The Reverend Marcel Guarnizo refused to give 51-year-old Barbara Johnson the sacramental bread and wine after learning of her sexuality before the service to bury her mother. Rev Guarnizo told her: “I cannot give you communion because you are with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.”
“Fr. Marcel Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia, who was given a temporary assignment at St. John Neumann parish,” Chieko Noguchi Scheve, director of media and public relations at the Archdiocese of Washington, wrote in an email to msnbc.com. “That assignment period has ended and Father Guarnizo is no longer in ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington.”
When reached by telephone, Scheve declined further comment on the matter.
Barbara Johnson, the woman who was refused communion, had been asking the archdiocese to remove the priest. A Washington Post reporter first noted on Twitter that Guarnizo’s assignment was over.
Johnson, a 51-year-old founding director of a small art center, attended her mom's funeral with her partner of nearly 20 years at St. John Neumann on Feb. 25. When it came time for communion, Guarnizo “issued a strong admonition that only Catholics in a state of grace can receive communion,” Johnson told msnbc.com.
“I went up. I was standing next to my mother’s casket and he covered the bowl, and said, ‘I cannot give you communion because you are with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ I stood there with my mouth open in a state of shock for -- I don’t know how long,” she said.
Guarnizo also didn’t attend her mother’s burial, Johnson said. She told msnbc.com on Monday that she was relieved by the archdiocese's move, although she thought it might have more to do with the alleged “intimidating” behavior than how she was treated at her mother’s funeral.
“It gives me great comfort to see that the Archdiocese of Washington acted swiftly initially not only to point out that his behavior was wrong and not in accordance with their policy but then to suspend him. And this final message from them says to me that, unfortunately, this was not a person that was meant to be in the ministry in this region,” she said. “Knowing that he will not be able to visit such pain on another family in the Washington archdiocese gives me and my family a lot of comfort.”
One positive aspect of what happened to her was that “it showed the very human face of the issue regarding the church and the church’s teachings, and behavior towards the LGBT community within the church,” she said. “I just wish that there was a more global and more positive church response to the LGBT community” on issues such as marriage equality and communion.
The Archdiocese of Washington had sent Johnson a letter of apology within days of the funeral, saying Guarnizo's behavior wasn't correct.
“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,” the letter said. “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.”