Catholic Church suspends Maryland priest who denied communion to lesbian mourner

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — A Catholic priest who walked out on a funeral service last month because he was bothered by the attendance of deceased woman’s openly lesbian daughter, has been placed on administrative leave by the Washington archdiocese.

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church, triggered outrage in the LGBT community after is was reported that he denied Barbara Johnson holy communion at her mother’s funeral, and then refused to attend and officiate at the graveside ceremonies.

“I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church,” Guarnizo reported told Johnson at the service.

According to the Washington Post, the announcement to suspend Guarnizo came in a March 9 letter to archdiocesan priests.

In the letter, Bishop Barry Knestout said the punishment was for “engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.”

A spokesman for the archdiocese of Washington would not comment on the reasons for Guarnizo’s suspension other than to reconfirm what Bishop Knestout’s letter stated.

But Rev. Thomas LaHood, pastor at St. John Neumann Catholic Church noted repeatedly to his congregation that the removal was not related to the Communion standoff, but “pertains to actions over the past week or two.” He did not elaborate.

The archdiocesan spokeswoman also would not clarify if LaHood’s comments meant that Guarnizo would not be penalized for his handling of Johnson at her mother’s funeral.

Johnson has declined to comment, but released this statement to the Post:

“The Johnson family continues to pray for the Archdiocese of Washington, Father Guarnizo, and all Catholics during this time of upheaval.

While we understand this letter does not pertain to the events that occurred at our mother’s funeral, we are hopeful that Bishop Knestout’s decision will ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences brought upon our family. We urge all Catholics to put aside political points of view, and pray that our Church will remain in Christ’s love.”

Knestout has formally apologized to Johnson for being denied Communion at her mother’s funeral.

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