Priest removed from church after refusing communion to lesbian

st-john-neumann-catholicA priest who refused communion to a lesbian at her mothers funeral last month at a Catholic church in Gaithersburg, Maryland (USA) has been removed from the church. According to a letter sent from the Archdiocese of Washington to all of its priests, he is apparently on administrative leave pending investigation. The letter says that action was taken against Father Marcel Guarnizo based on allegations that he engaged in “intimidating behavior” against members of the staff and “others” at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, where he served as a parish priest.

The letter does not make any reference of the allegation by D.C. resident Barbara Johnson that Guarnizo “humiliated” her at her mother’s funeral Mass at the church on March 25 when he reportedly refused to allow her to receive communion as she and others approached the church altar, saying she was living in sin.

The letter reads:

“I write to inform you that effective today, Father Marcel Guarnizo’s assignment at St. John Neumann Parish is withdrawn and he has been placed on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed until such time as an inquiry into his actions at the parish is completed,” Bishop Knestout said in his March 9 letter.

“This action was taken after I received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry,” he said in the letter. “Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners, Father Guarnizo is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington until all matters can be appropriately resolved, with the hope that he might return to priestly ministry.”

Last month, Johnson told the Washington Post that Guarnizo “put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you communion because you live with a woman and in the eyes of the church that is a sin.’”

According to the report in the Post, Johnson’s partner of 20 years had been helping Johnson’s family at the church prior to the service when Guarnizo asked Johnson who she was. He was told that she was her partner.

Guarnizo has told the media that he would have no comment on the matter involving Barbara Johnson.

Reports of Guarnizo’s refusal to serve communion to Johnson triggered an uproar among LGBT activists, including LGBT Catholic activists in the D.C. area.

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