Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On The Blogosphere: Fr. Marcel Guarnizo's Reply on the Johnson Lesbian Funeral Fiasco

Hello Everyone.

Been a couple of weeks since I posted, and still doing the usual work and such. However, I'm working on something personal, slowly and incrementally, that I'll release soon and can't hold back any longer. I will warn you ahead of time, that it's going to be a very heated issue, and some of you Traditional Catholics (TCs) may not like what I am going to say, even though I am a TC and/or Traditional Practices (TPs) supporter.

Something really important came up with regard to a hot Catholic blogging topic. Those of you keeping up with the Catholic blogosphere, know that at the start of this month, A lesbian activist Buddhist Catholic (assuming valid Baptism and Confirmation early in life) by the name of Barbara Johnson (1) held a funeral for her mother at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, in Maryland (though under bishop Knestout of the Diocese of Washington) USA. She introduced herself as a lesbian (her exact words indicated she refered to her female partner as a "lover" therefore revealing her sinful obstinacy by being in a lesbian relationship) to Fr. Guarnizo before the funeral, and was physically blocked from further discussion by her lesbian partner when Fr. tried to approach her.  Long story short, he denied the lesbian communion probably thinking along the lines of Canon Law 915 (many other people have covered this online so I'm not looking this law up) and as a result, the bishop of Washington has prevented the priest from performing sacramental duties (e.g. Mass, weddings and funerals,) when the lesbian went postal on him with the liberal Catholic-hating mainstream media. The only sacramental exception might be an emergency life-or-death confession (even a laicized priest could do that as a last resort with someone if no other valid canonical priest is around). That might be in Canon Law also.

You can examine the snipits of this unfolding bungle for the institutional Church in the following links:

A summary of the event with commentary by the awesome traditional priest, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (2) is present here.

Canon Law expert on the Internet Dr. Edward Peters (unreliable only with regard to the Voris Detroit "Catholic" name removal issue due to diocesan bias but great with everything else) comments on Canon Law 915 (3) and his take on the issue in reply to an editoral in another publication here.

Diocese of Washington Bishop Knestout's reply to the situation (4) to Mrs. Johnston, here, and the letter read at all Masses this past Weekend with regard to the "incident" (5) basically smearing the good priest's name here.

Dr. Peter's take on the issue after the second letter was read at all masses (5) at the parish here (6).

Now, here's the biggest development yet to date. Finally, the priest at the heart of the controversy, has spoken out officially in writing (via CNA) offering his side of the story and also commenting on what the bishop isn't telling us. It is provided to us courtesy of the Catholic News Agency here (7), with boldface emphasis on specific parts by yours truly and I'mma gonna take a page out of Fr. Z's book and go all red with commentary. WARNING: I`m having a Fr. Z speckled filled nutty on this one:

"I would like to begin by once again sending my condolences to the Johnson family on the death of Mrs. Loetta Johnson.

I also feel obliged to answer questions from my parishioners, as well as from the public, about the incident on February 25th.

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. [Really? So only the mother was part of the parish or did she just happen to die in that diocese and it was the closest church? That's not clear in any of the accounts I`ve read so far. Any clarifications?] 

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. [WHOA!!! Finally a non-EF priest outside of the EF community and specific orders in the Church or Cathedrals who gets it when it comes to worthiness to receive the Eucharist!!!]
A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her “lover”. [Really? Honestly where was her common sense? She should have been well aware with her lesbian activism that the Church and homosexuality aren't exactly the closest of friends. That and not every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to hear about your personal life choices in public. Any regular person with common sense would know not to go about announcing their personal lifestyle choices around Catholics with the sexual teachings of the Catholic Church in the Catechism and such (unless they know their friends/family are liberal minded). Believe me, if you read any stats online with regards to Catholics and sexual teachings, you'd know many Catholic purposely ignore the teachings of the Church. HOWEVER, They just don't go out about saying to their parishes "Hey I'm having pre-marital sex" or "Hey I participate in an S & M leather costume society every Tuesday night." Sounds like this was pure lesbian activism in full force. If she truly wanted to tell the priest about her relationship as an ISSUE, why didn`t she sit down with the priest prior and discuss this? Better yet why the heck didn't the pastor or lay secretary/funeral arranging person not disclose this info to the priest?] 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. [from a general reading of the law, I'd say that being in a homosexual relationship which is longer than the time it takes for one drunken fling with a female friend at a university frat party, is grounds for withholding the Eucharist, especially when one TELLS the priest.] Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer 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.[Clearly there are innacuracies between Johnson's obviously painted "woe is me" story and the priests. She got the communion and committed a sacriledge against the Lord regardless and the priest didn't do it publically with a loudspeaker. Classy way to handle it Fr!]

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. [He said the black and did the Red people!]

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. [No No NO!!!!! There is never to be a Eulogy at a Catholic funeral and it's in a number of diocesan policies in North America too!!! At least Fr. wasn't performing any of the eulogies] 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. [Seems no different from calling sick to work and having your supervisor/co-workers arrange for a substitute/other person to take the vacancy. HE WAS RESPONSIBLE!] 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. [See discreetness again. Not a public stink] 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 Mrs. Johnson's 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. [This should not just be a warning for those priests in the DC area. This should be for the whole Catholic Church, especially in developed countries where the bishops still hold on to that "Spirit of Vatican II" / Liberal mentality. THIS WILL HAPPEN a lot more in future, especially in Canada. Does the McGuinty government Sex education infiltration of Catholic schools ring a bell???] 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 theCatholic 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. [So the bishop was lying this whole time. How nice to lie to your faithful sheperd. If you truly can back up your claim Your Eminence, please state specifically the date and time and the content of the "other incidents" that are leading you to ban Fr. Guarnizo from your diocese. Prove him wrong, I dare you!]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. [That's political bull doo-doo speak for "Shut up" and "You damn know what this is about and I'm not letting the public know"] 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. [That just goes to show you Fr. Was entering into a kangaroo court. He was pronounced guilty before being proven innocent. Lovely eh? Just makes you think what they'd do to a lay member of the church if Canon Law allowed it outside of the 'anyone' conditions for automatic excommunication.]

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 good work bishop. You just booted one of your most faithful priests outside of the diocese. And you wonder why the moderately to traditionally faithful Catholic laity are getting sick of the bishops. You just made it now much harder for the faithful 1/4 of Catholics who still go to weekly Mass or even less than that who are truly obedient to the Church and its Magisterium. Now we have another example of hypocrisy we have to apologise (as in apologetics) against when other non-Catholics and lapsed Catholics accuse the church of being a corrupt hypocritical "organization".

It's bad enough we cannot trust our elected politicians in power who reward moral corruption and such, but when someone does something ethically or "conservative" in politics they get slammed. The politicians lie to us and waste our tax dollars. You have given further evidence to distrust the INSTIUTIONAL church and for weak or non-catechized Catholics to be validated in their misguided idea to leave the Church and that it's a hypocritical Old Boys' association. You have also, like our politicians, LIED to us just like those politicians. Did not Jesus show us to lead by example by the washing of the feet of his Apostles, of which will be retold worldwide in the Church at the Holy Thursday liturgy? Well when you don't serve Him and your flock of laity, you wonder why you bishops have no public credibility and Obama, McGuinty, etc. can walk all over the Church with abadon with regards to Catholic education or the contraception mandate south of the 44th parallel. 

Finally, it was St. John Chrysostom that said that the road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. And everyone wonders why he had to say that so many years ago. It`s things like this that make the saint`s statement timeless. Christ judges us all according to our vocation and profession in life including our souls`status (ordinary lay person vs. consecrated laity vs. consecrated with Holy Orders) Surely he will judge that bishop in his role as priest and bishop, and this error will be brought up in the bishop's eternal judgenemt, unless he repents in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Firstly, everone please get the word out now that the priest has his reply. It's clear his story differs from the lesbian activist's and the bishop's. The more this gets out, the more likely there will be action. At least this bishop may think twice the next time he pulls this stunt in future. Furthermore, please, I beg of you to increase your steadfast prayers. Please pray for Fr. Guarnizo that the virtues will continue to burn in him and that the Devil does not wear him down in this controversy. Furthermore, pray for the bishop of Washington, that he may unharden his heart, be remoreseful for what he has done and realize the spiritual crisis plaguing his Church, and that the candle of this theological and cardinal virtues will be lit brightly once again. And most importantly, please everyone add the Prayer to St. Michael, short or complete form to your daily prayers. The attacks on our most faithful priests with the advance of the Internet and in our post-modern era are ever strong. We all need the spiritual protection of Michael and his legions of angels spiritually in this increasingly dire time in our Catholic history.

Pax Tibi Christi, YCRCM.

P.S. As always, please read my blog rules in my 1st posting in August 2011 before you comment. My rules always apply.

Works Cited
1) Peters, Thomas. News Outlets Failed to Reveal Lesbian Denied Communion at Mother’s Funeral … is a Buddhist and Gay Rights Activist. 7 Mar, 2012.  <> 14 Mar 2012.

2) Zuhlsdorf, J. in Boorstein, M. Priest denies Communion to lesbian at her mother’s funeral. Anger ensues. Can. 915 hell breaks loose. 29 Feb 2012. <>. 14 Mar 2012.

3) Peters, E. Remarks on the ‘Catholic Standard’ editorial on the lesbian/Communion controversy. 3 Mar 2012. <> 14 Mar 2012.

4) Knestout, B. "Dear Mrs. Johnson." 28 Feb 2012. <>. 14 Mar 2012.

5) Knestout, B. "Dear Brother Priest." 9 Mar 2012. <>. 14 Mar 2012.

6) Peters, E. Bp. Knestout’s March 9 letter on Fr. Guarnizo. 11 Mar 2012. <>. 14 Mar 2012.

7) Guarnizo, Marcel. Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s Response to the Eucharistic Incident. 14 Mar 2012. <>. 14 Mar 2012.