Thursday, March 15, 2012

Father Guarnizo defends himself, denies archdiocesan explanation for disciplinary action

(Catholic Culture) 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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