Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fr. Guarnzio speaks: "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."

Well, well, well!  This is very revealing.  From CNA:
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s Response to the Eucharistic Incident

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. Johnson’s 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.

In all of the above circumstances, I would have been placed in a similar uncomfortable position. Under these circumstances, I quietly withheld communion, so quietly that even the Eucharistic Minister standing four feet from me was not aware I had done so. (In fact Ms. Johnson promptly chose to go to the Eucharistic minister to receive communion and did so.) There was no scandal, no “public reprimand” and no small lecture as some have reported.

Details matter. Ms. Johnson was not kneeling when she approached for communion, she did not receive the cup as the press has reported she has stated. It is the policy of St. John Neumann parish never to distribute under both species during funerals.

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 Johnson’s 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 Mrs. Johnson's 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 mother’s death. I would never intentionally want or seek to embarrass anyone publicly or increase anyone’s 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 theCatholic 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 archdiocese’s 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 bishop’s and my Church’s, and above all Christ Jesus’obedient servant,

Very truly yours,

Father Marcel Guarnizo.

The truth comes out. 

Prayers for Fr. Marcel Guarnizo.


  1. Shortly after the "incident", I read an article (don't remember where) and one of the commenters claimed to be present in the sacristy and at the funeral Mass. His rendition of the events was essentially exactly what Father has said in his letter.

    Someone is lying, and I don't think it's Father Gaurnizo.

    That's all I have to say...

  2. I agree completely! Fr. Guarnizo is definitely not lying. Priests take warning.

  3. wow- this is worst than we even knew about the persecution of a good and faithful priest- it is a foreboding sign of things to come as the culture gets more hostile and many prelates buckle under- study the history of the bishops and king Henry VIII in England- out of 20 some bishops only St. John Fisher stood up to Henry- but this is worst since it is persecution within the Church- Our Lady of Akita pray for us.

  4. I'm not sure what new light his statement shed, but it's good that he spoke about it.

    It doesn't affect my thoughts about what happened.

  5. Thanks, Terry. He sounds like a good priest, not a crazy eccentric.

    B, this is bad, but it's been worse.

    Thom, what are your thoughts? What do you think he should have done?

  6. I'd also like to remind everyone that he Church is not limited to the US and Europe.

    We have seen the greatest missionary expansion in the history of the Church in the past century - the number of Catholics in Africa alone has increased by about 7000%, and we have made great inroads in China, India, and other parts of Asia.

    It's probably prudent to not view the local situation and then apply it to the whole Church, or assume that this *must* be what a certain apparition mentions.

    I do think we will see open persecution in the US and the rest of the West - but hey, then who cares about playing nice anymore?

  7. Anonymous4:17 AM


    Fr. Corapi made similar statements. Don't confuse one side of the story as the whole story, or even the truth. Be cautious. The priest's words contradict authorities, and we should indeed give some level of credence to the authorities as well. As such, the story is not over, we don't know the truth of the matter, and indeed, the authorities might be looking into something which it is best not to announce until they are finished with the investigation (because if the charges were false, they could prejudice people even more).

    So again, be cautious. Don't just assume "see, the priest says he is innocent" as proof he is. Or as proof he is guilty. The truth of the matter is not known.

  8. Anonymous4:23 AM


    Claims from people online.. must be taken with a grain of salt. I am sure many people were claiming all kinds of things for other "conservative" priests who turned out to have done wrong. Gossip and hearsay don't help anyone.

  9. @anon - unlike you, the commenter referenced was a verifiable person using his own name.

    What he related on the day after the incident was complete down to and including the migraines, the substitute priest being called, and what transpired in the sacristy. I find it hard to believe that the good father and some person would sit down and dream up a story together, particularly since this letter was only released yesterday.

    Ad to gossip and hearsay? Is that not exactly what the bishop is acting on?

  10. @anon - as to Father Corapi, may I remind you we still don't know what happened and I doubt we ever will.

  11. Father Joe8:36 AM

    Terry, Thanks for posting this. I reposted the CNA story on my FB page. God bless you. Father Joe

  12. LeoRufus9:04 AM

    Shameful that a militant lesbian would choose to use her own mother's funeral Mass as a means of gay activism. This much is apparent from the various reports I have read on the matter: an incitement to provoke public scandal. Awareness needs to be made of the tactics used by militant gays to propagandize; the use of funerals, weddings and baptisms being among them. Wait for the presentation of in vitro infants by married lesbian couples to be the next headline: Priest Refuses Baptism to Infant Born of Married Lesbian Couple by In Vitro Fertilization. Just a Matter of time.

  13. LeoRufus9:22 AM

    BTW a priest in El Paso, TX was reassigned to a parish in remote west Texas for speaking out in opposition to gay marriage. Father Rodriguez offered the extraordinary rite for parishioners in El Paso. THus the gay politicizing agenda killed two birds, a voice for traditional marriage, and the offering of the TLM. Bishop Armando Ochoa was later reassigned to Fresno, not exactly a promotion.

  14. Thanks Anonymous for posting the caution - very good advice. I usually trust my gut in these matters, and I've been wrong before. Something about Fr. Guarnizo - and those who know him, leads me to believe he is telling the truth.

  15. I think Anon makes a good point!


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.