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DC priest denies Communion to lesbian; archdiocese apologizes

February 29, 2012

The Archdiocese of Washington, DC, has issued an apology to a woman who was denied Communion by a priest who had just learned of her lesbian relationship.

Father Marcel Guarnizo declined to administer the Eucharist to Barbara Johnson at her mother’s funeral. Johnson reports that the priest told her she could not receive Communion because she was living in sin.

A spokesman for the Washington archdiocese said that Father Guarnizo’s action showed “a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” and was not in accordance with archdiocesan policy.

The Code of Canon Law (#915) stipulates that the Eucharist should not be administered to those who have been excommunicated “and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” The canon is generally understood to mean that a sin must be flagrant and public, creating a scandal, and that the sinner should be warned privately before a priest refuses to administer the Eucharist.

Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl has indicated that he is not prepared to deny Communion even to prominent politicians who continue to support legal abortion despite repeated warnings from the hierarchy.


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  • Posted by: [email protected] - Mar. 16, 2012 9:13 PM ET USA

    I am sorry but even reading all the apologies, editorials, comments on editorials, and even the one above the cannon is generally understood that the sinner be warned in private, just tells me we are being politically correct. Cannon 915 is very clear and says nothing about a private warning. If the Church cannot see that this was a setup and that the homsexual agenda is to destroy the Church then we are blind. Father Guarnizo was right and he is obligated to protect the Eucharist.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Mar. 01, 2012 2:48 AM ET USA

    The priest showed proper respect for the Real Presence, and pastoral care for the woman's soul, by refusing to risk adding sacrilege to her open sexual sin. Confronting the consequences of her sin on this occasion, when she probably strongly wanted to receive, might have been enough to lead her to reassess her choices. But then, in steps the diocese to apologize, erasing any such inclination the woman might have felt.

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Mar. 01, 2012 12:13 AM ET USA

    I was serving a Christmas Day Mass back in ~1974. A mother and her two children came to the Altar rail and knelt down. When Father reached them, the mother did not know the proper response and Father asked her if they were Catholic. She said "no but we're Lutheran it's very close to Catholic". Father relied he could not give her communion and we walked away. As pastorally insensitive as this may be perceived - this was the right thing to do. But this is entirely different from this story.

  • Posted by: Chelle,SFO-MI - Feb. 29, 2012 7:55 PM ET USA

    What????!!! Wow about an apology to Jesus Christ who is GREATLY OFFENDED! Talk about adding insult to injury!

  • Posted by: impossible - Feb. 29, 2012 6:42 PM ET USA

    On the Lesbian, more facts are necessary, but on the politicians, Cardinal Wuerl is ignoring the clear language of Canon #915. It seems he prizes "human respect, political correctness or political allegiance or a combination thereof to Canon Law. Smacks of "PROTESTantism."

  • Posted by: - Feb. 29, 2012 5:48 PM ET USA

    Before rushing to apologize for the enforcement of the underutilized canon 915, did the Archdiocese look into all the facts here ?

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Feb. 29, 2012 5:43 PM ET USA

    If Nancy Pelosi can receive in that see, who can't?

  • Posted by: Hal - Feb. 29, 2012 5:42 PM ET USA

    So really. What can one say? There you have it straight from Wuerl. I know it's supposedly a "complicated" issue (too complicated for simpleton lay people such as myself), but there's a name for it: Episcopalian.