Lesbian Denied Communion at Mother’s Funeral, Priest Leaves During Eulogy

Deep in grief, Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine.

Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service.

“He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,’ ” she recalled Tuesday.

She reacted with stunned silence. Her anger and outrage have now led her and members of her family to demand that Guarnizo be removed from his ministry.

Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there.


Late Tuesday, Johnson received a letter of apology from the Rev. Barry Knestout, one of the archdiocese’s highest-ranking administrators, who said the lack of “kindness” she and her family received “is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.”

“I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” Knestout wrote. “I hope that healing and reconciliation with the Church might be possible for you and any others who were affected by this experience. In the meantime, I will offer Mass for the happy repose of your mother’s soul. May God bring you and your family comfort in your grief and hope in the Resurrection.”

Full Washington Post Article

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3 Responses to Lesbian Denied Communion at Mother’s Funeral, Priest Leaves During Eulogy

  1. dan says:

    The bishop himself should have apologized. This apology is so lame it doesn't qualify.

  2. sister says:

    This is really heartbreaking…I can't believe he just left them. That was a very callous thing to do to a grieving family. Unfortunately, with the bureaucracy that's involved, Guarnizo will only get a slap on the wrist, be handed some sort of "probation" and return to his position when things die down, at most that is. As far as I'm concerned, the lack of an apology from the transgressor–whether forced or voluntary–implies some sort of closeted acceptance within church, only to act an an enabler for future improprieties.

  3. Rev. Nathan Hart says:

    He didn't give her communion because she sins? Um…. does he know what communion is about???

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