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
[email protected]

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

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