Priest Denied Lesbian Communion, Placed On Leave

A priest who sparked a national uproar last month by refusing to give communion to a lesbian at her mother’s funeral has been placed on administrative leave.

Barbara Johnson claimed that Father Marcel Guarnizo “humiliated” her by denying her communion at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md.

Johnson told the Washington Post that the priest “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.'”

The priest then apparently refused to accompany Johnson and her mother’s body to the cemetery. Johnson was told Guarnizo was very ill.

The Washington-area archdiocese issued an apology a few days after the Feb. 25 incident, but apparently took more severe action on Friday.

“Father Marcel Guarnizo’s assignment at St. John Neumann Parish is withdrawn and he has been placed on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed until such time as an inquiry into his actions at the parish is completed,” Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the archdiocese wrote in a letter obtained by The Washington Post.

Knestout’s letter, which makes no specific mention of the incident, also states that “this action was taken after I received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.”

The 51-year-old Johnson, who has been with her partner for 20 years, issued a statement Sunday, saying “we are hopeful that Bishop Knestout’s decision will ensure that no others will have to undergo the traumatic experiences brought upon our family.”

Many members of the LGBT community have called for Guarnizo’s removal, including Johnson, but some others have said that the communion refusal was just.

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