A Maryland Catholic priest’s denial of communion to a lesbian during her mother’s funeral is receiving criticism from her family and others.
In a blog post published on Addicting Info Sunday, Ann Werner described the scene, saying that Father Marcel Guarnizo denied communion to a woman Werner identified only as “my friend Barbara.” According to Werner, Guarnizo said, “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church.” He also left the altar when Barbara delivered a eulogy for her mother, Werner reported.
Today, The Washington Post identified the woman as Barbara Johnson, an artist living in Mount Rainier, Md. She was “clearly stunned” by the priest’s action, her brother Larry Johnson told the Post.
The funeral for their mother, Loetta Schoenholz Johnson, was held Saturday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., which is near Washington, D.C. The church is within the Archdiocese of Washington, which released a brief statement to the Post saying Guarnizo’s action was against policy and that the archdiocese would investigate it as a personnel matter.
Larry Johnson said he and his sister “agreed this is not a discussion about gay rights, or about the teachings of the Catholic Church. We’re not in this to Catholic-bash. That’s the farthest thing from our minds. We just want the public square to have knowledge of what this priest did.” Some fellow Catholics have shared their distress about the incident, he said.
He added, “What’s wrong with a church that at the most vulnerable time of someone’s life, someone decides to make a stand in a public way about the state of their soul, without any conversation or inquiry — how can that be consistent with teachings about Christianity?”