(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story identified Barbara Johnson as the partner of Kathleen DeBold and written up in Metro Weekly. A homosexual activist organization contacted LSN to note that it is a different Barbara Johnson identified in the newspaper. We are investigating the matter.)
GAITHERSBURG, MD, March 1, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In the wake of international press coverage of a priest’s decision to deny a lesbian communion, and the woman’s subsequent demands that he be removed from the parish, a source close to the incident contacted LifeSiteNews with new information that he says will set the record straight. Among other things, the new information indicates that the woman did actually receive Communion at the Mass – but from an Extraordinary minister rather than the priest.
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was reprimanded by the Archdiocese of Washington this week after denying communion to Johnson at her mother’s funeral. Johnson had informed the priest before the Mass that she was a lesbian, and was denied communion when she presented herself in line.
In a statement issued last week, the Archdiocese said that Guarnizo’s actions were against diocesan policy, and that “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.”
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LifeSiteNews spoke today with Diego von Stauffenberg, a source who is close to the incident and who revealed detailed information about the nature of Fr. Guarnizo’s actions at the funeral. According to Stauffenberg the priest was confronted by Johnson for the first time moments before Mass began.
She was reportedly agitated by the fact that the funeral was being presided over by Fr. Guarnizo, who is well known for his outspoken defense of Church teachings. The priest has been on the front lines of local pro-life activism, leading prayer vigils at Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s late term abortion facility in Germantown.
Johnson initially came into the sacristy to discuss the details of the two eulogies that were supposed to be delivered, but left abruptly and returned with her brother and another woman, whom she introduced as her “lover.”
Following this introduction, Johnson made a second abrupt exit, this time with her lover reportedly blocking the door in an apparent attempt to prevent any further conversation between Fr. Guarnizo and Johnson.
The priest proceeded with the Mass, but decided to remind the congregation before Communion of what is required to be properly disposed to receive. Stauffenberg reports that when Johnson approached for Communion anyway, Fr. Guarnizo turned her away in a manner so discreet that the Extraordinary Minister standing a few feet away did not know what had occurred. Johnson then crossed over to the Extraordinary minister’s line and was given communion.
Moreover, says Stauffenberg, media reports that Fr. Guarnizo refused to be present during Johnson’s eulogy are inaccurate. Johnson had told Channel 9 News that “Fr. Marcel left the altar, and did not return until I finished my eulogy.”
She also told the National Catholic Reporter that Fr. Guarnizo not only did not attend the burial, but also did not make an effort to find another priest to do so, and that it was the funeral director who took the initiative in contacting another priest.
The truth, according to Stauffenberg, is that Fr. Guarnizo suffers from migraines which are triggered by stressful situations. He had a migraine during the funeral, and discreetly left after the first eulogy ended, looking for water to revive himself. When he returned to the sanctuary, Johnson was about five minutes into a eulogy that lasted around fifteen to twenty minutes.
After the Mass was over, he accompanied the body in procession down the aisle and out the door to the hearse, where he informed the funeral director that he would be unable to make the 11 mile drive from the Church to the cemetery on Aspen Hill. He personally arranged for the funeral director to contact another local priest, Fr. Paul Sweeney, who joined the family at the cemetery.
“Mrs. Johnson was given a Catholic funeral with all of the formality and all of the respect that the Catholic Church has to offer,” said Stauffenberg.
Most of the substantial details offered by Stauffenberg have been corroborated by another source who also contacted LifeSiteNews, but who wishes to remain anonymous. In addition, an email circulating in the Diocese which claims to have originated from a group of people who met with Father shortly after the incident says the following:
“Fr knew the lady was a practicing lesbian because she came into the sacristy and introduced her ‘lover’ to Fr just before the Mass. He quietly denied her communion (so quietly that the Euch minister next to him didn’t realize that he did), and the woman promptly went to the other line and received communion anyway! He left to use the restroom (he was getting a migraine) between the eulogies, but did finish the ceremony and escorted the casket out. He made arrangements for there to be another priest at the gravesite and there was. He felt that it was a matter of conscience to deny her communion since he had been informed that she was an active homosexual by her own admission.”
Another statement from the Archdiocese about the incident was published yesterday in the Washington Post. The statement noted that “no one is entitled to the Eucharist,” and that “any person who obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
The statement also said that situations which called for denial of communion “ideally” would be handled by “discussing the consequences of such sin with the person privately before actually denying them Communion.”
To email the Archdiocese: [email protected]
Communication should be directed to Bishop Barry Knestout.