Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Washington Archdiocese throws priest under the bus for enforcing Canon 915

Barbara Johnson (© 2012 Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)
So the story goes that Barbara Johnson was at her mother's funeral Mass at St. John Neumann in Gaithersburg, Md., when the celebrant, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, refused to give her Communion.  The way WUSA-9 presents the story, Fr. Guarnizo "somehow found out" that Johnson was living in a lesbian relationship, and his denial of Communion put her in a state of shock.

That, however, is only one side of the story.  According to one of Deacon Greg Kandra's readers, Johnson introduced her partner to Fr. Guarnizo in the vestry as her lover.  Guarnizo said at that time that she should not present herself for Communion.  When she walked away, according to another account, he attempted to follow her to speak with her further, but was blocked at the vestry entryway by the girlfriend.
WaPo, with its usual regard for facts, reports that the Archdiocese is saying that the denial of Communion was "against policy".  That isn't quite correct; what's against policy is telling someone publicly that they can't receive Communion.  However, she did receive an apology from the Archdiocese, after having written a letter to Fr. Guarnizo:

“You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” she wrote in a letter to Guarnizo [hypocrisy and hysteria make for purple prose]. “I will pray for your soul, but first 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.”

Doubtless there is more forthcoming on this story, but one thing is definitely clear: The people in Hyattsville are clearly more image-driven than Gospel-driven.  If the third parties' reports are accurate, then Johnson deliberately created the situation herself, and deserves no apology.  However, she was the one who got to the news first, so her story is the one that's going to have all the influence.  And Cdl. Wuerl's people are doing nothing to defend their fellow priest.  Is it any wonder vocations are suffering?