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The priest who denied Communion to a lesbian: what we still don't know

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 13, 2012

Catholic Culture readers are understandably concerned about the status of Father Marcel Guanizo, the priest who has been placed on administrative leave by the Washington archdiocese after he denied Communion to a lesbian woman. While I fully share that concern, I submit that it’s important—before we begin making judgments—to recognize a very important consideration: We don’t have all the facts. Here’s what we do know:

  • Barbara Johnson reports that she was refused Communion at her mother’s funeral.
  • Johnson should not have presented herself for Communion, because she is an avowed lesbian.
  • Bishop Barry Knestout, the vicar general of the Washington archdiocese, announced that Father Guarnizo has been placed on leave, explaining that he took the step because he had “received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.”

Now here’s what we don’t know:

  • Whether Father Guarnizo acted properly, under the terms of the Code of Canon Law, in denying the Eucharist to Barbara Johnson.
  • Whether Barbara Johnson deliberately provoked the incident.
  • Whether Johnson’s self-identification as a lesbian was known to everyone in the congregation at the funeral.
  • Whether Father Guarnizo spoke privately with Johnson, admonishing her not to receive Communion, before refusing to administer the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Whether the archdiocese had adequate reason to place Father Guarnizo on leave and suspend his priestly faculties.
  • Whether the archdiocese took action against Father Guarnizo because of the media uproar.

Unless we have clear answers to all these questions—and frankly, we are unlikely to get them—we cannot pass judgment about this troubling case. Sometimes when the facts are uncertain, it’s best to remain silent. God knows the truth; He can make the judgment. For a more complete list of the crucial facts that we just don’t know, see my “On the News” analysis. (Scroll down to view the expanded content.)

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  • Posted by: Cornelius - Mar. 13, 2012 6:32 PM ET USA

    This "we don't know all the facts" schtick is working for Ed Peters too, but it misses one salient point: the message being sent about the grave sin of homosexual acts, a message that is confirming hardened sinners in their sins. The public square is not a court room where everyone waits for all the facts before drawing conclusions - conclusions are being drawn right now, and I fear in many circles they are the wrong conclusions.

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