Father Marcel Guarnizo of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. had better watch his step. After publicly refusing Communion to Lesbian Barbara Johnson at her mother's funeral because of her relationship with partner Kathleen de Bold, the archdiocese has been forced to apologize to Johnson, who is demanding that Guarnizo be removed from public ministry in the archdiocese.
Johnson is not alone. Catholics all over the country are expressing their outrage that a priest would dare to enforce the teachings of the Church, and fear a return to the dark ages where only heterosexual married couples and celibate single people would be permitted to receive the sacraments.
Fern Buckman, adjunct professor of Moral Theology at Georgetown University, and President of the lesbian activist group, Strap-On Warriors (S.O.W.), is wary of priests like Guarnizo because of their militancy in defending outdated concepts that Catholics no longer espouse. "He told her that he couldn't give her Communion because she lived with a woman and in the eyes of the Church, that was a sin! What's next? Are we going to start hearing sermons about staying in a 'state of grace' and avoiding 'mortal sin'?"
Not that Buckman disagrees with the concept of sin. She simply thinks it should be applied to all Catholics in a more just manner. "Newt Gingrich is a convert to the Catholic Church. Why aren't any priests denying him Communion for his unrepentant destructive positions on the environment? He is publicly unrepentant with his 'Drill Here, Drill Now' campaign.
"This is a failure of one reactionary priest to recognize the gifts that GLBT people bring to the Church. I tell you, the Church in America will not survive without the support of all GLBT people. We will not be locked up in chastity belts and silenced!"
So what does Professor Buckman propose to do with priests like Fr. Guarnizo? "He needs to be suspended and educated while on suspension. If he cannot recognize the beauty and blessing of all loving relationships and if he insists on using his position as a priest to promote his right-wing agenda of hate, then he must be excommunicated!"
Barbara Johnson and Kathleen de Bold
One unnamed source from the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. says that Cardinal Weurl is in a very tight spot. "On one hand, we can't let the laity tell us who can and cannot be priests in our diocese. On the other hand, we find this sort of outdated ecclesiology disgusting. If Cardinal Weurl had known what kind of priest Guarnizo was, he would have never granted him faculties in the first place. We are all deeply offended by this kind of bigotry. But now, it's been done. Ms. Johnson is a prominent Catholic layperson and we can't afford to offend people like her, but we also have to save face for the archdiocese. It wouldn't surprise me to see Fr. Guamizo quietly transferred to Peoria when his term is over."
Meanwhile the Strap-On Warriors have announced a rally in front of the rectory of St. John Neumann Church this Saturday, where they plan to proclaim Jesus' unconditional love for everyone. Professor Buckman: "Fr. Guarnizo is going to learn about love from people who understand love. Jesus taught us all to love everyone, no matter what. The Strap-On Warriors are committed to sharing that love with everyone. And if they refuse to love with us, then they'd better watch out."
Henry Mildow, a volunteer with St. John Neumann parish says that he hasn't seen Fr. Guarnizo since Sunday. "The last I heard, he snuck out of the rectory in a disguise. If he returns, they say he will have a police escort and wearing a bullet-proof vest."