Closure: Priest Who Denied Communion to Lesbian No Longer Employed by Diocese

The Roman Catholic Priest who denied communion to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral is no longer with the Diocese of Washington, according a Diocese spokesperson. Father Marcel Guarnizo was placed on leave from St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, Maryland after refusing to give communion to Barbara Johnson and then refusing to attend the graveside service for Johnson’s mother. According to Chieko Noguchi Scheve, director of media and public relations at the Archdiocese of Washington, Fr. Guarnizo has returned to his permanent assignment at the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia.

Upon hearing the news of Fr. Guarnizo’s departure, Johnson said:

It gives me great comfort to see that the Archdiocese of Washington acted swiftly initially not only to point out that his behavior was wrong and not in accordance with their policy but then to suspend him. And this final message from them says to me that, unfortunately, this was not a person that was meant to be in the ministry in this region. Knowing that he will not be able to visit such pain on another family in the Washington archdiocese gives me and my family a lot of comfort.

She has been asking the diocese to remove him from St. John Neumann parish since the incident at her mother’s funeral in March of 2012. The Diocese quickly issued an apology stating that Fr. Guarnizo’s actions were not in line with diocese policy and that it is “not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person” seeking communion.

It is important to note that Fr. Guarnizo is not being dismissed for denying Johnson communion. Rather, his dismissal is for intimidating behavior toward other parish staff. Fr. Guarnizo became a cause célèbre among anti-LGBT Roman Catholic organizations and bloggers. The Roman Catholic Church continues to formally oppose full participation and equality for LGBT people, even though the vast majority of Roman Catholic church-goers support full protections for LGBT people. Two weeks ago, the National Catholic Reporter broke the news that a Roman Catholic ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics, the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, has been under pressure to sign an oath of allegiance to Church hierarchy or face disbanding.

Barbara’s story helped to elevate the challenges faced by LGBT and allied Catholics in America, providing a different perspective on the story of the Roman Catholic Church in America. On behalf of Barbara Johnson and all accepting Roman Catholics, GLAAD commends the Archdiocese of Washington for taking swift action when a member of the clergy compounded the pain of a woman already mourning the death of her mother and for not extending his stay, thereby exposing other people to his insensitivity.