News that a lesbian had been denied communion at her mother’s funeral. The Rainbow Sash Movement is one of the biggest and strongest Catholic LGBT groups out there. They issued this statement regarding the incident:
I think this illustrates how open to spiritual bullying some priests can be under the current Teaching on the Homosexual person in the Church. I am sure the parish priest was also influenced by the current situation in the Catholic Institution lead by judgmental bishops who feel that purity of dogma must override the human condition. While the local archdiocese has apologized for the actions of Father Marcel Guarnizo in this matter, they appear not to be ready to acknowledge the part they played in allowing such a un-charitable act to happen.
While Guarnizo officiated at a funeral mass for Loetta Johnson on Saturday at Saint John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, about 25 miles northwest of Washington. He told attendees that only church members in a “state of grace” would be allowed to receive communion, Johnson said. Such a statement ignores the part that moral conscience plays, and presumes to make judgments about one’s internal forum. Fr. Guarinizo apparently does not understand we are all sinners and have fallen short. Would he have handled any other sinner in a similar fashion, or would he have exercised a more common sense and reasonable approach?
Johnson said that when she approached, the priest covered the communion chalice with his hand, “looked me in the eye and said ‘I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman.’”
The Rainbow Sash Movement believes it would be easy for us to react in a judgmental fashion, but what would that solve? If the Archdiocese of Washington is sincere in their apology they must reach out to the woman who was victimized by this priest at her mother’s funeral, and begin the process of healing if that is now even possible.
Clearly this action reflects not only the attitude of one priest and but also of the Archdiocese; if the priests attitude is not publicly disciplined by the Archdiocese it will be understood to have sanctioned the action.
Cardinal Wuerl understands how out of place this action is. Clearly this is just another example of why so many are leaving the Church. He claims it is the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington that “When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person,” the Archdiocesan response said. “Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.” The priest should be publicly punished for his public violation of Archdiocesan policy if indeed the Archdiocesan policy was violated.
Sadly while the Archdiocese of Washington like many other Arch/dioceses around the country have developed welcoming parishes for LGBT Catholics, those parishes will take a back seat to this incident.
Clearly I think both supporters of the priest and those who don’t support the priests action generally agree this whole matter could have been handled with more compassion and less judgementalism. If no action is taken against Fr. Guarizo, to educate him about pastoral concerns of denying anyone communion, and acquainting him with the current policy of the Archdiocese of Washington than the apology will be understood as just pious words that are bleached of any real moral meaning.
The present climate of hostility to everything LGBT in the Catholic Church I fear has only encouraged this priest to take this course of action. I fear the example set by US Catholic Bishops in their open hostility to the Gay and Lesbian Community has led this priest to believe he is just following orders.
Rainbow Sash Movement