Lesbian Denied Communion —at Mother's Funeral

Archdiocese of Washington says the public move went against 'policy'

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 29, 2012 9:31 AM CST

(Newser) – These certainly weren't the gentle and consoling words Barbara Johnson expected to hear at her mother's funeral on Saturday: When attempting to take Communion at the service at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., 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,'" she tells the Washington Post. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had apparently found out about her relationship that morning, when Johnson arrived with her partner of 20 years.

The priest also left the altar when the 51-year-old delivered a eulogy, according to family members, who also say he skipped out on the burial. Johnson received a written apology from one of the archdiocese's top administrators yesterday; it noted that the "lack of pastoral sensitivity ... is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me." But Johnson still wants Guarnizo booted from the church, and her brother noted that their concern didn't extend beyond the priest. "We’re not in this to Catholic-bash." Church officials promised to look into the matter, noting "it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person." The Post has more on Guarnizo here.

Barbara Johnson, a lesbian, was denied Communion at her mother's funeral service.
Barbara Johnson, a lesbian, was denied Communion at her mother's funeral service.   (Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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