Md. priest who de­nied Com­mu­nion to les­bian placed on sus­pen­sion

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY MERED­ITH SOMERS

A Catholic priest who de­nied a les­bian Holy Com­mu­nion at her mother’s fu­neral Mass was put on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave for en­gag­ing in “in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­ior,” of­fi­cials from the Arch­dio­cese of Washington said.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the arch­dio­cese, the Rev. Mar­cel Guarnizo, a parochial vicar with Saint John Neu­mann Church in Gaithers­burg, is sus­pended from cel­e­brat­ing Mass, per­form­ing wed­dings and funer­als or other priestly du­ties within the arch­dio­cese un­til an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­pleted.

“This ac­tion was taken af­ter Bishop Barry C. Knestout, vicar gen­eral and moder­a­tor of the Cu­ria for the Arch­dio­cese of Washington, re­ceived cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions that Fa­ther Guarnizo had en­gaged in in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­ior to­ward parish staff and oth­ers that is in­com­pat­i­ble with proper priestly min­istry,” the arch­dio­cese said in the state­ment.

Fa­ther Guarnizo, orig­i­nally from the Arch­dio­cese of Moscow, has been with the lo­cal dio­cese for a year.

The decision comes about two weeks af­ter he made head­lines for the Feb. 25 in­ci­dent in­volv­ing D.C. res­i­dent Bar­bara John­son dur­ing her mother’s fu­neral Mass when he de­nied Ms. John­son Holy Com­mu­nion be­cause she was liv­ing with a woman.

Com­mu­nion is the most im­por­tant of the Catholic sacra­ments be­cause when a be­liever in­gests the Holy Eucharist, he or she be­lieves they are lit­er­ally re­ceiv­ing the body and blood of Christ.

Catholic teach­ing on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity states that ho­mo­sex­u­als should be loved and wel­comed into the faith but that ho­mo­sex­ual acts are con­sid­ered a sin and not to be con­doned.

Ms. John­son was cited in news re­ports as ask­ing for the re­moval of Fa­ther Guarnizo af­ter the in­ci­dent.

The state­ment from the arch­dio­cese does not men­tion Ms. John­son’s com­plaint, but spokes­woman Brie Hall said that in the wake of the in­ci­dent, “some of his be­hav­ior was called into ques­tion.”

“Af­ter look­ing into it and hear­ing from parish staff, the bishop took this ac­tion,” she said.

In an es­say pub­lished on the Catholic Stan­dard web­site sev­eral days af­ter the fu­neral, the Arch­dio­cese of Washington stated that a priest “has an obli­ga­tion to make sure that the sacra­ments are re­spected.”

“Since it is dif­fi­cult to know what is in a per­son’s heart, it is also im­por­tant that when doubt arises re­gard­ing whether a per­son is prop­erly dis­posed to re­ceive the Eucharist, it is han­dled in a pas­toral and com­pas­sion­ate man­ner, pri­vately be­tween the priest and the com­mu­ni­cant.”

Saint John Neu­mann parish­ioners were in­formed by the Rev. Thomas. G. Lahood, who read the arch­dio­cese’s state­ment dur­ing Satur­day Vigil and Sun­day Masses this past week­end.

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