The Roman Catholic priest who denied communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral in February is no longer at the church where the incident happened, but it is unclear if his departure was related.
The Reverend Marcel Guarnizo, vicar of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., refused to give communion to Barbara Johnson at the service for her mother, Loetta Schoenholz Johnson, February 25. In front of others, Guarnizo told Johnson, "I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church." The Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which oversees St. John Neumann, issued an apology to Johnson, who asked the archdiocese to remove Guarnizo from his position. In March he was suspended for "engaging in intimidating behavior."
Now, MSNBC.com reports, Guarnizo is no longer at St. John Neumann or in any position in the Washington archdiocese. "Fr. Marcel Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia, who was given a temporary assignment at St. John Neumann parish," Chieko Noguchi Scheve, director of media and public relations for the archdiocese of Washington, told MSNBC.com via email today. "That assignment period has ended and Father Guarnizo is no longer in ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington." Scheve declined to elaborate.
Johnson told MSNBC.com she was "relieved" that Guarnizo has left. "It gives me great comfort to see that the Archdiocese of Washington acted swiftly initially not only to point out that his behavior was wrong and not in accordance with their policy but then to suspend him," she said. "And this final message from them says to me that, unfortunately, this was not a person that was meant to be in the ministry in this region. Knowing that he will not be able to visit such pain on another family in the Washington archdiocese gives me and my family a lot of comfort." She added, "I just wish that there was a more global and more positive church response to the LGBT community."