Denying communion at a funeral: An offense worthy of suspension? Definitely

From the category of "you cannot be serious": A priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, has, according to the Washington Post, denied communion to woman at her mother's funeral because she is a lesbian and living with a woman. He informed her of that in the communion line. He also left the altar when she delivered the post-communion eulogy for her mother. What? Now Catholic women who are lesbian cannot even be heard in church?

So far the best the archdiocese has done is restate its policy that denying someone communion should be explained in a private, pastoral setting. What it doesn't say is that it is up to the conscience of the communicant whether to present herself for  communion and, as a general rule, the minister offering communion is not to question that judgment, except in cases of scandal. I hardly think that a daughter wanting to receive communion at her mother's funeral–not even at a regular Sunday Mass–would cause such a scandal. Nor does living with a woman rise to "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin," in the proper understanding of canon 915. (Ask any canonist.) This priest's behavior, on the other hand, has scandalized Catholics the world over.

What we are witnessing can only be described as the small-minded behavior of people that don't even understand Catholic history or tradition, the intricacies of canon law–including and especially canon 915 (and the linked commentator doesn't get it either)–and the rights of the faithful, or even the demands of charity. The fact that a man who could so callously display his disdain for one of the baptized daughters of the church is even ordained is breathtaking.

If Guarnizo did indeed publicly deny this woman communion and leave the sanctuary as reported, he should be disciplined with the removal of his priestly faculties until he can demonstrate that he understands when and how to use his authority in the service of the gospel and the people of God.

About the author

Bryan Cones

Bryan Cones is a writer living in Chicago.