Skip to comments.Priest: removal from ministry was tied to communion incident (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 03/14/2012 3:37:58 PM PDT by NYer
.- In an extensive statement provided to CNA, Father Marcel Guarnizo insists that the reasons the Archdiocese of Washington placed him on leave have everything to do with his recent decision to withhold communion from Barbara Johnson.
Fr. Guarnizo explains that he decided to issue the detailed March 14 statement because of the questions his parishioners and the public are asking about the recent incident.
His response, which is published below, offers corrections to previous news reports, responds to canonical arguments and gives information about where the allegations of intimidation came from.
Fr. Marcel Guarnizos 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. 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 Jesusobedient servant,
Very truly yours,
Father Marcel Guarnizo.
You're wasting your time with Donna Wuerl and her minion, Barrietta Knestout.
He is an American. He was raised in Virginia. But he has spent a career fighting totalitarianism, atheism, and liberalism. Political correctness is not his practice; speaking direct truth is.
The Bishop was supposed to be at the Maryland March for Life mass celebrated by Cardinal O’Brien in Annapolis Maryland earlier this week. The inside info is that he canceled because he does not want to answer questions on why he suspended the priest. Apparently he is facing some migraine moments as well. A priest in the sacristy for this event was discussing this issue and was shocked and disheartened the priest was suspended.
The more I read about this, the more intolerable it is. This really needs to be resolved, and quickly.
The auxiliary bishop responsible frankly should be suspended. And Archbishop Wuerl should be the one to do it. Because the longer he waits, the longer he assumes the responsibility for this gross injustice against the priest in question, and this gross undermining of Catholic principles within his diocese.
The Church cannot afford to let itself be manipulated by the gay mafia in this fashion. Do we know if the lesbian in question is even a Catholic any longer?
I wonder if someone should approach the St. Joseph Foundation about this? They could at least give some advice, since I really don’t think this unjust decision should be allowed to stand any longer than absolutely necessary.
It is a horrible scandal for the Church, and an open invitation to more deliberate attacks of the same kind, involving the desecration of the Sacred Host.
Susan Brinkmann blogged about this situation, and in her blog she cites a Washington Post article in which the lesbian is referred to as both a Buddhist & a Catholic. Very bizarre.
Shame on his Bishop, or on whomever is blocking his immediate reinstatement.
He never left... The ADW has a shortage of priests to do funerals... Fr. Marcel has full capacity in his own diocese and home parish.
This Religion Forum thread is labeled “Catholic Caucus” meaning if you are not currently, actively Catholic then do not post on this thread.
Sorry, I was invited on the thread by the OP.
Since you were invited by NYer, I will restore your posts.
I will gladly hit abuse on any of my own posts that appear out of line and you can remove them.
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