Barbara Johnson and her family are calling for Rev. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to be removed from his ministry. The family is making bold proclamations after Guarnizo reportedly denied Johnson, 51, communion at her mother's funeral on Saturday.
Johnson, a lesbian, was joined at the church by her partner to celebrate her mother's life. Just before the service, Guarnizo apparently learned about her sexuality and relationship. Then, during the service, when Johnson stood up to receive communion, the priest openly denied her.
"He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,'" she explained following the incident.
When he refused her, Johnson said she was shocked and stood in front of him, thinking that he'd change his mind.
"I just stood there, in shock. I was grieving, crying," she explained. "My mother’s body was behind me, and all I wanted to do was provide for her, and the final thing was to make a beautiful funeral, and here I was letting her down because there was a scene."
But Johnson, 51, and her family claim that Guarnizo's offending actions went above and beyond the communion he purportedly refused to offer her. They claim that the priest left the altar when Johnson gave her eulogy and that he didn't show up at the burial and declined to find a priest to replace him.
In a letter she penned to the priest, Johnson made her disgust and frustration known. She wrote, in part:
"You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me."
"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."
The Washington, D.C. Archdiocese claims that the priest's actions go against "policy." Although the church has not officially commented to media, this statement was made in a brief note that was released on the matter. The Archdiocese plans to investigate the incident.
"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," the statement also read.
Johnson's family, though, says they aren't looking to use the incident to criticize the Catholic Church as a whole.
"We agreed this is not a discussion about gay rights or about the teachings of the Catholic Church," her brother, Larry Johnson, said. "We’re not in this to Catholic-bash. That’s the farthest thing from our minds."
(H/T: Washington Post)