ms. Barbara Johnson (the woman who has since complained to the press), has never been a parishioner of mine. In fact, I had never met her or her family until that morning.
The funeral celebration was to commence at 10:30a.m.
From 9:30 to 10:20, I was assigned to hear confessions for the parish and anyone in the funeral party who would have chosen to receive the sacrament.
A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her lover." Her revelation was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms. Johnson, her lover stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I politely asked her to move and she refused.
I understand and agree it is the policy of the archdiocese to assume good faith when a Catholic presents himself for communion; like most priests I am not at all eager to withhold communion. But the ideal cannot always be achieved in life.
In the past ten days, many Catholics have referenced Canon 915 in regard to this specific circumstance. There are other reasons for denying communion which neither meet the threshold of Canon 915 or have any explicit connection to the discipline stated in that canon.
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. Johnsons 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 arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.
During the two eulogies (nearly 25 minutes long), I quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy lavatory to recover from the migraine that was coming on. I never walked out on Mrs. Loetta Johnsons funeral and the liturgy was carried out with the same reverence and care that I celebrate every Mass. I finished the Mass and accompanied the body of the deceased in formal procession to the hearse, which was headed to the cemetery. I am subject to occasional severe migraines, and because the pain at that point was becoming disabling, I communicated to our funeral director that I was incapacitated and he arranged one of my brother priests to be present at the cemetery to preside over the rite of burial.
Furthermore, as the testimony of the priest that was at the cemetery conveys, he was present when the Johnson family arrived, and in fact mentioned that being called to cover the burial rite is quite normal, as many priests for reasons much less significant than mine (rush hour traffic, for example) do not make the voyage to the cemetery. He routinely covers for them. This change in plans, was also invisible to the rest of the entourage. Regrets and information about my incapacitating migraine were duly conveyed to the Johnson family.
I have thanked the funeral director and the priest at the burial site, for their assistance that day. Mrs. Loetta Johnson was properly buried with every witness and ceremony a Catholic funeral can offer. I did not and would not refuse to accompany Barbara Johnson and her mother to the cemetery because she is gay or lives with a woman. I did not in any way seek to dishonor her memory, and my homily at the funeral should have made that quite evident to all in the pews, including the Johnson family.
I would like to extend again to Ms. Johnson and her family, my sincerest condolences on her mothers death. I would never intentionally want or seek to embarrass anyone publicly or increase anyones emotional distress during such a difficult time. I did not seek or contrive these circumstances.
But I am going to defend my conduct in these instances, because what happened I believe contains a warning to the church. Such circumstances can and will be repeated multiple times over if the local church does not make clear to all Catholics that openly confessing sin is something one does to a priest in the confessional, not minutes before the Mass in which the Holy Eucharist is given.
I am confident that my own view, that I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation, quietly, with no intention to hurt or embarrass, will be upheld.
Otherwise, any priest could--and many will--face the cruelest crisis of conscience that can be imposed. It seems to me, the lack of clarity on this most basic issue puts at risk other priests who wish to serve the Catholic Church in Washington D.C.
As to the latest allegations, I feel obliged to alleviate unnecessary suffering for the faithful at St. John Neumann and others who are following the case.
I wish to state that in conversation with Bishop Barry Knestout on the morning of March 13, he made it very clear that the whole of the case regarding the allegations of intimidation are circumscribed to two conversations; one with the funeral director and the other with a parish staff member present at the funeral. These conversations took place on March 7th and 8th, one day before the archdioceses latest decision to withdraw faculties (not suspend, since Cardinal Wuerl is not my bishop) on the 9th of March. I am fully aware of both meetings. And indeed contrary to the statement read on Sunday, March 11th during all Masses at St. John Neumann, both instances have everything to do with the Eucharistic incident. There is no hidden other sin or intimidation allegations that they are working on, outside of these two meetings.
The meetings in question, occurred in our effort to document from people at the funeral Mass in written form a few facts about the nature of the incident. We have collected more than a few testimonies and affidavits, testifying to what really took place during the funeral liturgy.
My personal conversation with both parties in question were in my view civil, professional and in no way hostile. I respect both individuals in question and really do not know the nature of their grievance.
On March 13, I asked Bishop Knestout about detail on this matter but he stated that he was not at liberty to discuss the matter. I would only add for the record, that the letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash.
In the days to come I look forward to addressing any confusion about the above conversations if the archdiocese or the persons involved wish to talk about it publicly or privately.
I am grateful for all the good wishes and prayers I have received. And sincerely, having lost my own mother not long ago, I again extend my condolences to the Johnson family. I finally wish for the good of the Universal Church, the archdiocese, my parish and the peace of friends and strangers around the world, that the archdiocese would cease resolving what they call internal personnel matters of which they cannot speak, through the public media.
I remain my bishops and my Churchs, and above all Christ Jesus obedient servant,
Very truly yours,
Father Marcel Guarnizo
That poor priest had to waste an hour of his life writing that letter, as if he’s not busy enough.
I believe these types of occurances are going to increase.
Its a full frontal assault on the Catholic church. Tell me how this ends?
Block my Pastor in the Sanctuary and meet the curb outside.
I’m not Catholic, but this Priest is the real deal!
Remember the words of Jesus John 7:7 as he spoke to the Jewish leaders: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.”
The world hates those who point the light of Christ on their sin.
This priest is a good, honorable priest.
Compromise exists when both sides argue from a state of righteousness. But when one is righteousness, and one is not, there can be no compromise, as it would be a betrayal of the righteous.
I believe these types of occurances are going to increase.
Its a full frontal assault on the Catholic church. Tell me how this ends?
Lie after lie from the media.
I’m waiting for Wiccans and Satanists to show up for Communion. If a Lesbian Buddhist is entitled, why not everyone else?
As a Baptist and former Catholic, I did not attempt to participate in the Communion service at my Mother’s funeral. I sat quietly and showed respect while my sisters and others partook.
It has also been revealed that this lesbian woman has elsewhere claimed to be a “Buddhist.”
Having grown up nominally “Catholic” she would have known every clearly what she was doing.
Sounds to me like an angry, mentally unstable dyke (sorry, but I have found most lesbians are) was looking for a fight.
Here are the facts: On Saturday, February 25th I showed up to officiate at a funeral Mass for Mrs. Loetta Johnson. The arrangements for the Mass were also not my own. I wish to clarify that Ms. Barbara Johnson (the woman who has since complained to the press), has never been a parishioner of mine. In fact, I had never met her or her family until that morning. The funeral celebration was to commence at 10:30a.m... A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her "lover." Her revelation was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms. Johnson, her lover stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I politely asked her to move and she refused.
Thank you for your very inciteful post. How appropo and encouraging.
Speaking Truth is like that.
The root cause of confusion and distrust in this matter is Cardinal Wuerl’s longstanding, notorious intellectual dishonesty on the matter of Canon 915. As long as Wuerl remains dishonest on this matter, his priests will be at risk of being set up as was Fr. Guarnizo—and of being defamed by the Archdiocese.
God bless Father Marcel Guarnizo for having the backbone to stand by his principles, and those of His once-great church.
This is the letter I sent right afer the story broke:
His Excellency, Bishop Barry Knestout
5001 Eastern Avenue
Hyattsville MD 20782-3447
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo
St. John Neumann Catholic Church
9000 Warfeld Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20882
I was disturbed when I read that Fr. Guarnizo had rudely refused Holy Communion to a woman at her mothers funeral. It was only later that I realized that I had misjudged the situation by letting anti-Catholic secular press define it for me; that there was a lot more to the story; and that the lesbian Buddhist, Ms. Johnson, actually set a trap which many, including you, your Excellency, fell into.
Ms. Johnson announced her unrepentant grave sin in a challenging way: not only to Fr. Guarnizo, but to the public at large.
She put Fr. Guarnizo into a situation that could not be handled in a quiet, private manner: she herself made every effort to make it a public issue.
Fr. Guarnizo, for the good of this womans soul (1 Corin. 11:29) chose to do what he could to prevent sacrilege. This is his duty as a priest.
The spectacular success of Ms. Johnsons ploy guarantees that the sacrilege will be repeated again and again; in your Archdiocese, and in others.
This should have been a positive teachable moment. Upholding Fr. Guarnizo, the Archdiocese could have said that the Eucharist must never be profaned by being received unworthily, but that any repentant person can be received back into the Church by the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Instead, Fr. Guarnizo has been maligned and slandered. This is scandalous. He ought now to be restored by a public affirmation of his innocence.
If I have misconstrued what happened because of faulty and tendentious reporting, I would gladly be corrected.
Yours in Christ our Lord,
Is it any wonder the ADW needs to borrow priests to conduct funerals.
Unfairness and obtuseness from Weurl don’t link up exactly, do they? The other Bishop over Father G should be a little more forthcoming, unless these unfortunate migraines are somehow becoming a private health problem deserving of attention, perhaps a cause for incidents.
I am reaching here, I know, on behalf of the odd actions of the Bishop. Otherwise, the Bishop’s behavior has the appearance of one who is apostate!
Father very quietly and discreetly refused to give communion. It didn't matter, Ms. Johnson went into the other line and took communion from the Eucharistic minister. He hadn't heard Father refuse communion because he had done it so quietly and discreetly.
This woman is not a Catholic. She is a self-proclaimed Buddhist and lesbian activist.
As a former Baptist and Catholic, I fear for all of us. The church stands in the way of the “fundamentally transformed” US, and no demomination will be spared the wrath of the secular anti-Christian radicals. They simply go after the Catholics because they are the largest group. And you can bet they will receive plenty of press coverage when things like this occur. These folks pledge no allegiance to anyone except their anti-Christian president. He is, after all, the one they’ve been waiting for.