D.C. archdiocese: Denying Communion to lesbian at funeral was against ‘policy’
By Michelle Boorstein
Deep in grief, [We start with emotion and an image by which it is clear that the priest involved must be condemned, no matter what.] Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine. [She was sad. Of course she was sad at the death of her mother! Rightly so. But being sad isn't necessarily a justification for reception of the Eucharist no matter what.]
Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service. [He didn't have long to think about it. That is an important point.]
“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,’?” she recalled Tuesday.
She reacted with stunned silence. Her anger and outrage have now led her and members of her family to demand that Guarnizo be removed from his ministry. [She was sad. Therefore, the rules didn't apply to her. Now she is angry, and that is the basis for her getting her way. She is angry, therefore ruin the guy.]
Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy [Hmmm... I wonder what she said. And should there have been a eulogy?] and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there. [Perhaps the priest had reason to be worried about what might happen at the graveside?]
“You brought your politics, [Again, the liberal reduction of the Church's teachings to "politics" or a "policy".] not your God into that Church yesterday, [She is apparently psychic as well.] and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” she wrote in a letter to Guarnizo. “I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.” [Nice.]
Read the rest of the ugly story over there.
You can see what not applying can. 915 in the past is now causing. Now can. 915 must never be applied.
The priest is now under fire from the chancery as well.
I don’t think any WDTPRS reader out there will think that I am anything other than hawkish on the use of can. 915.
But can. 915 has to be applied properly.
A priest can’t just learn something which may or not be true or may or may not be public knowledge and then simply decide minutes later that Ms. X doesn’t get Holy Communion.
Here is the canon in one translation:
Can. 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.
The second part of the canon would most likely apply in this situation, since it seems as if the woman wasn’t excommunicated, etc.
The priest assumed she was in the state of grave sin and therefore didn’t give her Communion.
The problem here is two-fold.
First, there is a question of how “manifest” this grave sin was. He had just learned about it himself. If he didn’t know, perhaps others don’t, even family members at the church for the funeral. Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius are very public figures and their words are actions are highly visible and publicized. Their errors are unquestionably manifest. This woman at the funeral is nearly at that level of notoriety.
Also, the Ms. X has to be “obstinate”. That means that the person has to have been instructed, approached, admonished, warned, what have you, and still persist. It is unlikely in the extreme that that woman at the funeral didn’t know the Catholic Church’s teaching about homosexual actions. Surely she knows and doesn’t care. She may know something about the ramifications about Communion, though given the shoddy catechism Catholics have had and the lackadaisical attitude of priests and bishops over the last decades who knows what she knows. But the priest in question certainly hadn’t had the opportunity to instruct or admonish and provide for the instruction to sink in and for the woman to mend her ways.
In this case, from the way it was reported, the priest both didn’t have a clear knowledge that this woman’s lifestyle was manifest and that she was herself being obstinate. It seems to me that to apply can. 915 to that woman at that moment was an improper rush to judgment, well-meaning, but wrong, zealous for the Lord and Holy Church’s doctrine, but premature.
When a law in Canon Law places a burden or restricts a person in some way, the law has to be interpreted as strictly as possible so that the person’s rights are protected. That means that those concepts of “manifest” and “obstinate” really have to be taken seriously and worked through carefully before making a decision under can. 915 that a person must be denied Communion.
If Nancy Pelosi shows up at the Communion rail, I think priests are obliged by can. 915 to deny her Communion. Her actions are words are very public and she has never made any public statement to put them right or say she has changed her mind. Her actions and thoughts are manifest and she is obstinate in them. Ms. X, who isn’t a public figure like that, isn’t such a clear example.
I have a hard time assigning much blame to the priest, however. He should be thanked for taking his role seriously and for wanting to uphold the Church’s teaching and even perhaps use tough love in a “teaching moment”. Perhaps the timing was really bad, but his action was not wimpy. He hit that wall running and left a priest shaped hole, just like in the cartoons.
Many priests have received inadequate training in these matters of law and have been given even worse example by bishops who ought to be applying can. 915 in genuine cases of applicability. Confusion reigns.
Furthermore, from the newspaper report – and let’s not for a moment think that WaPo is going to report the priest’s side fairly in this – it sounds like this couple was pretty aggressive, as if they were ready for a fight. The “partner” was all too happy to say she was a “partner”. There was something about a eulogy. I think we are lacking part of the story.
What we get a strong does of is that the woman was sad, and therefore she should be given a pass to do anything she wants. Later she is angry, and therefore she should get her way.
Furthermore, her lifestyle is now a matter of public record. Perhaps her bishop should admonish her now about the ramifications of living openly and obstinately in the state of grave sin.
Finally, while I have your attention, please go buy some can. 915 stuff.
UPDATE 29 Feb 1658 GMT:
The Canonical Defender, Dr. Ed Peters, has opined.
I think we are in the same way of thinking… which is a relief to me!