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Lesbian denied Communion at mom's funeral

  • Barbara Johnson wants Maryland priest removed
  • Clergyman cites gay relationship in denying sacrament, she says
  • Archdiocese says public slam was against 'policy'
Lesbian denied Communion at mom's funeral

The Internet is filled with righteous indignation after reports that a Maryland woman was denied Communion at her mother's funeral because she is a lesbian.

Former Catholic school teacher Barbara Johnson says she wants the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, who was presiding over the service, out of pastoral work after he publicly humiliated her in citing her homosexuality as a reason for denying her the sacrament, according to HLN affiliate WUSA.

“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 told the Washington Post.

An online petition seeks a personal apology to Johnson from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C, and demands that he oust Guarnizo.

In a statement obtained by HLN, the archdiocese said its policy on determining communion qualifications is not to “publicly reprimand” anyone:

“When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person. 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 archdiocese said it was “looking into the incident” and “will handle this as a personnel issue.”

But that response didn't exactly quell the anger of the interwebs faithful on Wednesday, who were especially vexed at the way Guarnizo reportedly acted out during a parishioner's most vulnerable time. Guarnizo not only reportedly left the altar while Johnson eulogized her mother, but the priest stood the family up at the grave site, she has said.

Defenders of the priest say he was just upholding Canon 915, which forbids practicers of grave sin to receive the sacrament. But there are critics of such a broad interpretation.

On his blog, In the Light of the Law, canon lawyer Edward N. Peters says that “Now, out of nowhere, Canon 915 is being invoked by some as justification for an action that, reading the facts as alleged in the light most favorable to the minister, would not have justified his withholding holy Communion from the woman in question."

A blogger for Washington DC Catholic castigated Johnson for even showing up. "If, as Barbara Johnson says that she is a 'lifelong Catholic,' then she should have known that her relationship is sinful, that she was not in a state of grace, and SHOULD NOT have presented herself before the priest for Holy Communion."

On the blog for Truth Wins Out, a gay advocacy group, John Becker wrote: "The Eucharist to Catholics -- is sacred to LGBT and non-LGBT Catholics alike, who believe it to be the body of Christ. To use it as a weapon of punishment against LGBT people who have the courage to live and love openly and true to themselves is nothing short of reprehensible."

Johnson did receive a letter of apology from an archdiocese administrator. The Rev. Barry Knestout wrote that he was "sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” according to the Post.

HLN readers, what do you think? Was the priest unnecessarily cruel in denying Johnson the Communion? Or was he simply shepherding his flock?

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