Priest and Lesbian Spark Culture Clash Over Holy Mass
Marcel Guarnizo denied Barbara Johnson the Catholic sacrament
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2012 4:15 PM CDT
A priest and a lesbian in the Washington, DC, area have sparked a culture clash that left both sides shaken.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A lesbian and a priest have set off a new round of fighting in America's ubiquitous culture wars. When Barbara Johnson reached out for Holy Communion at her mother's funeral Mass last month near Washington, DC, a Russian-ordained conservative priest named Rev. Marcel Guarnizo refused to let her have the sacrament. That tiny moment has led to Guarnizo's suspension and a war of words in which critics accuse Johnson of using her mother's funeral to promote a liberal political agenda, the Washington Post reports.

Behind the clash are two fascinating personalities. Guarnizo has openly criticized his superiors, hobnobbed with powerful friends in Russia and Eastern Europe, and argued with such force at anti-abortion rallies that his opponents say they felt physically intimidated. As for Johnson, she is an arts educator and Buddhist who is grappling with her Catholic faith. With Guarnizo out of work, she seems to have the upper hand—but her family says it has been shaken by the incident. Guarnizo, however, says he remains "my bishop’s and my Church’s, and above all Christ Jesus’ obedient servant.”