Fr. Guarnizo responds

If you’ve been following this case, please read the entire letter.

“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 arbiter of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church. 

In all of the above circumstances, I would have been placed in a similar uncomfortable position. Under these circumstances, I quietly withheld communion, so quietly that even the Eucharistic Minister standing four feet from me was not aware I had done so.  (In fact Ms. Johnson promptly chose to go to the Eucharistic minister to receive communion and did so.) There was no scandal, no ‘public reprimand’ and no small lecture as some have reported.

Details matter. Ms. Johnson was not kneeling when she approached for communion, she did not receive the cup as the press has reported she has stated. It is the policy of St. John Neumann parish never to distribute under both species during funerals.”

With respect to the “credible allegations” of “intimidation” since the funeral:

“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.”

9 thoughts on “Fr. Guarnizo responds

    • Actually, parishioners are sending mail to the parish, and I have some assurance that they will be gathered there and brought to Father. This sends a message to the parish that Fr. is supported and then he also gets mail from well wishers. The address is 8900 Lochaven Dr. Gaithersburg MD 20882 (Father Marcel is residing nearby with relatives.)


  1. Sadly, all too believable.

    Whenever I hear of such betrayals, I think of St. Catherine of Siena’s letter to Pope Gregory XI, which includes the following exhortation: “I tell you in the name of Christ crucified that you must use your authority […]. You are in charge of the garden of holy Church. So uproot from the garden the stinking weeds full of impurity and avarice, and bloated with pride (I mean the evil pastors and administrators who poison and corrupt the garden)….Use your authority, you who are in charge of us!…”


  2. Tony Esolen at Crisis hits the nail on the head:

    “Father Guarnizo treated the woman with kindness; she treated him with contempt. He wanted not to embarrass her, but to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege, and her from mortal sin. She wanted to embarrass him, and to compel him to be complicit in her sin. He did not seek to make himself notorioius for what she did; she sought the notoriety. He wanted to serve the truth; she implicitly lied when she approached the Eucharistic minister to receive communion. He wanted to keep the funeral from being politicized; she used the funeral as an opportunity to do just that. He has expressed his sorrow for her loss; she has shown callous indifference to his feelings in this matter. He has had nothing unkind to say about her; she has had nothing but unkind things to say about him. He has refrained from publicly interpreting her actions in an evil light; she has done nothing but place the worst construction upon his actions — as witness his having to tell us about the migraine he was suffering. Note to bishops: if you’re not going to be men, why should we insist upon your being male?”


  3. Bill: I suppose prayer is all we can do outside of the diocese of Washington D.C. Let me know if you come up with anything more.

    Eoin Suibhne: That’s a great quote and a fitting reminder. Thanks.


  4. By the way, someone linked recently (I can’t remember who–possibly Scott W. at Romish Graffiti?) to a post by Fr. Z about being an undercover real Catholic in a hyper-liberal seminary. I was absolutely horrified. Apparently Fr. Z. got a letter from someone in another country (or so I infer, he naturally suppresses the location) at a seminary where the seminarians’ web browsing activity and e-mail are constantly monitored for any signs that they are going to traditionalist blogs or sites or are sympathetic to the Latin Mass. They’ve evidently been told outright that they won’t be ordained if they’re “caught” showing any such evidence of traditionalist sympathies. Fr. Z. recommended that they go completely quiet and find a way to hide their true beliefs, even cut themselves off from all outside contact with other traditionally minded Catholics, in order to be ordained, at which point they will have the opportunity to subvert the work of the hyper-liberals who have been trying to block their ordination. This incident makes it clear that that isn’t necessarily the case, and evidently matters are much worse in some foreign countries. Even (especially?) as a Protestant, I’m outraged to the point of anger. No young man who wants to be ordained to the priesthood should have to be under the communistic authority of seminary officials such as described in that post. And how are they to get _actually_ trained for the priesthood if they are opposed to what the seminary teaches and are cut off from outside contact? That cannot be the best way. Yet my understanding is that they are required to go to the seminary to which they are assigned by their bishop. It looks to me like the hierarchy is not preserving sound doctrine and practice but rather actively and to a large extent effectively suppressing it.


  5. I can’t beleive the church didn’t back this priest up. I can’t beleive this woman would go up for communion knowing full well that she should not. Obviously she was looking for an uncomfortable situation.


  6. Jeff, if the comment is left up (and Scott, the blogger, generally likes me, so hopefully he’ll leave the comment up), you may appreciate the thought experiment I bring up here

    apropos of the canon law talk we are hearing to the effect that Fr. G. “broke canon law” by denying this woman communion. Apparently, as best I can discover, because her sin wasn’t continuous, manifest, and grave enough. Or something like that. One wonders if she had to engage in the sin in question right in church in front of the priest in order for him not to be “breaking canon law” by denying her Communion.


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