US Catholic Faith in Real Life

An update on the infamous communion-denying priest in DC

By Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It seems like ages ago that everyone was all worked up about Father Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who denied communion to Barbara Johnson during her mother's funeral Mass. For those who don't remember, it was back in February that Johnson, an openly gay woman who attended her mother's funeral with her partner, was rebuked in the communion line by Guarnizo, setting off a great debate about whether or not the priest did the right thing.

Soon after the incident Guarnizo was suspended for actions that the archdiocese claimed were entirely unrelated to the communion controversy. But since then there's been hardly a word about the situation or the fate of Guarnizo--until the Washington Post reported today that the priest is officially "no longer in ministry" in the Washington archdiocese.

No other details have been made public, so it is left to speculation to determine whether the communion incident had anything to do with Guarnizo's removal. His suspension earlier in the year was attributed to "intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry,” so either way, the archdiocese apparently found cause to keep him from ministering in their parishes.

Surely some will take this news as a victory, or see it as being in some way a satisfying recompense for what happened to Barbara Johnson. Others will no doubt label it a strike against orthodoxy and the persecution of a good priest who tried to uphold church teaching. Even if we had all the details, it is unlikely that either side would want to give in on their position.

Without knowing the backstory or what "intimidating behavior" Guarnizo was accused of, all that we can know for sure is that the archdiocese seriously considered complaints against a priest and chose to remove him from ministry rather than allowing him to continue to serve in a capacity where he may have done harm to the church or the body of Christ. Not everyone will like this decision, but all Catholics should rest easier knowing their church is trying to weed out members of the clergy who give the priesthood a bad name.