Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some Thoughts Regarding The Archdiocese's Disgusting Treatment Of Father Guarnizo

I think it most significant that today's Gospel is the account of Jesus forcibly evicting from the temple the sellers of sacrificial animals and the money changers.  Mind you, He did not take what so many post-modern clergy would call a "pastoral approach".  Read John 2:13-25.  He drove them out with a whip and overturned all the tables, shouting "Stop making My Father's house into a market place."  I dare to speculate that the chief priests and those in charge of the temple might have had their noses put out of joint over the whole incident - and I dare to speculate that Our Lord cared not one whit.

Now just for review, I'm going to quote Canon 915.  It's very brief and very simple.  Here it is.  "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion."  How can it possibly be more clear in its intent?    This canon binds upon ministers of Holy Communion - such as Father Guarnizo at that Feb 25th funeral.  Notice that it says that people in mortal sin "are not to be admitted" - period.  There is no provision for "pastoral options".  If a minister of Holy Communion knowingly admits such a person to Holy Communion, he/she has disobeyed Canon 915.  Moreover, he/she will have cooperated with that recipient's commission of another mortal sin of sacrilegious Holy Communion.  Such cooperation, being formal and material, would then constitute mortal sin for the minister him/herself.  That's it - pure and simple.  To understand this, one only need have a grasp of grammar and the ability to read a sentence.  No advanced theology or canon law degree is required here, for there is absolutely no nuance about Canon 915.

Five years ago, my Catholic Media Coalition colleague, Allyson Smith of the California Catholic Daily, interviewed then-Archbishop Wuerl when the latter made a trip to California.  She queried him on his refusal to obey Canon 915 in relation to Nancy Pelosi, who was using her high position to advance both abortion and same-sex marriage.  It seems that Canon 915 doesn't fit in with his "style of pastoral ministry".  The account of the interview is on the CalCatholic website for your review.

At the funeral on February 25th, Father Guarnizo obeyed Canon 915.  His obedience puts to shame the disobedience of Cardinal Wuerl.  Is this one of the unspoken reasons why Father Guarnizo is being punished?  And yes, it is a punishment.

Last month, when Chris Matthews sullied Blessed Sacrament Church by peddling his book there, we had petitioned the DC chancery to have that book-signing event cancelled.  Mind you, Matthews is an individual who has showcased his dissidence from Church teaching on abortion and gay marriage many times on his Hardball show.  He went so far as to invite Bishop Tobin to speak with him and then proceeded to revile him to his face.  I posted the youtube of that.  The chancery's response to this profanation of Blessed Sacrament was to say that they wouldn't bother to involve themselves with it.

Now contrast that indifference with their attitude towards a priest who had the courage to obey Canon 915 in the face of flak that he knew he would receive.  Certainly the chancery did not assume their patrician, hands-off indifferent attitude in this matter.  After the funeral, Barbara Johnson wrote a letter to Fr Guarnizo stating that "I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life.."

Well, it looks like she got the chancery to play along with her game of vengeance and to do her bidding like good little lap-dogs.  Did it occur to Cardinal Wuerl that in so doing, that he is confirming Ms Johnson in her mortally sinful lifestyle?  How does that fit in with any legitimate "style of pastoral ministry"?  Is he that afraid of the gay community's profanity-laced emails that he'll do anything to get them to stop?  Or could it be that niggling contrast between his disobedience of, and Father's obedience to, Canon 915?

By the way - the Abbey Roads blog has a copy of the letter read at today's Masses.


  1. Notice that it says that people in mortal sin "are not to be admitted" - period. There is no provision for "pastoral options".

    I am persuaded that Fr. Guarnizo is the object of a witch hunt. I am not persuaded that he violated canon law (though I'm just a civil lawyer and not a canonist). However, I don't think the foregoing in italics is entirely accurate. In fact, it can't be entirely accurate.

    Suppose a priest is aware of a grave sin of mine through confession. Let us say that, for some reason, I left the box without absolution -- perhaps because I'm not sorry for what I did. And then suppose I publicly (as opposed to privately) approach that priest for Communion. How can he not give me Communion? A priest cannot use the information he receives in Confession for any purpose whatsoever. If, in those circumstances, he withholds the Sacrament from me, he is giving me away and probably violating the sacramental seal.

    Even if the priest received the information about my sin in some confidential setting other than confession, I still don't think he can deny me Communion, provided my sins are secret. For a priest to deny Communion to someone whose sins are entirely secret would also be to give scandal, because it would not be entirely clear why Communion was being denied. Plus, it would have the effect of giving the sinner away; the resulting humiliation might serve only to harden him in his sin. In fact, if I am not mistaken, it is a long-standing principle in Church law that priests are not to deny Communion to occult (secret) sinners even when they know about the sin and know the person is not sorry for it.

  2. Anita, the actual text mentions that the sin must be "manifest". I carelessly omitted that word in my summary statement immediately following the quote. The two cases you cite deal with occult, or hidden, matters. I'd think they fall outside the scope of Canon 915. Many people do go to Communion in a state of mortal sin, and the minister would have no way of knowing of it. The minister couldn't be held responsible under Canon 915 for that.


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