Priest who denied communion to lesbian suspended

A priest who denied communion to a lesbian at her mother’s funeral has been placed on leave, according to the Roman Catholic archdiocese.

 A letter from an archdiocese official said that the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo was placed on leave for engaging in intimidating behavior, according to The archdiocese had previously apologized for Guarnizo’s behavior.

The letter was read at all Masses this weekend at St. John Neumann, according to The Washington Post. The pastor there, the Rev. Thomas LaHood, said the removal was not related to the communion standoff, but “pertains to actions over the past week or two.”  He did not elaborate.

Barbara Johnson, the woman who was denied the communion, had asked the archdiocese to remove the priest.  Johnson’s family says they hope that action will ensure that others will not suffer the same treatment.

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On Feb. 25, Johnson attended her mom’s funeral at the St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., with her partner.

When it came time to hand out bread and wine, Guarnizo “issued a strong admonition that only Catholics in a state of grace can receive communion,” Johnson told

“I went up. I was standing next to my mother’s casket and he covered the bowl, and said, ‘I cannot give you communion because you are with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ I stood there with my mouth open in a state of shock for – I don’t know how long,” she said.

As the final insult, Guarnizo failed to attend her mother’s burial, Guarnizo said. “When the funeral home director appears, he says, ‘Father Marcel has taken ill. He says he has a migraine and is unable to accompany your mother’s remains to the cemetery.’ This was, for me and my family, his most egregious act.”

The Diocese of Washington sent a letter of apology within days, saying the priest’s behavior wasn’t correct.

“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,” the statement said. “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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