A Catholic priest who was suspended from ministry after denying Communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral said he would have done the same if someone "had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs" and criticized the Washington archdiocese for the way it handled the case.
The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo withheld Communion from Barbara Johnson during a Feb. 25 funeral Mass for her mother at the St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md.
"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," Guarnizo said in a statement released on March 14.
"Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching," his statement continued. "Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbiter of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church."
Guarnizo said he would have also denied Communion to a "Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist." Adding that he had also recently lost his mother, he said he didn't "intentionally want or seek to embarrass anyone publicly or increase anyone’s emotional distress during such a difficult time."
Reacting to Guarnizo's comments, Johnson's brother Larry wrote that the statement was "arrogant, repugnant, deceitful."
"My family had finally hoped some sense of peace regarding my mother’s funeral had been achieved and we could finally grieve her loss," Larry Johnson's statement read. "But the reprehensible Fr. Guarnizo has reinforced and confirmed how egregious his conduct was and how repugnant a person he is."
A woman is calling for a Catholic priest's removal from the ministry after he denied her communion at her mother's funeral and then left before finishing the service. The woman, Barbara Johnson, tells her story to msnbc's Tamron Hall.
The archdiocese had previously apologized for Guarnizo’s behavior and "lack of pastoral sensitivity." According to CNSNews.com, Guarnizo is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Moscow, not of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he has been practicing his vocation in recent years. On March 9, the Archdiocese of Washington withdrew his “faculties” to administer the sacraments within its jurisdiction.
Guarnizo’s behavior was against the Archdiocese of Washington’s policy, according to a statement issued by officials.
The incident occurred when it came time to hand out bread and wine, Barbara Johnson told msnbc.com. Guarnizo “issued a strong admonition that only Catholics in a state of grace can receive Communion,” she said. “I went up. I was standing next to my mother’s casket and he covered the bowl, and said, ‘I cannot give you Communion because you are with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ I stood there with my mouth open in a state of shock for -- I don’t know how long.”
In his statement, Guarnizo said Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her “lover," but Johnson's brother calls this "an outrageous lie."
"Her revelation was completely unsolicited," the priest said.
In his statement, Guarnizo accused the archdiocese of treating him unfairly, and said "the lack of clarity on this most basic issue puts at risk other priests who wish to serve the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C."
"I am once again deeply saddened by the actions of Father Marcel Guarnizo," Barbara Johnson said in a statement. "At a time when my family should have been allowed to begin our mourning in peace, he has chosen instead to politicize my mother’s death once again, reopening the wounds he inflicted upon our family on February 25th."
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