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Priest Who Denied Communion To Lesbian Is 'Placed On Leave'

Clarification at 1 p.m. ET, March 13:

In its statement announcing that Rev.Marcel Guarnizo was being placed on administrative leave, the Archdiocese of Washington said the action was taken because of "credible allegations that Father Guarnizo had engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry." The statement does not link the administrative action to his denial of communion to a lesbian parishioner. It does say that an inquiry is underway "into his actions at the parish."

We've updated the headline on this post as well.

Our Original Post:

The Gaithersburg, Md., priest who refused to give Communion to a lesbian parishioner during a funeral mass for the woman's mother has been placed on leave, according to NBC Channel 4 news.

"A letter from an archdiocese official says that Rev. Marcel Guarnizo was placed on leave for engaging in intimidating behavior. The archdiocese had previously apologized for Guarnizo's behavior."

Guarnizo said he could not administer the sacrament to Barbara Johnson because she was a sinner.

"He 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,' " Johnson recalled in a story last month published by The Washington Post.

Johnson had asked for the priest to be removed.

In the letter of apology to Johnson from the archdiocese, Rev. Barry Knestout, a high ranking church administrator, said the lack of "kindness" that Johson endured at the service "is a cause of great concern and personal regret."

According to NBC 4:

"The archdiocese also issued a statement after the funeral saying that any action against the priest will remain confidential because it is a personnel issue."

Johnson's family has said it hopes the action against Guarnizo will ensure that others don't endure the same treatment.

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