Ben Johnson

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Archdiocese of Washington reprimands priest for denying communion to a lesbian

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND, February 29, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A parish priest in Maryland, who denied communion to a woman who identified herself as a lesbian, has been publicly rebuked by the Archdiocese of Washington.

Barbara Johnson attended her mother’s funeral last Saturday and introduced her lesbian partner to the priest before Mass.

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, covered the Host as she approached and told her, “I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the Church, that is a sin.” 

Afterwards, she wrote him a letter telling him, “I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”

Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout wrote a formal letter of apology telling Johnson, “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.”

The Archdiocese of Washington issued a brief press release saying Fr. Guarnizo’s actions were inappropriate. “When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person. Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.”

After receiving the letter of apology, Johnson said “I will not be satisfied” until Fr. Guarnizo is removed from the parish.

Monsignor Charles Pope, who blogs for the Archdiocese of Washington’s website, told LifeSiteNews.com, “One would presume a priest would have had more ongoing conversations with somebody of a private nature before one would publicly deny somebody communion.”

“There may be a time when a pastor has concerns about a parishioner and then speaks to them privately and advises them privately not to receive communion,” he said. “But we don’t have these confrontations at the altar rail.”

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Canon 915 of the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law admonishes priests to deny Holy Communion to those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

The New Commentary on Canon Law states: “Eucharistic Ministers are also to refuse holy communion when they are certain (1) that a person has committed a sin that is objectively grave, (2) that the sinner is obstinately persevering in this sinful state, and (3) that this sin is manifest,” or widely known to those present at the Mass. 

The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops established “engaging in sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid marriage” as such a sin in its 2006 publication “‘Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper’: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.”

“Catholics who are conscious of committing any mortal sin must receive the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion,” they wrote.

Public denial of communion must also be preceded by a private warning not to come forward to communion.

The commentary on the 1983 Code of Canon Law, prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, states, “before a minister can lawfully refuse the Eucharist, he must be certain that the person obstinately persists in a sinful situation or in sinful behavior that is manifest (i.e. public) and objectively grave.”

“Most canonists, including pastors and priests, interpret that not just as not just a quick conversation but something of a more substantial nature,” Monsignor Pope told LifeSiteNews.

Dr. Ed Peters, a canon lawyer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote “a few minutes conversation…would not suffice, in the face of numerous canons protecting the right of the faithful to receive the sacraments, to verify either the notoriety of the (objectively) sinful situation, or to verify the obstinacy of the would-be recipient.” However, Dr. Peters noted after a sufficient period of warning and instruction, a priest would be well within his rights to invoke Canon 915 and deny communion to an obstinate, sexually active homosexual.

“I don’t know that that can be determined by a brief interaction in a sacristy,” Msgr. Pope told LifeSiteNews.

Fr. Guarnizo may have been forcibly denied the opportunity to expand on his conversation. A commenter on Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog, who claimed to have been “in a meeting with Fr Marcel and heard the whole story,” wrote: “The woman in question brought her lesbian partner into the vesting sacristy just before the funeral Mass and made sure to introduce her partner to Fr. Marcel, introducing her as her ‘lover’. He told her then that she should not present herself for Communion.” A commenter claimed Barbara’s partner “blocked his way out of the sacristy when he attempted to speak with her further.”

The Catholic Church believes a faithful Christian has such an interest in receiving Holy Communion that it must only be denied only in extreme cases. “When in doubt, give it out,” Msgr. Pope said.

The popular blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf wrote no one should be surprised that questions persist about when to publicly deny someone communion.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf writes that “Many priests have received inadequate training in these matters of law and have been given even worse example by bishops who ought to be applying can. 915 is genuine cases of applicability,” he wrote.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, waded into a similar controversy in 2009 when he said he would not deny House Speaker Nancy Pelosi communion, claiming to do so would amount to “Communion wielded as a weapon.” When asked, he said, “there’s a question about whether this canon [915] was ever intended to be used.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf described Fr. Guarnizo’s actions as “well-meaning” but “premature,” adding he could not find fault with his motivation.

“He should be thanked for taking his role seriously and for wanting to uphold the Church’s teaching,” he wrote.

Fr. Guarnizo did not return messages left by LifeSiteNews.

Contact:
Archdiocese of Washington
chancery@adw.org


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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