Updated: 03/12/2012 at 9:50 pm
GAITHERSBURG, March 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Maryland priest who denied communion to a lesbian at her mother’s funeral is being “placed on administrative leave,” meaning he will not be able to exercise his priestly faculties, according to a letter from the Archdiocese signed by auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout.
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo was previously censured by the Archdiocese after denying communion to Barbara Johnson, who had reportedly introduced her lesbian “lover” to the priest in the sacristy right before her mother’s funeral Mass.
According to a source close to the incident who spoke with LifeSiteNews, Johnson’s lesbian lover physically blocked Fr. Guarnizo from speaking further with Johnson when she abruptly left the sacristy following this introduction. When Johnson presented herself for Communion, the priest refused to give it to her, although she ended up receiving from an extraordinary minister. It was later revealed that Johnson is also a Buddhist.
The Archdiocese issued an apology to Johnson and said that Fr. Guarnizo’s actions were “against policy” and that an investigation was underway.
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This past weekend’s letter from Bishop Knestout putting Fr. Guarnizo on administrative leave was read at all Sunday Masses at St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, where Fr. Guarnizo has been serving since last March, and where the incident occurred.
Bishop Knestout alleges in the letter that he has “received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.”
The letter adds: “Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners, Father Guarnizo is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington until all matters can be appropriately resolved with the hope that he might return to priestly ministry.”
According to a report in the Washington Post, the letter was read out loud by the church’s pastor, Fr. Thomas LaHood, who also elaborated further on the situation.
Fr. LaHood claimed that the removal was not due to the incident with Johnson, but rather that it “pertains to actions over the past week or two.”
“I realize this letter is hard to hear. Please keep mind that this is a first [sic] personnel issue, dealing with issues of ministry in the church. Father Guarnizo will have every opportunity to present his position,” he added, according to the Post.
To email the Archdiocese: firstname.lastname@example.org. Communication should be directed to Bishop Barry Knestout.