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Father Guarnizo defends himself, denies archdiocesan explanation for disciplinary action

March 14, 2012

Father Marcel Guarnizo, who was removed from ministry in the Washington archdiocese after a confrontation with a lesbian activist, has issued a statement strongly defending his actions.

Father Guarnizo contradicts a statement by the vicar general of the Washington archdiocese, who claimed that his decision to place the priest on administrative leave was prompted by reasons unrelated to Father Guarnizo’s refusal to administer the Eucharist to Barbara Johnson. In fact, the priest says, the disciplinary action taken against him by the Washington archdiocese had “everything to do with the Eucharistic incident.”

In his statement Father Guarnizo defends his decision not to allow Johnson to receive Communion, explaining that she had introduced herself to him as a lesbian, accompanied by her lover.

“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,” Father Guarnizo says. But in this case, he argues, the choice was clear.

“This has nothing to do with canon 915,” the priest says, referring to the Church law that requires priests to withhold Communion from those who persist in manifest grave sin. “Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching.”

Father Guarnizo charges that the vicar general of the Washington archdiocese, Bishop Barry Knestout, accused him of “intimidation” in two conversations, both directly related to the incident involving Barbara Johnson. He adds that the letter from the vicar general, removing him from active ministry, “was already signed and sealed and on the table” before the bishop met with him to question him about the incidents.

Father Guarnizo suggests that other priests could be caught up in the same sort of controversy that he has endured, and sees his case as “a warning to the Church.”


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  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 11, 2012 7:49 AM ET USA

    Cardinal Wuerl continues the pattern of deception of the American bishops that completely ignores their duty to "teach as Jesus did". At this point, the laity are totally confused about the Church's teaching about denial of the sacraments because of the many incidents resolved without public explanation by the bishops. Wuerl's silence, as an underling disciplines a priest, clearly displays both a lack of courage and a misunderstanding of his role as a teacher of the faith.

  • Posted by: impossible - Mar. 17, 2012 11:30 PM ET USA

    No folks, it's the Cardinal who is in charge. The buck stops with him - in fact, it probably started with him.

  • Posted by: demark8616 - Mar. 17, 2012 6:38 AM ET USA

    Can this Bishop afford to be seen to be against his own priests when they are in the right? It seems that this Bishop regards Father G as 'intimidating' as the letter was already prepared? I would like to see an explanation from this Bishop on his conduct in this situation. Tired of highly placed persons bungling their jobs!!

  • Posted by: impossible - Mar. 16, 2012 12:50 PM ET USA

    Those who demand obedience would be more deserving of it if they themselves were obedient. Cardinal Wuerl needs to look in the mirror and exercise his discipline and direct it toward those "Catholic" politicians who give scandal by their open dissent against Church teachings, voting for intrinsic evils and their use of the Holy Eucharist and their alleged status of "Catholics in good standing" as weapons in electioneering. They choose the weapon and battleground while Cardinal fiddles.

  • Posted by: florentine - Mar. 14, 2012 11:14 PM ET USA

    At least on the surface, it sounds like its the Bishop who needs to be disciplined ( removed?), not the priest who put protection of Christ on the Altar above pretense ! We need our priests to be strong and clear in preservation of the faith. When a Bishop comes along and not only undermines, but also humiliates a holy priest for taking a stand again those who would so openly disobey Catholic teachings, it causes scandal and does such grave damage to the credibility of the Church.

  • Posted by: filioque - Mar. 14, 2012 10:56 PM ET USA

    Thank God Fr. Guarnizo has defended himself. If what he says is true, and it has the ring of truth, then Bishop Knestout and the Archdiocese of Washington owe him a huge apology. In fact, they owe the rest of us an apology if they lied to us. And they should withdraw that apology so swiftly sent to Barbara Johnson.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 14, 2012 8:00 PM ET USA

    This is really starting to look more and more like a serious problem within the leadership ranks of the Washington archdiocese. If it turns out that Fr. Guarnizo's story is true, then what does this say about the archdiocese leadership team including the Bishop? Are they serving faithfully as Catholic leaders, with a moral responsibility to defend and uphold the Church, or are they operating as pseudo Catholics who have somehow lost their moral compass and now adhere to a watered down brand of Catholicism? One that is dominated by secular thinking and political correctness, even to the point of slanting the facts and framing an innocent priest. What a moral outrage and a huge disappointment, if true!

  • Posted by: azebgide1385 - Mar. 14, 2012 7:37 PM ET USA

    Here's an ancient prayer said by the deacon before communion at Mass in the Ethiopian Orthodox church till this day. "If there be any who disdains this word of the priest, laughs, speaks, or stands in the church in an impudent manner let him know and understand that he is provoking to wrath our Lord Jesus Christ, and bringing upon himself a curse instead of a blessing, and will get from God the fire of hell instead of the remission of sin."Why is everything turned into a "right" in the West?

  • Posted by: azebgide1385 - Mar. 14, 2012 7:21 PM ET USA

    Unless he has lost his faith in the Real Presence, the bishop should've applauded Fr. Guarnizo's most charitable and courageous decision. The ancient Christians approached the Communion rail with such fear and meekness for they knew that receiving Our Lord unworthily brought them wrath instead of blessings. But nowadays, God's people are loved so little by their Bishops since they are seen as a political voice not as poor souls. Lord have mercy on us.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 14, 2012 6:26 PM ET USA

    Decision to remove made before hearing from Father Guarnizo? Clear violation of elementary fairness. Audi alteram partem - hear the other side - is such a commonsense principle that this Latin maxim is ancient and obvious.

  • Posted by: Defender - Mar. 14, 2012 5:30 PM ET USA

    Now we know more and I suspect the archdiocese won't say much - they've already made themselves look silly. With the envelope on the table BEFORE a discussion of the events, it sounds like it was all a fait accompli to me. This is D.C. where looks and perception are all important, where Pelosi and friends are always welcome and where real Catholics are "thrown under the bus." Nice job Cardinal, no wonder the archdiocese is laughable and beneath contempt!