Fr. Marcel Guarnizo Responds

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who denied communion to a woman at her mother's funeral responds.

Fr. Guarnizo, CNS News points out, is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Moscow, Russia—not of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he has been practicing his vocation in recent years. On March 9, the Archdiocese of Washington suspended his “faculties” to administer the sacraments within its borders.

He begins his letter by offering condolences to the family and says he feels "obliged" to answer the public claims made against him.

Here are the facts: On Saturday, February 25th I showed up to officiate at a funeral Mass for Mrs. Loetta Johnson. The arrangements for the Mass were also not my own. I wish to clarify that Ms. Barbara Johnson (the woman who has since complained to the press), has never been a parishioner of mine. In fact, I had never met her or her family until that morning.

The funeral celebration was to commence at 10:30a.m.

From 9:30 to 10:20, I was assigned to hear confessions for the parish and anyone in the funeral party who would have chosen to receive the sacrament.

A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her “lover." Her revelation was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms. Johnson, her lover stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I politely asked her to move and she refused.

I understand and agree it is the policy of the archdiocese to assume good faith when a Catholic presents himself for communion; like most priests I am not at all eager to withhold communion. But the ideal cannot always be achieved in life.

In the past ten days, many Catholics have referenced Canon 915 in regard to this specific circumstance. There are other reasons for denying communion which neither meet the threshold of Canon 915 or have any explicit connection to the discipline stated in that canon.

If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either. If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with Canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.

During the two eulogies (nearly 25 minutes long), I quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy lavatory to recover from the migraine that was coming on. I never walked out on Mrs. Loetta Johnson’s funeral and the liturgy was carried out with the same reverence and care that I celebrate every Mass. I finished the Mass and accompanied the body of the deceased in formal procession to the hearse, which was headed to the cemetery. I am subject to occasional severe migraines, and because the pain at that point was becoming disabling, I communicated to our funeral director that I was incapacitated and he arranged one of my brother priests to be present at the cemetery to preside over the rite of burial.

Furthermore, as the testimony of the priest that was at the cemetery conveys, he was present when the Johnson family arrived, and in fact mentioned that being called to cover the burial rite is quite normal, as many priests for reasons much less significant than mine (rush hour traffic, for example) do not make the voyage to the cemetery. He routinely covers for them. This change in plans, was also invisible to the rest of the entourage. Regrets and information about my incapacitating migraine were duly conveyed to the Johnson family.

I have thanked the funeral director and the priest at the burial site, for their assistance that day. Mrs. Loetta Johnson was properly buried with every witness and ceremony a Catholic funeral can offer. I did not and would not refuse to accompany Barbara Johnson and her mother to the cemetery because she is gay or lives with a woman. I did not in any way seek to dishonor her memory, and my homily at the funeral should have made that quite evident to all in the pews, including the Johnson family.

I would like to extend again to Ms. Johnson and her family, my sincerest condolences on her mother’s death. I would never intentionally want or seek to embarrass anyone publicly or increase anyone’s emotional distress during such a difficult time. I did not seek or contrive these circumstances.

But I am going to defend my conduct in these instances, because what happened I believe contains a warning to the church. Such circumstances can and will be repeated multiple times over if the local church does not make clear to all Catholics that openly confessing sin is something one does to a priest in the confessional, not minutes before the Mass in which the Holy Eucharist is given.

I am confident that my own view, that I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation, quietly, with no intention to hurt or embarrass, will be upheld.

Otherwise, any priest could--and many will--face the cruelest crisis of conscience that can be imposed. It seems to me, the lack of clarity on this most basic issue puts at risk other priests who wish to serve the Catholic Church in Washington D.C.

As to the latest allegations, I feel obliged to alleviate unnecessary suffering for the faithful at St. John Neumann and others who are following the case.

I wish to state that in conversation with Bishop Barry Knestout on the morning of March 13, he made it very clear that the whole of the case regarding the allegations of “intimidation” are circumscribed to two conversations; one with the funeral director and the other with a parish staff member present at the funeral. These conversations took place on March 7th and 8th, one day before the archdiocese’s latest decision to withdraw faculties (not suspend, since Cardinal Wuerl is not my bishop) on the 9th of March. I am fully aware of both meetings. And indeed contrary to the statement read on Sunday, March 11th during all Masses at St. John Neumann, both instances have everything to do with the Eucharistic incident. There is no hidden other sin or “intimidation” allegations that they are working on, outside of these two meetings.

The meetings in question, occurred in our effort to document from people at the funeral Mass in written form a few facts about the nature of the incident. We have collected more than a few testimonies and affidavits, testifying to what really took place during the funeral liturgy.

My personal conversation with both parties in question were in my view civil, professional and in no way hostile. I respect both individuals in question and really do not know the nature of their grievance.

On March 13, I asked Bishop Knestout about detail on this matter but he stated that he was not at liberty to discuss the matter. I would only add for the record, that the letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash.

In the days to come I look forward to addressing any confusion about the above conversations if the archdiocese or the persons involved wish to talk about it publicly or privately.

I am grateful for all the good wishes and prayers I have received. And sincerely, having lost my own mother not long ago, I again extend my condolences to the Johnson family. I finally wish for the good of the Universal Church, the archdiocese, my parish and the peace of friends and strangers around the world, that the archdiocese would cease resolving what they call internal personnel matters of which they cannot speak, through the public media.

I remain my bishop’s and my Church’s, and above all Christ Jesus’ obedient servant,

Very truly yours,

Father Marcel Guarnizo
Well, that's very very different from what's been portrayed. What say you?


  1. Wow. That truly is very different than what has been portrayed.

  2. We need more priests like Fr. Guarnizo.

  3. "I would only add for the record, that the letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash."

    Bishops. So corrupt. So craven. So willing to pander to and coddle the snakes among us. Knestout threw his own priest under the bus for the gratification of an unknown Buddist, lesbian, activist who has his Church in her cross-hairs.

    It is gross.

  4. I hope this guy get the purple...

  5. I also noticed the part about the letter (i.e. decision) already being made before Fr. could defend himself. Such clear lack of support for priests has got to impact vocations in the archdiocese.

    I also noticed the misrepresentation of other vague allegations of "intimidation" being other matters when they are not. Finally, I would have a keen interest in potential other motives of those who have made such claims.

    The apology owed in this case is to Fr. Marcel.

  6. Actually, I read almost the same thing from a commenter at another blog who was present at the funeral and in the sacristy when this happened. It is almost word for word what Father Guarnizo put in his letter.

    I have no doubt that what Father Guarzino has written is anything but the truth.

  7. Dioceses of America had better be ready for challenges of this kinds all across America. Gay Rights lobbies in American are ready to sue. In my own parish I am suspect of a gay couple who have enrolled children in parochial school and one is a Eucharistic minister. How long before they demand to have a gay marriage or have gay history taught to their children. If you take their money and accept them into the parish society what recourse do you have?

  8. People don't realize that morale among priests is very low in many places. Very few priests, liberal or conservative, trust their bishops. And when you are not sure or are suspicious of your bishop's support, and you think that there's a high probability that he and/or his cronies are going to stab you in the back, it's hard for discouragement not to settle in.

    The Church in America will not flourish if bishops continue to "pander and coddle" those who hate the Church (as Blackrep said above) while they throw their own priests (who are supposed to be their children) under the bus.

    "Even my trusted friend, who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me" (Ps 41:10).

  9. Plain and simple this was a setup. We need to pray for our priests because I can tell you that this is neither the first time this has happened and it will definitely not be the last. These people are bullies who have the media's ear on situations like this and therefore will always have their stories printed and talked about. We live in times where people find nothing wrong attacking the Catholic Church.

    I do find something interesting in the fact that Ms. Johnson claims this whole incident was disrespectful to her mother. What about her actions in regard to setting up a priest? You just used your mother's funeral to get media attention and cause harm to a priest doing his job. I would think that would be more disrespectful.


  10. It is very sad to see how the Bishop is behaving. From the gay activists I would expect it, but from within the Church...that's another thing entirely

  11. This was always the most likely scenario, given the orthodoxy of the priest. There has been too much emphasis on c. 915. A priest has a moral duty to protect against known (by him) profanation of the Eucharist. He cannot be compelled to give the Eucharist to a person against his informed conscience. The treatment of this priest is disgraceful, and in my opinion, will cause even greater ignorance about, and less reverence for, the Blessed Sacrament.

  12. I find this sickening. In my best efforts to maintain benefit of the doubt, I hoped that the initial precipitous reaction from the diocese would be moderated, but it appears that it has not. It is unconscionable that Fr. Marcel was not interviewed before judgment was rendered.

    I'm so sorry.

  13. I hope this doesn't become another "priest v. bishop" incident.

  14. This priest is a martyr. He is being offered up as a sacrifice to the gods of political correctness. How sad. He is a hero for trying to protect the Eucharist from blasphemy, and this is his reward--to suffer at the hands of a set up from this gay activist.

  15. [Johnson declined to comment Sunday beyond this statement:
    “The Johnson family continues to pray for the Archdiocese of Washington, Father Guarnizo, and all Catholics during this time of upheaval. While we understand this letter does not pertain to the events that occurred at our mother’s funeral, we are hopeful that Bishop Knestout’s decision will ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences brought upon our family. We urge all Catholics to put aside political points of view, and pray that our Church will remain in Christ’s love.”]
    Human existence is the criterion of the objective ordering of human rights. All human rights are held in trust for the person by God, by their parents and finally by the state. Political activists have turned these natural laws and the laws of God into political issues as civil rights, countermanding the laws of nature and nature’s God, dictating to the church, scandalizing society and destroying our culture. Violating the will of our Creator, aborting human beings brought into existence, homosexual behavior, even assault and battery of infant children for sexual gratification are all “political points of view” that are given the court’s imprimatur as civil rights.
    Barbara Johnson is urging all Catholics to put aside what she calls “political points of view”. Lesbianism is made acceptable under civil law and has become one of many “political points of view” by that civil law. Abortion and infanticide are now made through civil law, “political points of view”. Barbara Johnson is imposing her “political points of view”, her lesbianism, upon the human rights of all persons, the human rights held in trust for all by God, by their parents and finally by the state. The state has faltered and failed to protect the innocence and virginity, the human rights of the most innocent of children. The state has refused to protect the laws of nature and nature’s God. The state has placed in Barbara Johnson’s hands power that is not rightfully the state’s. Barbara Johnson traded her unique human sovereignty for an illegitimate pleasure and now uses the state’s unauthentic laws, calling them “political points of view” to countermand God’s laws, the Catholic Church’s primacy, and to subvert our future generations. While Barbara Johnson may be a heretic, she is also a traitor to America.

  16. @ Laura

    It is very sad to see how the Bishop is behaving. From the gay activists I would expect it ...

    At the risk of sounding like a bishop-basher, they're often one and the same. Sad but too often true.

  17. Actually, most of the coverage of this incident I have seen has been from, and Fr. Guarnizo's letter is very much in line with the facts that they have reported.

    Fr. Gaurnizo has written a very thorough and informative letter, and I admire his calm but firm manner. I hope that this situation will be resolved justly and quickly.

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  19. Not sure what is going on, and I do know that our priests deserve our support, but it seems all too easy these days to "bishop bash" as it is to "priest bash." Neither is very Catholic.... When my father (liberal Catholic) was in the hospital, his priest came to visit and jokingly said "All I have to do to get a conversation going with (your father) is mention the bishops...." I read often but rarely comment - however, let's not become so instantly disrespectful of our "teachers of the faith." Inquire, comfort, respect, pray - all those are appropriate. Condemn from news reports? Hardly.... I pray for all involved. I certainly see signs of hope that all the bishops are uniting against the HHS mandate - may the Holy Spirit continue it's work in us all.

  20. Let me add too, that Barbara Johnson’s response to the situation, to the Catholic Church and to Reverend Marcel is proof positive that she has an agenda to inflict her “political points of view” on the whole of society and that she has no concept of humility, human decency or respect.

  21. She's a lousy Buddhist, too. Buddhist monks are supposed to forswear all sexual activity—other than in Japan, a monk who so much as passes a love letter for a third party is defrocked—and laity are expected to restrict themselves to marital fidelity. Which, uh, means a man and a woman, India was not Greece. I don't even think Buddhism even allowed polygamy.

    Of course, in traditional Buddhist societies, monks are also forbidden from having anything to do with abortions, again on pain of being defrocked. The thing Westerners mistake for Buddhism is what Chinese Mahayana Buddhists call "fox teachings"—closest Christian equivalent, "snares of the devil".

  22. "The Eucharist is properly for those who are in full communion with the Church." CCC 1395

    The tables really need to be turned on this whole "denial of communion" issue. It should be stressed that, by asking to receive, you are acknowledging that you really do want to be "in full communion with the Church." Thus, why aren't all her lesbian friends haranguing HER for presenting herself as being in agreement with Church teachings? As in, "WHY would you want to say that you are in agreement with that homophobic church?"

    The same goes for all the smarmy politicians who use the Eucharist as a political tool. One might ask why they don't give us wide berth, since we're supposedly so anti-woman, anti-homosexual, anti-secular-agenda? It should be seen that people like Pelosi and Sebelius are actually saying they WANT to be in line with the Church by receiving COMMUNION (gee, what does that word mean?).

    If I went to a vegan convention and insisted that one could eat steak and still call oneself vegan, people would think I was nuts -- I cannot just make up what it means to go vegan. If I am not in agreement with the principles of veganism, I'm not a vegan! So it should be for Catholics in name only.

    "The Eucharist is properly for those who are in full communion with the Church." CCC 1395

    Sign me,
    FED UP!

  23. Father Marcel Guarnizo for Bishop

  24. Write to our Papal Nuncio:
    The address for the Papal Nuncio is:

    Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano
    Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
    3339 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
    Washington, D.C. USA

    Subject: Archdiocese of Washington‏

    To Your Eminence Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano,
    Apostolic Nuncio to the United States,

    We Catholics continue to watch with amazement and sadness the deteriorating situation of the Catholic Church in the United States and other parts of the world. A trend in the United States which is also visible in other parts of the world has shown that faithful priests of the Holy Catholic Church are being treated unfairly and thrown out of ministry for upholding the Magisterial teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, while priests, religious, and nuns who are in open dissent against Magisterial teachings of the Church are treated with high esteem by the various Chanceries and their leadership.

    In the matter of Barbara Johnson’s demand for the removal of Father Guarnizo, her demand is proof positive that she has an agenda to inflict her “political points of view”: abortion, lesbianism and the disregard for the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist on the whole of society.

    I respectfully ask that you conduct a deep investigation into the situation of Fr. Guarnizo in the Archdiocese of Washington, as well as requesting an apostolic administrator for the Catholic Church in the United States who will oversee the various Archdioceses and religious communities.

    In Christ,

    Some of this letter is taken verbatim from Ed Peters call for letters at the Deacon's Bench blog. Write

  25. This is my beef with Ed Peters. He says, "canon law provides a complex of norms that upholds the faithful’s fundamental rights". It makes me absolutely furious that he and so many others cannot see the obvious that she is not one of the faithful. My own good Bishop as the good Card. W. of Washington just don't accept the reality in their faces. The schools are cess pools. They are passive, feminized, and receive poor advice from the liberals that THEY allow themselves to be surrounded by. Their velvet ears can't tolerate the clear truth from a real prophet. When there is no prophetic voice the people perish.


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