Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Father Guarnizo Speaks Out! Bravo, Father!

Father released a written statement today, giving his account of the events of February 25th.  His statements are corroborated by others that have been cited on this blog (and others).  Moreover, he makes plain that the lifting of his faculties has everything to do with the funeral events and not with the bogus (my word, not his) allegations of "intimidating behavior".  Of course I hope that anyone who has at least two brain neurons firing in syncopation would be able to see through that smoke-screen - or did all these people become "intimidated" just as Barbara Johnson's fabrications were falling to shreds?

Catholic News Agency carries his statement here.  One can also find it on CNSNews.  But I'll also copy it below.  Here it is...  (Begin statement)

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s Response to the Eucharistic Incident

I would like to begin by once again sending my condolences to the Johnson family on the death of Mrs. Loetta Johnson.

I also feel obliged to answer questions from my parishioners, as well as from the public, about the incident on February 25th.

Here are the facts:  On Saturday February 25th I showed up to officiate at a funeral Mass for Mrs. Loetta Johnson. The arrangements for the Mass were also not my own. I wish to clarify that Ms. Barbara Johnson (the woman who has since complained to the press), has never been a parishioner of mine. In fact I had never met her or her family until that morning.
The funeral celebration was to commence at 10:30a.m. From 9:30 to 10:20, I was assigned to hear confessions for the parish and anyone in the funeral party who would have chosen to receive the sacrament.
A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her “lover”. Her revelation was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms.Johnson, her lover stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I politely asked her to move and she refused.

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. But the ideal cannot always be achieved in life.

In the past ten days, many Catholics have referenced canon 915 in regard to this specific circumstance. There are other reasons for denying communion which neither meet the threshold of canon 915 or have any explicit connection to the discipline stated in that canon.

If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either.  If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.

In all of the above circumstances, I would have been placed in a similar uncomfortable position. Under these circumstances, I quietly withheld communion, so quietly that even the Eucharistic Minister standing four feet from me was not aware I had done so.  (In fact Ms. Johnson promptly chose to go to the Eucharistic minister to receive communion and did so.) There was no scandal, no “public reprimand” and no small lecture as some have reported.

Details matter. Ms. Johnson was not kneeling when she approached for communion, she did not receive the cup as the press has reported she has stated. It is the policy of St. John Neumann parish never to distribute under both species during funerals.

During the two eulogies (nearly 25 minutes long), I quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy lavatory to recover from the migraine that was coming on. I never walked out on Mrs. Loetta Johnson’s funeral and the liturgy was carried out with the same reverence and care that I celebrate every Mass. I finished the Mass and accompanied the body of the deceased in formal procession to the hearse, which was headed to the cemetery. I am subject to occasional severe migraines, and because the pain at that point was becoming disabling, I communicated to our funeral director that I was incapacitated and he arranged one of my brother priests to be present at the cemetery to preside over the rite of burial. Furthermore as the testimony of the priest that was at the cemetery conveys, he was present when the Johnson family arrived, and in fact mentioned that being called to cover the burial rite is quite normal, as many priests for reasons much less significant than mine (rush hour traffic for example) do not make the voyage to the cemetery. He routinely covers for them. This change in plans, was also invisible to the rest of the entourage. Regrets and information about my incapacitating migraine were duly conveyed to the Johnson family.

I have thanked the funeral director and the priest at the burial site, for their assistance that day. Mrs. Loetta Johnson was properly buried with every witness and ceremony a Catholic funeral can offer. I did not and would not refuse to accompany Barbara Johnson and her mother to the cemetery because she is gay or lives with a woman. I did not in any way seek to dishonor Mrs. Johnson's memory, and my homily at the funeral should have made that quite evident to all in the pews, including the Johnson family.

I would like to extend again to Ms. Johnson and her family, my sincerest condolences on her mother’s death.  I would never intentionally want or seek to embarrass anyone publicly or increase anyone’s emotional distress during such a difficult time. I did not seek or contrive these circumstances.

But I am going to defend my conduct in these instances, because what happened I believe contains a warning to the church. Such circumstances can and will be repeated multiple times over if the local church does not make clear to all Catholics that openly confessing sin is something one does to a priest in the confessional, not minutes before the Mass in which the Holy Eucharist is given.

I am confident that my own view, that I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation, quietly, with no intention to hurt or embarrass, will be upheld.  Otherwise any priest could-and many will-face the cruelest crisis of conscience that can be imposed. It seems to me, the lack of clarity on this most basic issue puts at risk other priests who wish to serve theCatholic Church in Washington D.C.

As to the latest allegations, I feel obliged to alleviate unnecessary suffering for the faithful at St. John Neumann and others who are following the case.

I wish to state that in conversation with Bishop Barry Knestout on the morning of March 13, he made it very clear that the whole of the case regarding the allegations of “intimidation” are circumscribed to two conversations; one with the funeral director and the other with a parish staff member present at the funeral. These conversations took place on March 7th and 8th, one day before the archdiocese’s latest decision to withdraw faculties (not suspend, since Cardinal Wuerl is not my bishop) on the 9th of March. I am fully aware of both meetings. And indeed contrary to the statement read on Sunday March 11th during all Masses at St. John Neumann, both instances have everything to do with the Eucharistic incident. There is no hidden other sin or “intimidation” allegations that they are working on, outside of these two meetings. The meetings in question, occurred in our effort to document from people at the funeral Mass in written form a few facts about the nature of the incident. We have collected more than a few testimonies and affidavits, testifying to what really took place during the funeral liturgy.

My personal conversation with both parties in question were in my view civil, professional and in no way hostile. I respect both individuals in question and really do not know the nature of their grievance.

On March 13, I asked Bishop Knestout about detail on this matter but he stated that he was not at liberty to discuss the matter. I would only add for the record, that the letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash.

In the days to come I look forward to addressing any confusion about the above conversations if the Archdiocese or the persons involved wish to talk about it publicly or privately.

I am grateful for all the good wishes and prayers I have received. And sincerely, having lost my own mother not long ago, I again extend my condolences to the Johnson family. I finally wish for the good of the Universal Church, the archdiocese, my parish and the peace of friends and strangers around the world, that the archdiocese would cease resolving what they call internal personnel matters of which they cannot speak, through the public media.

I remain my bishop’s and my Church’s, and above all Christ Jesus’obedient servant,
Very truly yours,
Father Marcel Guarnizo   

(End of Fr Guarnizo's statement)  


  1. This is the second incident recently of a priest being suspended for criticizing homosexuals. In September the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst, New Brunswick removed an elderly priest, 85-year-old Fr. Donat Gionet from active ministry after he caused a storm of controversy by denouncing homosexuality, cohabitation, and abortion in an August homily.

    This seems to be standard procedure and it’s not surprising seeing as a large number of “Catholic” Bishops in North America are card carrying members of the homosexual mafia.

    Here is a little background on Cardinal Wuerl from a woman who has been tracking these creeps for years

    I hope this brave priest gets really vocal! I think there are a lot of Catholics now who will support him.

  2. It should be borne in mind that Father Guarnizo had already drawn the attention of the gay and lesbian groups in the area through some compassionate but lengthy, well-documented, and unequivocal homilies he delivered last fall, during which he discussed homosexuality and explained the Church's opposition to gay marriage. The parish had a number of visitors on those occasions, including some who made it clear that they were homosexual. At times the disappointment and/or anger of the visitors was apparent. I do not know if any of them confronted Father after such homilies. But it is clear that his positions were known to the gay and lesbian community before February.

    1. Maybe Barbara Johnson was one of those sitting the pews on that day.


  3. Thank you Jesus. When it is dangerous to be Catholic, the formation process improves and folks have the urgent challenge to either deny His Truth and disown the faith, or accept to see His Truth and accept being a witness/martyr as their Confirmation provided.

    So that's what Pope B16 meant when he said initially that the Church would become smaller but more fervent? I thought he just mean many would leave and fewer would attend mass regularly. I see he was talking persecution and the abandonment by the fashionable, like this poor woman that needs our prayers.

    I must remember to pray for those persecuting when I pray for those persecuted!

  4. Fr. Marcel's statement does not deserve a "bravo," but a tear. At a time when we Catholics need to be uniting to fight the White House, we are being divided by a controversy that simply needs to pass. I find it troubling as well to see a priest who is a guest in the ADW challenging the local ordinary. I find it troubling how he has allowed himself a lightning rod for dissent and disrespect for those of who are sheparded by Cardinal Wuerl and his bishops. We may disagree with his and their judgments, but, in the end, we don't get to choose our pastors -- Christ does through the Holy Father. Moreover, Fr. Marcel's statement would have been better left unsaid.

    1. A "tear"? And what is causing all this angst? Is it that Father Guarnizo is telling the truth of what happened to him - or that he experienced it? If it's the former, may I suggest that your tears may be of the crocodile variety? Father Guarnizo did not bring about this controversy that you lament. The blame for that lies squarely with Cardinal Wuerl. Think of the unity that would have ensued if His Eminence had actually upheld his priest who acted only to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege and to keep Ms Johnson from committing that mortal sin (which she was literally hell-bent on committing no matter what it seems).

      The only way Father is "challenging the ordinary" is by telling the truth of what happened to him, after the local ordinary threw him to the wolves without even so much as conducting a decent investigation. I for one applaud Father for speaking out. I know of at least one other priest in the past who was likewise maltreated by the Washington chancery. He chose the silent route. Who knows? Perhaps if he had raised his own voice, the chancery might have thought twice about offering up yet another priest to appease the fiends of political correctness. I hope that pattern will now be broken.

      Unity - real unity - will NOT be found in letting this matter pass without truth and justice being satisfied. This will take hard work, and yes we will have disagreements, but these must be faced honestly and not swept under a rug at the expense of the vocation of a good priest. I gather from your last sentence that you would have wanted Father Guarnizo to fall on his sword so that you can continue to wear your rose-colored glasses. Not so. I strongly suggest you turn off the teary water-works and man up a bit and deal with the truth of what is really going on.


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