The Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has apologized to a woman who was denied communion during her mother’s funeral because she is in a same-sex relationship, but she still wants to see the priest responsible to be fired.
Barbara Johnson says that Father Marcel Guarnizo told her, “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church that is a sin,” as she knelt before him at the funeral last Saturday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md. Guarnizo, Johnson says, also left the altar while she was delivering a eulogy for her mother, Loetta Schoenholz Johnson, and would not appear at the gravesite.
Johnson received apologies from the Reverend Thomas LaHood, who is the pastor of St. John Neumann and Guarnizo’s superior, and two officials of the archdiocese, including the Most Reverend Barry Nestout, auxiliary bishop and vicar general. According to the Associated Press, Nestout wrote her a letter saying, “In my years as a priest, I have encountered many pastoral situations and know that kindness to those experiencing personal loss is a necessary part of the church’s call to clarity. The fact that you did not experience this is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.”
Johnson expressed gratitude for the apologies, but she told the AP she and her family have asked the archdiocese to remove Guarnizo, the parish vicar, from the ministry so he will “not have the opportunity to inflict this kind of suffering on any family in the future.” Archdiocesan officials said the matter would be handled confidentially because it involves personnel.