The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. says it no longer employs a priest who became known for denying Holy Communion to a partnered lesbian woman.
“Fr. Marcel Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia, who was given a temporary assignment at St. John Neumann parish,” archdiocesan communcations director Chieko Noguchi Scheve said in a statement provided to CNA on July 10.
“That assignment period has ended and Father Guarnizo is no longer in ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Scheve wrote.
Fr. Guarnizo declined to comment on the announcement from the archdiocese.
In February 2012, the priest drew national attention for withholding the Eucharist from Barbara Johnson at her mother's funeral. Fr. Guarnizo made the decision after Johnson introduced him to her lesbian partner before Mass.
Johnson remained outraged after the incident, threatening to have Fr. Guarnizo “removed from parish life.” The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. apologized for his “lack of pastoral sensitivity” and said it was against policy for a priest to “publicly reprimand” a person approaching the sacrament.
In March, Fr. Guarnizo was removed from ministry in the archdiocese. The announcement of did not refer to Johnson, but cited “intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others.” Fr. Guarnizo defended his action, and said his removal from ministry was related to the funeral incident.
In a paper published online, Johnson had at one point identified herself as “a lesbian and a Buddhist.” However, she later told MSNBC that she is “a Catholic” who is “deeply influenced by eastern religion philosophy.” Her relationship with the Church, she said, is “complex.”