HRC Blog

Priest Denies Lesbian Communion at Mother’s Funeral

Post submitted by Dan Rafter, Former HRC Associate Director of Communications

A Maryland priest denied Communion to a lesbian at her own mother’s funeral and even left the altar during her eulogy. The disturbing story was reported by The New Civil Rights Movement and picked up by the Huffington Post.

Father Marcel Guarnizo, at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, reportedly told the daughter when she approached him for Holy Communion: “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church.”

Later, when the daughter eulogized her mother, Fr. Guarnizo left the altar.

The Archdiocese of Washington, DC, responded and called Fr. Guarnizo’s actions against Church policy. According to the Washington Post, the Archdiocese said: “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.”

DignityUSA, who frequently partners with HRC on matters of faith and the LGBT community, weighed in on the incident. Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said: “What happened to Barbara Johnson is one of the most heinous denials of pastoral care imaginable. In reality, what occurred was a denial of Jesus' ministry, which so often showed an embrace of those on the margins and which regularly set aside the laws of ritual purity in order to attend to people's needs. Most Catholics will be appalled by this priest’s actions. Members of our Church know the profound comfort that the Eucharist can be at times of grief, and how important our Church’s rituals can be in bringing families together. Tragically, this incident only added to the family’s pain.”

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