Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, Priest Who Denied Communion To Lesbian, Put On Leave

03/11/2012 10:00 pm ET | Updated Mar 12, 2012

Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who denied a lesbian woman communion at her mother's funeral, has been withdrawn and placed on administrative leave.*

Father Marcel Guarnizo, who until recently served at Gaithersburg's Saint John Neumann Catholic Church outside of Washington D.C., was reported to have covered the bowl containing the Eucharist as Barbara Johnson, who is a lesbian, approached him at her mother's funeral.

The priest is reported to have told her: “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church."

The widely reported incident created a public outcry and Ms. Johnson received an apology from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Now the The Washington Post reports a letter dated March 9, was sent by Rev. Barry Knestout, a top administrator for the Diocese, announcing Guarnizo's removal, for reasons of: “engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.”

The letter, which was printed by Real Clear Religion reads:

I write to inform you that effective today, Father Marcel Guarnizo’s assignment at St. John Neumann Parish is withdrawn and he has been placed on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed until such time as an inquiry into his actions at the parish is completed.

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.

Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners, Father Guarnizo is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington until all matters can be appropriately resolved, with the hope that he might return to priestly ministry.

Sincerely in Christ
Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia"

It is unclear when, if ever, Father Marcel Guarnizo will return to Gaithersburg's Saint John Neumann Catholic Church.

Photo from KI Institute
*"CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Guarnizo had been suspended; he has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation."


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