Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The plot thickens: No Communion for you! Priest refused Communion to lesbian... at her own mother's funeral.

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo

I wrote about it yesterday, apparently before any of the other blogs I usually read had picked up on it.  Today more people are writing about the story of the woman who was refused Communion by the priest officiating at her mother's funeral - because the woman is a lesbian.  More correctly, Fr. Guarnizo told her it was because 'she lived with a woman'.  Obviously he must have meant that she was in a lesbian relationship and it was public knowledge.  In other words, her lifestyle, if indeed it involved homosexual acts, was in conflict with Church teaching, which would mean she was not in communion with the Catholic Church and therefore could not receive Holy Communion.  (Communion is not only the real body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, it is also the sign of unity with Christ and His Church.  Likewise, one should not approach to receive if they are conscious of grave sin.)   Everyone who is Catholic should know what I am talking about.

Today I read that Fr. Guarnizo may have acted on hearsay.  If that is the case, the person who informed the priest may have been concerned about public scandal and in good faith confided his/her knowledge to the priest.  On the other hand, the informant could have been a busybody.  Whatever the case may be, and it is not clear at this point what happened exactly, the matter wasn't handled very well.  Nevertheless, it is what it is. Although to be very clear, a priest, the ordinary minister of the Eucharist can withhold Communion from those approaching to receive for good reason.  It is rarely done, but as we know, in the case of Rainbow Sash people, it is customary to do deny them the Sacrament.  It is up to the priest to make the decision, and to accept the consequences.

Unfortunately, the consequences have turned into a backlash from the gay-Catholic community against the priest.  New Ways Ministry, an unapproved by the Catholic Church 'ministry' has issued an 'action alert' to send protests and demands to Cardinal Wuerl:
An action like this from a priest should not be tolerated. What is still needed is a public apology from the priest and an offer of pastoral mediation between him, the woman, and her family. These remedies are possible if Catholics contact Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the head of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Tell Cardinal Wuerl that as a Catholic you oppose such blatant discrimination and pastoral incompetence. Let him know that you consider the action offensive and insensitive. Explain that you support free and equal access to communion of all Catholics, especially at such a pastorally critical moment as a funeral. Let him know of your love and support of LGBT people. Request that he instruct all his priests and pastoral ministers not to repeat such an action. Call on him to provide pastoral training on LGBT issues for his priests and pastoral ministers. Ask him to call for an apology from Fr. Guarnizo, and to offer pastoral mediation between this priest, Ms. Johnson, and her family. Speak from your heart and from your faith. - New Ways Ministry/Thom at Faith in the 21st Century
 Thus far, an apology seems to have been issued by the archdiocese but it appears that may not be enough, people want the priest disciplined and suspended.  Let's pray for Fr. Guarnizo, and if you feel so inclined, politely send Cardinal Wuerl a note in support of the priest and Church teaching, with an assurance of your prayers for all concerned.  You might consider asking him, respectfully, not to place restraints on his priests as they exercise their ministry in accord with Church teaching - albeit to minsiter charitably, of course.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Archdiocese of Washington

P.O. Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017-0260
Editor's note:  New Ways Ministry is not an approved ministry.  In fact it is the source of great confusion and division, which has infected the Church for years.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has reaffirmed that New Ways Ministry dissents from Catholic teaching on homosexuality and is not a Catholic organization.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement that

In view of the recent booklet Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach, by Francis DeBernardo (published by New Ways Ministry), we, as the respective chairmen of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, wish to reaffirm Francis Cardinal George's statement of February 12, 2010 and assure Catholics that in no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization.
Seven years after New Ways Ministry’s 1977 founding, Cardinal James Hickey barred the organization from the Archdiocese of Washington because of its dissent from Catholic teaching. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith condemned the organization’s positions on homosexuality in 1999. - Catholic Culture

Christ welcomed sinners and ate with them, but as with the woman at the well, to whom he revealed all of her sins, he also calls us to repentance... granted, he corrected the poor woman privately.  That said, the women who was refused Communion certainly needs our prayers.

UPDATE:  Like I said, there is more to this story than meets the eye, but I still side with the priest on this situation.  Be that as it may, Fr Z and Dr. Peters have added their more educated opinions to the mix which helps to bring clarity to the whole mess - especially if you take into consideration some of the comments left by others.  Those links: 

Fr. Z;  Priest denies Communion...

Dr. Ed Peters Priest denies Communion...

Deacon Kandra has something of a timeline and breaking news on the matter...


  1. No one is sending "protests and demands"- it's a call for letters expressing disappointment and asking for resolution. That is all.

  2. the attitude of pride today is frightening- why did this lady insist on bringing this in the public forum- why not try to come to a resolution behind the scenes- instead of grandstanding in public for the gay rights cause-if not her, people sympathatic to her are. I guess this is the sad result of our publicize everything mentality- leaving out the reality of detraction and culmuny. Be that as it may, the priest probably should have handled it differently in retrospect. And chances are if his time in Pittsburgh is any indication, Cd. Wearl will not take the priest's side as he was known to not be sympathetic to vocal orthodox type priests- as I have friends there who can attest to- his style is "polite" orthodoxy- which can mean compromise depending on the situation. He doesn't like bad PR for the Church.

  3. Ok so wouldn't this be an opportune time for the Church to say officially what the policy is on receiving communion in the Roman Catholic Church in order to banish any possible misunderstanding or doubt? Would this not be an opportune time for those in authority to say clearly what "grave sin" is and what would prevent one from receiving holy communion? instead of issuing apologies or chastising the priest? I'm sorry I don't understand this. Again, the crisis in the church is a crisis of Fatherhood.

  4. V. Martinez1:10 PM

    Please see Ann B. blog on Cardinal Dolan, you must scroll down.

  5. I've lost one follower because of my posts on this issue. I've been excommunicated by a follower.

  6. I remember that video with Cardinal Dolan. I don't understand that reaction from a bishop but it's hardly surprising. This sort of thing has been happening for most of my Catholic life.

    Terry, what canon were you excommunicated under? or censured?

  7. Brian T5:13 PM

    That's the video of Cd. Dolan that I pointed out the other day is why I hope and pray he never becomes Pope- he is a mixed bag

  8. Servus - I wasn't ever excommunicated or censured - I was making a joke about gay Catholics - it's called shunning - like the Amish do...

  9. Here's a Youtube video of Father Marcel.

  10. Terry,
    lol I knew it was joke. i was just curious to know what your transgression was in the eyes of "gay catholics"...what is a "gay catholic" anyway? I'm familiar with Roman Catholic men and women who carry the cross of same sex attraction but I'm rather puzzled as to what a "gay catholic" is?


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