Priest who denied communion to lesbian parishioner has been suspended

The Roman Catholic priest called out by our National Religious Leadership Roundtable and others for denying communion to a lesbian parishioner at her mother’s funeral as been suspended for “intimidating behavior.”

According to a letter from the Bishop Barry Knestout, a top administrator for the Washington, D.C. archdiocese, Father Marcel Guarnizo’s actions were “incompatible with proper priestly ministry” and Guarnizo “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.” Read details here.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA and member of the NRLR, responded to Guarnizo’s suspension by saying:

What happened to Barbara Johnson and her family has saddened and outraged Catholics around the country and across the globe. I hope that any Church official tempted to use the Eucharist as a weapon or punishment will take notice of what happened here, and refrain from similar action.

The removal of Father Guarnizo is a good first step in response to the outrage of the denial of communion at a family funeral. Now, we call on the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to work on addressing the climate that allowed Father Guarnizo to believe this was an appropriate response.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and our families experience exclusion at mass every single week, although in ways not as dramatic as this incident. We need our church leaders to hear what this feels like to us, and to work with us on ways to strengthen our church. Can we honor the memory of Barbara Johnson’s mother, whose faith was clearly so important to her, by beginning to talk with each other?