Priest denies Communion to lesbian at her mother’s funeral. Anger ensues. Can. 915 hell breaks loose.

From WaPo:

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.

can. 915But 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!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lucas says:

    I was sad to hear about this. That’s a great church out there, they have a EF on Sunday afternoons.

  2. acroat says:

    Fr Z thank you for your comments once more. They will bring consolation next time I am at a funneral & see some one receiving who is divorced & remarried, hasn’t been to confession in 65 years etc.

  3. thefeds says:

    When I first read about this it was obvious the the Priest had been set up from the beginning. The daughter had walked into the Sacristy and introduced father to her “lover”. What else in good conscience could he do?

  4. Rich says:

    Priests have been teaching anything but what the Church teaches for 40 years, and have gotten away clean due to the “improper training” excuse. Funny how that excuse seems to only work a certain way, though.

  5. tygirwulf says:

    In the comments thread on this topic at the Deacon’s Bench, a commenter says, “I happen to know “First hand” that Barbara went into the sacristy before the mass and introduced herself as a lesbian in an active lesbian relationship… introducing her partner as “her lover” (her words). “

  6. irishgirl says:

    Bravo to the priest for standing his ground and denying this woman Communion!
    What a whiner she is!
    She is in an immoral ‘relationship’, for heaven’s sake!
    We ought to applaud this priest, not ‘demand’ that he gets removed! (it seems that the pro-aborts and pro-homosexuals do is constantly ‘demand’)
    I hope his Bishop backs him up and doesn’t leave him to be hung out to dry!
    This is an opportunity to ENFORCE Canon 915!
    Don’t back down, Father! Don’t let this woman and her allies in the liberal media drive you away! Stand your ground! Stand firm in God!

  7. Sissy says:

    I wasn’t there, so I can’t confirm the details. But another site (one very favorable to the woman) stated that she had praised her deceased mother for being a long-time supporter of her daughter’s lesbian lifestyle at the previous evening’s wake. There was a suggestion the priest was present at the wake to hear this testimony and it was repeated during the eulogy. I have no idea is this is true or if it provides an explanation for the priest’s behavior. But, if this eye-witness account is accurate, than I’m guessing the priest had heard some public testimony of an on-going sin of which the daughter was quite openly proud. I left a message on the church website that I am praying for the priest.

  8. NoTambourines says:

    I think there is a misconception out there that the rules on receiving the Eucharist are somehow relaxed at funerals, when people are mourning. At both of my dad’s parents’ funerals, my mom’s non-Catholic (small, vigorously anti-Catholic Protestant sect) parents received the Eucharist. I was 11 years old for one funeral and 17 for the other, and didn’t know at the time that this was a problem ( ’80s and ’90s catechesis). No one objected to it, either.

    We had a visiting priest for daily Mass one day in my parish who gave one of the best sermons I’ve heard on the importance of being in good standing to receive communion. He said that he knows a lot of people coming to funerals haven’t been to Mass in a very long time, or ever, and so he says a quick word on eligibility to receive the Eucharist.

    That is a spiritual work of mercy.

  9. digdigby says:

    We have been talking about the coming ‘persecution’ of the Catholic church but only reading this can I see how devious and effective that persecution could be. Scares me. If as the situation suggests this woman used her mother’s death to set up an ‘ambush’ to destroy a priest of the Catholic church in the ‘Roman Circus’ of the media…suddenly, this coming persecution is not as pretty and uplifting as I imagined. It will be dirty, demonic and below the belt all the way.

  10. jhayes says:

    Response from the Archdiocese:

    Archdiocese officials would not comment. Instead, they issued a short statement saying that the priest’s actions were against “policy” and that they would look into it as a personnel issue.

    “When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person,” the statement said. “Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.”

    Messages for Guarnizo and other parish staff were not returned. Neither he nor other parish leaders were at the church or the rectory Tuesday night.

    Active Catholics in the Greater Washington region said they could not recall another recent occasion when a priest had refused to administer the sacrament to a gay Catholic. Guarnizo’s refusal, they said, seemed at odds with the strong stand against denial of communion to Catholics enunciated by the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

    Wuerl said he did not believe in denying communion because it is impossible to know what is in another person’s heart.

  11. Phil_NL says:

    Now this is one of those cases where either party would be ill-advised to violate ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. From the priests perspective, a funeral Mass isn’t generally speaking a great moment to instruct the bereaved about their own morality, or to start enquiring if they are in manifest grave sin. In some cases (Sebelius comes to mind) you know that, and that’s that, you can’t ‘unknow’ such a thing; but if Father doesn’t know, best keep it that way. And that applies the other way around as well: if you start flashing, nay broadcasting on all channels, that you’re in manifest grave sin, what else can you expect than this? It’s not as if you leave the poor priest any choice, depending on his understanding on the relevant canon and the situation.

    Which adds to the suspicion this was a set-up – which would make it a sad case indeed, to use a funeral to harass the Church. And if not, it was just plain dumb, and now the dumb person is using her stupidity as a megaphone to batter the Church. Blegh.

  12. Is there any other way of avoiding that a person in an obvious state of mortal sin receive communion, thus causing more harm to his own soul and disrespecting the sacrement? I know a priest who at weddings and funerals simply does not distribute communion. He is the only one who receives communion, at the altar. Is this a good practice?

  13. NoTambourines says:

    I think the larger issue here is that weddings and funerals are a big blind spot for participants on all sides on the illicit reception of the Eucharist. I about had smoke coming out of my ears when two so-called friends (acquaintances through work), both non-Catholic, were bragging about how they received the Host at a wedding and sarcastically noted “I didn’t feel anything.”

    Again, it would be a spiritual work of mercy for the priest to say a quick word: If you do not believe you are receiving Jesus Christ in his complete Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, an you are not in good standing with the Church to do so, please stay seated.

  14. MissOH says:

    This is one of the priests at my parish and I will definitely be standing up for him as he has stood firm in trying to help all of us be good and holy people. This is sounding like a set up for many reasons.
    Keep in mind that our state legislature- urged on by our catholic governor, just approved the re-definition of marriage.
    Please pray for father.
    “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us!

  15. plemmen says:

    Canon 915 must be followed and the stand by Cardinal Wuerl is a scandal. Just how fallen our Bishops and many priests have become! I am a sinner, a very public one and I refrained from Communion for many years because of it. After I made a very detailed, complete and sincere confession (the poor priest looked like he had aged 10 years after that two hours in the confessional) did I receive the Sacrament of our Saviors Body and Blood. The consolation and joy that I felt is indescribable. If you are interested in my very public confession (at least the beginning of it) please read

  16. MyBrokenFiat says:

    “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.”


    jhayes – their response makes me sad. His actions were NOT against policy. Maybe they were against the current refusal to take can. 915 seriously by folks who don’t want to “step on toes” but c’mon…

    This blessed priest was protecting Christ (who is present – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) from being handed over to a woman who was in the state of sin!

    My prayers are with him and they are with his superiors who are now faced with the task of sorting through this nonsense. May they come to his SUPPORT and publicly praise him for doing his job even at the expense of public opinion.

    God bless him a thousand-fold for his efforts and example.

  17. MikeToo says:

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to offer Reconciliation before funerals. It can be explained at that wake that anyone who has been away and would like to receive communion in the state of grace may want to take up the opportunity.

    I’m sure we do not know the whole story. WaPo and be counted on for that. What we do know is that the “snap” judgement of the priest was proved right. The woman is certainly now known to be living is obstinate and manifest grave sin.

    If Bishop Wurel publicly stated that we should always give communion because we can’t know what’s in a person’s heart, then either he needs to be corrected or my understanding needs to be corrected.

  18. Alice says:

    The funeral situation annoys me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve literally had Communion shoved in my mouth while serving as a substitute organist at one of the Catholic parishes in town. I am a Catholic in good standing, but geez, sometimes I eat before funerals because I did not intend to receive Holy Communion! Why can’t we be required to show some sort of proof of being a Catholic in good standing from our pastors to receive Holy Communion in a parish where we are unknown to the priest? I would have to get such a letter if I were asked to be a godparent at a parish other than my own and it’s annoying, but a necessary annoyance.

    It always makes me sad to contrast the attitude towards Communion in the Catholic parishes I’ve attended and the non-Catholic church where I work. At this church, a person has to talk with the pastor before the service if he/she wishes to commune and is not a member of the congregation. I believe the pastor also informs the communicant’s pastor that he/she communed afterwards. Plus, I Corinthians 11: 27-30 is printed on the cover of the bulletins on Communion Sundays.

  19. DavidJ says:

    I applaud the priest for standing up against a sacrilege. I don’t believe he had any other legitimate option. I will certainly pray for him and for this lady as well.

  20. Jim Ryon says:

    So Father you are saying that a priest should give communion to someone who stands before him who he knows to be in a state of mortal sin? The two women confessed to him in the sacristy before mass that they were lovers and he warned them not to present themselves for communion.

  21. ipadre says:

    I bet there is much more to this story that wasn’t printed and we don’t know.

    I’ll trust the judgment of the priest and he should not be hung out to dry by someone in the chancery. We all know the state of society today – the Church/ priests are all cold and uncaring, etc… just waiting to attack some unsuspecting person.

    There are so many good Catholics being buried without funeral Masses and some, without even a prayer, because their children have fallen away from the Church. And, when there is a funeral, most of the people have not been in a church for months or even years.

    What is the answer to all of this?

  22. HyacinthClare says:

    Father, if these responses are correct, the relationship was public knowledge and the priest was being set up, do you have any further thoughts about what he should have done?

  23. mamajen says:

    Good for the priest for doing the right thing! Unfortunately (if my recent experience with family funerals is any indication) there were probably many other people who were also in a grave state of sin and trotted right up to communion. I hope they feel especially ashamed, but I doubt it.

    How sad it is when Catholic parents give up and endorse immoral behavior when they COULD be helping their homosexual children carry the particularly heavy crosses they bear. They are depriving them of heaven in order to let them feel good on earth. I know it’s not easy for anyone involved, but I am sure the reward in heaven is commensurate. I hope that this woman decides that being in God’s grace is more important than maintaining her chosen lifestyle.

  24. Jim Ryon says:

    And this From the Deacon’s Bench: A quote from Bishop Barry Knestout in a letter of apology to the woman: “I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity.” If an accurate quote, an incredible misunderstanding of the funeral mass. Sad to say this good priest will be persecuted.

  25. lh says:

    It was a moment where Johnson could have humbled herself and repented but instead she clung to pride and continues to do so. She had no problem introducing her partner to Father so perhaps her whole family and some friends knew about her “lifestyle”.

  26. acardnal says:

    When I lived in the diocese of Arlington, VA, I was personally acquainted with Fr. Guarnizo who is a very orthodox priest. At that time, although he was an American, he was incardinated in the diocese of Moscow and was very instrumental in fund raising in the USA in order to reestablish the Church in Russia. He did an outstanding job at it! I do not know how he became associated with the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. In any event, I encourage the readers to click on the “WaPo” link embedded in Fr. Z’s post and then click on “Rev. Marcel Guarnizo” in the accompanying story and you can watch a video of Fr. Guarnizo speaking outside of an abortion clinic in Maryland. Or you can link to it here:

    God bless Fr. Guarnizo and hopefully Cardinal Wuerhl will support him.

  27. DisturbedMary says:

    I have read elsewhere that “the priest talked to the two women before the funeral, so they knew they should not approach for Communion.” If true, and I have no reason to believe it is not true, it changes everything.

    Judging from the WaPo picture of one of the women and the story told, I conclude that this couple wear their homosexuality comfortably and are unused to any “judgment” from anyone of their chosen lifestyle. I have no doubt that the Church had many homosexual families, friends, partners, lovers, etc. etc. attending the Mass.

    Alas, Father, had the nerve to make them feeeeeeeel “judged” by privately telling them not to approach for communion. So what do they do? They approach anyway. What’s a priest to do in the face of homosexual defiance? Pause to call to the Diocese to ask for policy guidelines? Lotsa luck with that, given how the diocese responded when asked to comment.

    And what about the rest of the funeral? It must have been something for Father to walk out on the eulogy. And not go to the cemetery? What the heck was going on in that Church?

    I pray that our priests preach the wrath of God rather than be swayed by wrath of homosexuals. Because the Church ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This is the tip of the homosexual iceberg.

  28. Dr. K says:

    I wish we had real Catholic bishops instead of politicians attempting to make everyone happy. The priest acted commendably, and should be praised by the chancery.

  29. Gregorius says:

    I am close to people who know Ms. Johnson, including one person who was actually at that funeral. Fr. Guarnizo reportedly did not give the final blessing at the grave site because he was ill. While my source tells me his mannerisms seemed kind of rough and uncaring about the whole situation (Ms. Johnson aside), I am inclined to believe that he was telling the truth, and not just making excuses to avoid Ms. Johnson as the media claims. Ms. Johnson is connected to a nearby all-girl Catholic High School, and bore no ill-will against the Church. I believe her actions were based on a fundamentally flawed view on Church teaching rather than any sort of malice or scheming as some commentators suggest. Nevertheless, trying to get this priest removed from ministry is just ridiculous.
    I commented on an earlier article on this situation on Facebook, and a couple of hours later, my normally empty wall exploded with a debate. I agree with Fr. Z’s analysis that canon 915 might have been misapplied in this situation due to a lack of definite knowledge, and that her more reasonable supporters imply that the rules should be relaxed due to grief.

  30. wmeyer says:

    Thanks be to God. We do have some priests with the courage to simply do what is right.

  31. Springkeeper says:

    I don’t know what was in that woman’s heart but the situation seems odd, at best. Within days of legalizing gay “marriage” in that state, this lesbian makes a public statement about being lesbian in a Mass setting. How would anyone have known she was denied the Eucharist without her telling them? It’s not as if the priest stood up and announced to all. And does anyone really think it is possible a lifelong Catholic and Catholic school teacher doesn’t know that homosexual acts are a mortal sin? And yet somehow she is aware that contraceptive use and heterosexual fornication is a mortal sin? And now she wants the priest removed? I’m sorry but this absolutely strains credulity to the breaking point.

  32. Legisperitus says:

    Who ran to the media with this after it happened?

    It seems that a Catholic with a sensitive conscience would do some intense soul-searching and self-questioning after this happened, before opening fire on the priest and turning the jackals loose.

  33. Ok regardless of being sensitive due to grief, you’ve got two hard issues here: the honor of Christ, and the poor woman’s soul. Regardless of how she feels about it, the Most Holy Eucharist is not about feelings or sentimentality or grief of relaxing of uptight rules, it is Christ Himself. By withholding Holy Communion, the Priest is attempting to defend the honor of the All-Holy One, and protect that poor woman’s soul from sacrilege and ‘eating and drinking damnation’ and even worse judgment unto herself, as St. Paul says. For that attempt, he has my gratitude and admiration. He’s one of very few who treat the Eucharist as God Himself and worthy of all honor and worship and adoration, and any Saint would do the same. I can only imagine what Pope St. Pius X would have done, or St. Thomas Aquinas.

  34. Rouxfus says:

    Pope Benedict, in his Lenten Message [], spoke of charity, and touched on an aspect of charity which doesn’t get much play or teaching from the pulpit or in the halls of parish schools, but which is playing out in this situation: fraternal correction.

    “Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction – ‘elenchein’ – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness.

  35. mike cliffson says:

    The priest was right even if he was wrong.

    Im not sure about the common (UK ?)practice of blessing noncommunicants every Sunday.
    But it has much to reccomend it at funerals.( Ok, I know, good reasons not necessarily sufficient ones)
    Case: family, kids rather lapsed, and more, Father died some years back, widow present there , both staunch Catholics,(NO eulogy in church, graveside natter?)) all sorts present maybe a third noncatholic and never catholic, PP explained inter alia gently and lovingly Communion for Catholics in good standing and in condition to receive communion, they’d know who they were, come up and communicate, Catholics with any impediment, they’d know who they were too, and any noncatholics as wished, please indicate crossing arms over breast and come up for a blessing.
    Eased A.widow’s grief etc.B. Icky family situation.
    Doesn’t sound like this lady ‘d ‘ve wanted that – what an egotrip, using your mum’s death to further an agenda! God send the poor soul be in forgiveable ignorance.

  36. Sissy says:


    A blog entry by a self-identified friend of Ms. Johnson reported the story shortly after the funeral. The tone of the entry was very condemnatory of the priest. The Washington Post picked it up.

  37. Jeffrey Sharp says:

    Beginning in 1984, I’ve worked with, for & around every type of dysfunctional personality psychologists have identified. Homosexuality is disordered!! Due to political pressure, the APA officially removed it from its lists of disorders. The vast majority of people cannot properly spell the word, dysfunctional; let alone, give a good explanation of its meanings. Our politicians are largely dysfunctional & haven’t a clue as to how to deal with such people. Manipulation is one of their key tools to bring them attention (some, misconstrue attention for affection) & will stop at nothing to cause scandal, etc. Similarly, they have no qualms about ending someone’s career, lifelihood, reputation, etc. simply to show that they can. The priest in question is undoubtedly a victim of manipulation; unfortuantely, the archdiocese is also being manipulated both by the woman in question & the local press eagerly looking for profits. Rather than destroying a good priest’s work, the bishop could offer counselling to the woman. One of the key elements of Eucharist is humility; & it’s obvious that she is plagued by arrogance. Pax.

  38. Joseph-Mary says:

    It was not because she was “sad” and “angry” that all this hoopla is happening, it is because she is a lesbian who pridefully shows up with her lover and she is in a protected class of people and no one should ever even tell them that they are in sin and that their souls are in grave moral, eternal danger.

    The priest cared for her soul, he cared about the scandal of the sacrilege of giving her communion. She dared him to do it by coming to introduce her lesbian lover to him. Set up. We can expect more.

  39. Athelstan says:

    Hello Jim Ryon,

    “I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity.”

    It does seem clear that Bishop Knestout has a…curious view of what the mass is supposed to be about.

    It’s remarkable just how many funeral masses turn into instant canonizations of the deceased.

  40. Tina in Ashburn says:

    It is common practice in many parishes in the Diocese of Arlington for priests to announce the requirements for reception of Communion, along with the printed statement in funeral and wedding programs. While some may be humbly deterred, I watch the unprepared [the few situations with which I was personally aware] approach Communion anyway.

    Here in the Arlington Diocese, I was acquainted with Fr. Guarnizo before he became a priest and remember him as a very intense and conscientious Catholic. As acardnal above mentions, he did tremendous work in Russia. He appeared on EWTN with his bishop telling the story of the Catholic Church in Russia.

    I am very proud of Fr. Guarnizo and suspect that he was made aware of the sinful situation, likely offered her confession, and was forced into a position where he had no choice but to deny a sacrilegious Communion. He likely will be fed to the lions by his own hierarchy.

    Echoing Rich above, its ironic how bad priestly behavior can go unchecked and uncorrected for years, but when a good priest stands up against sacrilege, commonplace everywhere there is laity-handled Communion for instance, he is publicly denounced by the hierarchy.

    Its high time this scandalous routine of sacrilege has arisen and become public, as some members of our hierarchy need to be taken to task for repeated betrayals and sneaky behavior against the Faithful, and its time for the clarification and enforcement of Canon 915.

    Prayers for all involved.

  41. kiwiinamerica says:

    Interestingly though, Father, if one reads the letter of apology from the diocese (linked in the WaPo article), there is no mention of an infraction of Church law. It does not mention Church law at all, nor the requirement for “obstinacy’ on the part of the one denied communion. Instead, the apology is simply centered around the priest’s supposed “lack of kindness”. A lack of pastoral concern.

    That is quite a different issue from the one which you raise concerning canon law.

    IMHO, “kindness” is a totally, subjective, non-legal issue in this case and renders the apology irrelevant. Some might say that priest WAS being kind by alerting this woman to the danger in which she is living.

  42. AA Cunningham says:

    One could argue, quite effectively, [?] that Cardinal Wuerl himself should be denied communion under Canon 915 for his aversion/refusal to enforcing Canon Law on numerous matters. If a person continues to obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, you know what’s in their heart. [You need a better argument than that, I think.]

  43. jhayes says:

    Alice, Presbyterian churches used to have communion tokens

    Beginning in the 16th Century, Scottish Presbyterian churches began using communion tokens. Before the celebration of communion, church’s elders would visit each member and examine his or her knowledge of the faith. Those meeting elders’ approval were given a small lead (or other metal) token which permitted them to receive communion. These tokens often would list the church, a year and the minister’s initials.

    The use of such tokens continued when American Presbyterian churches were created. By the early 20th Century, use of such tokens ceased as clergy and elders viewed communion as a means of grace, as opposed to a reward for knowledge and good behavior.

    See pictures here:

  44. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Oh, nice way to get your priest’s back, Cardinal Wuerl. The only way this would be worse would be if the Pope admonished this priest. If that happened (or happens), it’s all over for us.

    Unfortunately, all of this is resulting from years of Can. 915 being ignored. If it had always been enforced in clear situations (i.e., pro-abort politician or when the priest knows in fact that someone in is a condition of grave moral sin, whether in a homosexual relationship or unmarried heteros living together) this wouldn’t amount to much.


  46. servusmariaen says:

    Ok so wouldn’t this be an opportune time for the Church to say officially what the policy is on receiving communion in the Roman Catholic Church in order to banish any possible misunderstanding or doubt? (ON TV, A FULL PAGE AD, AT EVERY MASS)….. Would this not be an opportune time for those in authority to say clearly what “grave sin” is and what would prevent one from receiving holy communion? instead of issuing apologies or chastising the priest? I’m sorry I don’t understand this. Again, the crisis in the church is a crisis of Fatherhood.

  47. retire05 says:

    I am a Catholic who is not allowed to receive Communion since I was divorced and remarried. But for 25 years I have watched as every Sunday, a woman in my parish who openly lives with her [male] partner has sat in the front pew and been one of the first to get into line for Communion. Every priest who has been in my parish (and we have had many) has willingly given this woman Communion although they are aware of her living arrangements.

    Now, I try to tell myself that I am adhering to Catholic doctrine, and she is not, but that is little consolation when our paster knows that she is living in “sin” just as I am (although I have been married for 25 years and she refuses to marry since she considers herself a “modern” woman). She is also a teacher, which makes me wonder what kind of morals she can impress on her students.

    The rules are the rules, and if you don’t like them, making a fuss and trying to get a priest relieved from his position is not the way to go. The fault lies with those who know Catholic doctrine, yet think they are above it for whatever reason they give. In my mind, it doesn’t matter when the priest learned that the woman in question was living in sin and not eligible to receive Communion, it does matter that the priest had the spine to stick to Catholic teachings, and for that, he should be praised, not pilloried.

  48. Katherine says:

    A wonderful priest once gave me a great explanation of when a priest should refuse the Eucharist: do not cause scandal to the Catholic flock. So, if a clearly drunken man stumbled up to receive the Body of Christ, it would be a scandal to give him Our Lord; if a private person in secret mortal sin (about which the priest is aware) were to approach, it would be a scandal to the flock NOT to offer our Lord. The latter situation can be remedied in a “pastoral” conversation/confession later.

    Applying this test to the situation at hand, since all of the family is clearly aware of the mortal sin in which the daughter persists, it would have be a scandal to give her the body of Christ.

    We can thank this priest for shining the light of truth into the dark world, and by doing so, making us all aware of the caliber of his Bishop.

  49. Clinton R. says:

    It is a sad day indeed when a priest who does the right thing is vilified not only by the secular press, but by his own Archdiocese. To many within the Church, Canon 915 doesn’t mean anything. It is better to profane Our Lord present in the consecrated Host than to hurt someone’s feelings. Because, after all, that’s what the Lord come down from Heaven to do, make sinners feel good about themselves. I seriously wonder if there are some within the clergy of the Church who don’t believe that the Eucharist is truly His Body and Blood? Or worse, that they do and still don’t care if the recipient is in a state of mortal sin.

  50. OK, what follows is NOT a comment on this specific situation because I don’t know all the facts.

    A priest–or anyone–distributing holy communion may well suspect something about a person approaching him, but not know. Knowing that a person is lesbian, for example, does not mean knowing she is in a state of mortal sin. Knowing she has a roommate or a “partner” doesn’t mean that. The priest would have to know that the person was engaged in unchaste behavior, knew that to be gravely sinful and doing so freely–or had committed other mortal sins–and had not been to confession since.

    It’s not impossible that a priest would know that, or learn that rather quickly. But knowing someone is “in the lifestyle” or “away from the Church” etc. is not knowing the things I specified.

    Many times people tell a priest things they “know”–which are not the whole story. A priest has an obligation to be careful about such matters, given this sort of situation.

    It is certainly appropriate for a priest to approach someone, beforehand, to clarify the matter. I have done so. Also, I make an announcement at weddings and funerals that most people understand–some don’t seem to listen.

    None of this does any good if someone has a point to make, which may be the case here.

    Once again, I don’t feel confident I know all the facts in this case, so I’m not making any comment on whether this priest did right or wrong. I suspect he was provoked but I don’t know.

  51. robtbrown says:

    When a mixed gathering is anticipated, as in wedding and funerals, it is helpful for the celebrant to inform the people before mass begins that non Catholics and those involved in sexual relationships outside of marriage should not go to Communion.

  52. LouiseA says:

    Fr. Z.,
    Canon 915 does not state that Holy Communion must be denied ONLY if someone is a manifest and obstinate sinner. While Holy Communion must be denied in that situation, that canon does not limit denial to only that situation.

    There are other situations where the priest in his prudential judgement and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament can legitimately deny and should deny Holy Communion. For instance, grave immodesty in dress.

    “Women must be decently dressed, especially when they go to church. The parish priest may, with due prudence, refuse them entrance to the church and access to the reception of the Sacraments, [each] and every time that they come to church immodestly dressed.” (General Pastoral Directive, 1915 A.D.)

    “Girls and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.” [Decree of the Congregation of the Council (by the mandate of Pope Pius XI), 1930 A.D.]

  53. filioque says:

    AA Cunningham raises a good point about bishops who fail to enforce c. 915. I once put that very question to Archbishop (now Cardinal) Raymond Burke, after he had written his excellent article on the application of c. 915. He shook his head ruefully and I did not press him for an answer. He said he was glad I had not pressed him.

    Failure to enforce c. 915, failure to give fraternal and charitable correction, failure to catechize, failure to form good priests, and failure to support good priests — all of these episcopal failures are now coming home to roost, big time. God help us.

  54. jhayes says:

    It’s important to remember that the starting point of that article of the Code of Canon Law is:

    Can. 912 Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion.

    The exceptions are:

    Can. 914… It is for the pastor to exercise vigilance so that children who have not attained the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed do not approach holy communion.

    Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

  55. HyacinthClare says:

    Just because someone in 2012 tells you she is a lesbian and intoduces her partner and makes a considerable point of complimenting her deceased mother for “supporting” her sexual choices…. it is unreasonable and uncharitable to assume she is in mortal sin? Seriously?

  56. Just because someone in 2012 tells you she is a lesbian and intoduces her partner and makes a considerable point of complimenting her deceased mother for “supporting” her sexual choices…. it is unreasonable and uncharitable to assume she is in mortal sin? Seriously?

    Yes, I would say so. I don’t go along with “assuming” such a thing. You have to know.

    Of course, if the opportunity arises, one can ask. I would ask to speak privately to the woman, step aside with her, and say something like: “I’m sure you know that our Catholic faith teaches that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage, and I think you know I mean marriage between a man and a woman. Since you chose to tell me quite a bit about your relationship, I’m left wondering if you are also telling me your relationship involves that sort of intimacy which is contrary to Church teaching?” Actually, I suspect even more general questions would probably give the priest the information he’s seeking, such first asking, “are you a practicing Catholic?” People are usually not very discreet about such things.

    But assume? On the basis of what you said? I would say no. There are couples who live together as “brother and sister”…

  57. Jim Ryon says: So Father you are saying that a priest should give communion to someone who stands before him who he knows to be in a state of mortal sin?

    Consider that this was how Jesus handled Judas. Rather than publicize his secret sin, Jesus gave Himself in Holy Communion to Judas, knowing to an absolute certainty that Judas intended to betray Him.

  58. filioque says:

    Fr. Martin Fox, God bless you for your charity, but in all the circumstances described, I think it would be rash and obtuse for the priest not to understand that the woman is saying that she is in a public relationship that the Church recognizes is gravely sinful. And given her behavior at the wake the night before, when reportedly she praised her mother for accepting her sexual choices, everyone else knew it, too. How could the priest not act as he did? She created the whole situation and now she is complaining because Fr. Guarnizo recognizes what she does not: the Body and Blood of the Lord. I expect there are more facts still to come out, but on what we seem to know now, I am grateful that Father acted as he did, and I have called my Cardinal Archbishop to say so.

    BTW, this must be reason #3457 why eulogies should not be allowed at the funeral Mass.

  59. Pingback: February 29, 2012 Happy Leap Day | Clint Mcdonald's Blog

  60. schmenz says:

    The more arrogant these poor, wretched souls get, the more cowardly our Catholic leaders seem to become in the face of their fury. The creeps in Washington DC are presently trying to shove down Catholic throats their requirement to pay for contraceptives, and many Bishops have wonderfully spoken out, but on this issue the relevant Bishop has shown weakness by his apology. That weakness, I assure you, will be noticed by the Church’s enemies and they will capitalize on it.

    Is this what we have come to…a Bishop apologizing to lesbians and homosexuals? Can we possibly go much lower than that?

    And I would say to Father Fox, with all due respect for his priesthood, that splitting hairs on a matter so grave is not very helpful. I would say to him that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s a duck. He seems to castigate the priest for assuming the woman is living in a state of unnatural vice. Dear Father, what else is he supposed to think, given the facts that we already know, and that he knew beforehand? “HyacinthCare” has expressed the situation perfectly.

    If the Church, in the person of Wuerl or the apologizing Bishop, backs down AGAIN, on something like this then we are seeing the beginning of the end of what’s left of Catholicism, at least in America. I say “in America” because from Carroll and England and Gibbons on down to the present US Churchmen all have been infected with the stench of what Pope Leo XIII has aptly called “Americanism”. It is Americanism that has virtually ruined any and all efforts to evangelize this nation since the 18th century. And now we are at last reaping the inevitable whirlwind of that flawed and disastrous policy.

  61. wmeyer says:

    schmenz: I would add that if the woman’s declarations made at the wake and in the sacristy were not intended to remove all doubt, I will eat my hat. It sounds as though she were flaunting her knowingly sinful relationship, daring the good priest to act on his knowledge.

  62. Filioque, Schmenz:

    Let’s be crystal clear. I am not commenting on the particulars of the present case. I wasn’t there. I don’t know the whole story.

    I did respond to Hyacinth’s compact statement. My response was specifically to that–not–I repeat–not–to the entirety of this case, because…

    I wasn’t there. I don’t know the whole story.

    So to say I am castigating this priest is factually wrong. See how easy it is to think you have the facts right, when you don’t?

    Further–to say it again, in the case of someone who says something, to me, that is unclear, there is no reason to assume! Just ask!

    But if you cannot ascertain the facts, then I believe one is bound to give the more charitable interpretation. I was taught that strict canons were to be interpreted strictly–meaning one was extra careful before finding one guilty and applying a penalty.

    There may be no connection here, but this reminds me of many conversations in which I’ve had to go to great pains to explain how mortal sin works. Namely, that one cannot be culpable of a mortal sin without knowing it. It is impossible. Yes, you can commit a gravely sinful action unknowingly or doubtfully; but you cannot be culpable. Why? Because you must also have sufficient knowledge and freedom.

    This comes up when folks say, I don’t know if I am guilty of a mortal sin. Why don’t you know? Either because you don’t have sufficient knowledge…ergo not culpable mortally…or you have a genuine doubt about your freedom…hence a lack of freedom.

    My point is that the mind of the Church is not guilty till proven innocent. Applies in both cases, my conversations about mortal culpability and the example to which I responded.

    Now I’m sorry I even responded to the example, so I will refrain further. If you want advice on the matter, go see your parish priest.

  63. Gail F says:

    If the woman did indeed introduce the priest to her “lover” and talk about it at great length at the visitation and the eulogy (the latter of which we aren’t supposed to have anyway), thank God for a priest who finds this alarming. We don’t know the facts, though. For instance, as Fr. Fox says, how much did they discuss the matter in detail? Did he TELL them not to come up and she came up anyway, for whatever reason (whether a formal setup or an impromptu moment of rage at being denied something)? Or did he not say anything about not coming up? If a priest suspects that something like this is going to happen, can he say they will not be having general communion today? I can see that would be good solution if you have time to think about it. This is a very difficult situation and I hope,, whatever he said to the media, Wuerl is handling this better in private with the priest than it sounds.

    Retire05: Just wanted to say how much I admire you. Years ago, when I was returning to the Church, I went up for communion all the time. Once I began to realize that I needed to go to confession, I was too nervous that everyone would wonder why I wasn’t going up to stay in the pew (it may sound funny, but it was agonizing at the time). It took me weeks until I made myself do it (confession is only half an hour a week at my parish and I am not – not – not going to make an appointment! did it once, hated it) and found out that while most people do go up, they don’t all go up. It was not the end of the world and no one cared. Now I notice a man who sits all by himself and never, ever goes up. I don’ t know why, it’s not my business, but I admire him. He’s there! That’s what counts.

  64. Fr.Estabrook says:

    Canon 915 is being thrown around here, and for a good reason.
    But Canon 843.1 says, “Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.”

    Based on his conversation with the lesbian and her “lover” in the sacristy before Mass, the sacred minister made a sound judgment that she was not properly disposed.

    Based on evidence from the external forum she was not properly disposed…evidence so blatant that only a chancery official couldn’t see it ;-) [See Dr. Peter’s response, below.]

  65. mshoe88 says:

    There’s more to this story. One of the deacons present at the Mass said the woman in question came into the Sacristy before the funeral and was adamant about introducing her partner to the priest. She introduced her partner to him as her “lover”. At which time Father told her then that she should not present herself at Communion.

    So….there’s more to this story than we know. …*****

  66. eulogos says:

    What I read in a comment on another blog was that she introduced her “partner” to the priest as her “lover.” If that is the case, he should have spoken to her then and there. How do we know he did not?
    It really bothers me that he was not supported by his bishop. Did the bishop even call the priest and ask for his version of the situation? Shouldn’t the bishop err in this case in the direction of supporting his priest publicly? Not doing so gives the public the impression that the bishop supports people living in homosexual relationships-who do NOT live as “sister and sister” or “brother and brother” receiving communion.

    This priest did the best that he could to do the right thing rather than the easy thing. He deserved the support of his bishop.
    Susan Peterson

  67. Springkeeper says:

    There is a report that her lesbian partner self-identified as her “lover” to the priest in the sacristy before the funeral and I don’t know any other meaning for that word in common use today.

    No wonder the priest took ill- he had to have known the firestorm that was going to rain down upon his head by the self-proclaimed “tolerant” ones.

  68. Johnno says:

    If as many people here are saying, the priest had already spoken to her beforehand to inform her not to present herself for communion, then this is a simple open and shut case.

    The priest had knowledge whom the lesbian took the duty upon herself to give him. The priest of course did inform her that she is in manifest grave sin and had informed her privately not to present herself for communion. She publicly defied the priest’s directions. He had every right to withhold communion from her.

    If anything the priest, in denying her communion, was actually PROTECTING HER least she incur the wrath of God on herself for abusing His body and blood and eating it unworthily!

    Of course the Bishop’s office, will put politics before faith with such preemptive letters chastising the faithful and kissing the feet of sin in order to escape public pressure… How low we’ve fallen! If all this is true, then faithful Catholics should write and lambast the Bishop’s office for the terrible thing they have done and the sin they persist in for persecuting one of their own! If they can bow to the pressure of homosexuals, we ought to get them to bow to the pressure of truth!

    ‘Policy’ indeed… We need holy bishops and priests running the Church, not politicians and PR tolerance mouthpieces!

  69. Johnno says:

    “Consider that this was how Jesus handled Judas. Rather than publicize his secret sin, Jesus gave Himself in Holy Communion to Judas, knowing to an absolute certainty that Judas intended to betray Him.”

    Intention to sin would still not be actual committing of sin. I’m tempted to sin all the time, sometimes I even plan on it… but until I do I have not yet sinned, and sometimes even when I plan to sin in advance, I have also changed my mind at the last second. Also it is not for us to know Judas’ conscience at the time. It was likely something he was still wrestling with as to his decision, even if he’d been plotting it in advance. Despite our Savior knowing the future, He acted based upon the present moment, out of mercy hoping that in giving Judas communion, he might be reinforced against sin. But of course we now know that he wasn’t. Judas, up until the time Jesus was actually betrayed, still had the freedom to change his mind. This is how lenient God is with us.

    In this case the woman was intent on committing sin. The woman was already living in sin and boasting of it publicly. And the sin of receiving the Body of Christ unworthily was a danger to her. This imposed on the priest’s conscience to deny it to her. Giving it to her would also cause Him to sin and be complicit in the abuse against Christ.

  70. jflare says:

    I must admit to being a bit annoyed by this one. I think Fr Z and others certainly have a good point about the timing and discernment required to technically handle these concerns properly.

    On the other hand, judging by the reactions to his efforts, I think it’s relatively safe to say that he discerned the woman’s general attitude correctly. People who have just cause to complain typically don’t resort to the usual political hype.

  71. JARay says:

    There is a comment above saying that Jesus gave himself to Judas in Communion whilst knowing that Judas was about to betray him and therefore it is alright to give Communion to people who are in a state of mortal sin. My understanding of the matter of Communion at the Last Supper is that Jesus told Judas to go and do what it was that he was going to do and then Judas left the room. It was after Judas had gone to betray Jesus that Jesus gave himself to the remaining apostles and consecrated them as priests when he told them ‘DO THIS’.
    So, Judas did not receive holy Communion nor was he consecrated as a priest.
    As to the matter before us here, the priest was quite right to deny Communion to this woman. Had he done so, knowing that she was in such a state of sin, than he too would would have tainted himself with the sin of Sacrilege by sharing in the woman’s reception in such a state of sin.

  72. mamajen says:

    After reading through more carefully, I understand Father Z’s words of caution. None of us know the details of the woman’s lifestyle or the state of her soul. I’m still glad he erred on the side of caution, but it is certainly a delicate situation with much to consider. It’s a shame that the woman in question placed him in this situation to begin with. [When it comes to can. 915, we have to be concerned with “manifest” and “obstinate”.]

  73. wmeyer says:

    mamajen, caution in such a case is laudable, but it would appear from this and other accounts of the story that the woman in question all but rubbed the priest’s nose in her sinful state.

  74. Red Cardigan says:

    Does it matter that the woman in question is also a practicing Buddhist and that the Catholic school where she taught was apparently fully aware of that? I don’t know, of course, whether the subject of her Buddhism came up at the wake, the funeral, or her pre-funeral conversation with Father…


  75. Clinton R. says:

    Absp. Wuerl’s stance regarding giving Communion to those in mortal sin should not come as any surprise, unfortunately. When he became Archbishop of Washington D.C., those in Pittsburgh, where he was the bishop, were left in a deep crisis of faith. According to an article featured in Renew in May, 2006, then Bishop Wuerl during his time in Pittsburgh showed a total disregard for Catholic doctrine and teaching. He buddied up to false ecumenical and pro homosexual groups, closed Catholic schools, encouraged Protestants to receive Communion, and generally trashed the Catholic tradition that was present when he took over as Bishop. You can read the whole article here:

  76. As to the eulogy at the end of the funeral. I believe these to be an extremely ill-advised and a distortion of the true meaning of a Catholic funeral: which is not in any way a celebration of the deceased’s life.

  77. Mrs. O says:

    We have a coupe at a local parish in a lesbian relationship and they are well received by all in parish and out. Although one may not know their state of grace, it comes to a point / 8 years now/ where it is causing scandal to the young. What IS wrong with two women presenting themselves as a couple? I guess my question is, what is obstinate and when do children and young get protected from being scandalized? I really hope they are in a state of grace.

  78. Mike says:

    “Failure to enforce c. 915, failure to give fraternal and charitable correction, failure to catechize, failure to form good priests, and failure to support good priests — all of these episcopal failures are now coming home to roost, big time. God help us.”

    Fr. Z’s wise cautions not withstanding, I live in the DC area–and w/o naming names, Catholic Tradition here is not robust, and the folks in the pews are following their leaders.
    Let’s pray for this priest, a lot.

  79. tcreek says:

    This shepherd would have given her communion, I bet.

    Watch a video as Archbishop Dolan reconsecrates the gay and lesbian friendly refurbished St. Francis Xavier Church in New York City in June of 2010.!

    At 1:25, Archbishop Dolan watches a barefooted dancer with a bowl of incense at the altar.
    At the 5:30 mark, as the smiling Dolan chews on his eyeglasses, someone off camera praises homosexuality and everyone cheers, seemingly with a thumbs up from Dolan.

    Go to the parish website and click on the “Parish Groups” link. You will see a drop-down menu with the following links:

    -General Information
    -Catholic Lesbians
    -Gay Catholics
    -Young Adults Group
    -Youth Ministry
    -Zen Meditation

    Would you enroll your child in Youth Ministry at this parish?

  80. Bender says:

    Before we ever get to the issue of whether any particular canon applies in this case, we have to deal with the matter of who is competent to judge the situation? NONE of us here are. None of us know all the facts. As such, the priest is entitled to a presumption of regularity, a presumption that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

    If his knowledge and judgment of the situation was such that, in all good conscience, he could not give Communion, we should respect that.

    Q: Just because someone in 2012 tells you she is a lesbian and intoduces her partner and makes a considerable point of complimenting her deceased mother for “supporting” her sexual choices…. it is unreasonable and uncharitable to assume she is in mortal sin? Seriously?
    A: Yes, I would say so. I don’t go along with “assuming” such a thing. You have to know.

    Given this hypothetical, is possible wrongful sexual activity the only possible mortal sin at issue? No.

    What is also at issue is the grave matter of open dissention from the teachings of the Church, which not only severs unity with the Church, but is VERY likely to be an occasion of scandal, tending to mislead others away from the truths of the Catholic faith. And that is a very serious matter.

    But worse than that is, as a result of this open dissention and disunity from the Church, is the resulting belief that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing or promoting. And if one believes that there is nothing wrong, then she cannot and will not repent of her error. In such persistent belief that what is wrong is actually right, she comes perilously close to the WORST possible sin imaginable, the most mortal of all sins, the unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

    Here you don’t need to peer into the secret recesses of the woman’s soul, here she is openly manifesting her separation from the Catholic faith.

  81. Bender says:

    one cannot be culpable of a mortal sin without knowing it. It is impossible

    The criminal law is the same. Of course, we need to be careful not to conflate the degree of culpability (if any) with whether some action is a sin (or a criminal act). One is subjective, the other objective.

    In addition, of course, it is rare that one will not have some degree of knowledge. One cannot claim ignorance or other lack of knowledge when he ignores a conscience that is speaking to him or when one ignores basic facts of nature and every day human experience or when one ignores the very LOUD teachings of the Church on matters of moral truth.

    For example, even a cursory look at one’s body and the body of another person will provide you sufficient knowledge as to whether any sexual activity between you is consistent with the truth of the human person or not. Some actions, by their very nature, provide the knowledge of their wrongfulness.

    “I didn’t know” and “I didn’t mean to” usually do not hold up to scrutiny.

  82. Fr. Estabrook. Let me keep this reply as short as possible. Do you really think that I (and most of the other scholars writing on Canon 915) are unaware of Canon 843, and that we, what? just skipped over it hoping no one would notice it? Good grief.

    Anyway, here’s a case: a few minutes before Sunday Mass, one of the ushers mentions to you that he has been an active member of a local pornography ring for many months and that he has been helping others embezzle funds from his employer for over a year. He shows no remorse for his conduct before blithely processing out of the sacristy for Mass. You do realize, I trust, that if he presents himself for holy Communion at Mass, you may NOT withhold It from him? Notwithstanding his appalling disposition.

    I’m quite serious.

    If by chance you do not understand why I just said what I did, and on what authority I stand in saying it, you need to stop posting comments about this case and start studying the tradition on sacramental discipline, before you lead others into serious confusion and cause more problems for the Church.

  83. wmeyer says:

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    “So far as fixing human responsibility, the most important division of ignorance is that designated by the terms invincible and vincible. Ignorance is said to be invincible when a person is unable to rid himself of it notwithstanding the employment of moral diligence, that is, such as under the circumstances is, morally speaking, possible and obligatory. This manifestly includes the states of inadvertence, forgetfulness, etc. Such ignorance is obviously involuntary and therefore not imputable. On the other hand, ignorance is termed vincible if it can be dispelled by the use of “moral diligence”. This certainly does not mean all possible effort; otherwise, as Ballerini naively says, we should have to have recourse to the pope in every instance. We may say, however, that the diligence requisite must be commensurate with the importance of the affair in hand, and with the capacity of the agent, in a word such as a really sensible and prudent person would use under the circumstances. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the obligation mentioned above is to be interpreted strictly and exclusively as the duty incumbent on a man to do something, the precise object of which is the acquisition of the needed knowledge. In other words the mere fact that one is bound by some extrinsic title to do something the performance of which would have actually, though not necessarily, given the required information, is negligible. When ignorance is deliberately aimed at and fostered, it is said to be affected, not because it is pretended, but rather because it is sought for by the agent so that he may not have to relinquish his purpose. Ignorance which practically no effort is made to dispel is termed crass or supine.”

    To assert that one is Catholic is to assert a belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church. One of the teachings of the Church is that we cannot pick and choose the teachings to which we will subscribe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is readily available, both online and in book form.

  84. Mrs. O says:

    At the end of the day, can this now be considered manifest? Or do the all the networks have to cover it first? It is interesting that she is calling for the removal of the priest. He made an error, or so it seems. We are all subject to it. But now that it has been picked up by all the news media, it would be nice for the Archdiocese in the very least to offer correction and use appropriate terms, in the very least.

  85. AnnAsher says:

    It sound to me like not only did the known expressed lesbian woman present for communion ( I thought the priests words were gentle enough) but she hijacked the entire mass to her own liking!
    Also the article says the Archdiocese appologized ?!
    I recall being trained as a member of the army of EMHC and told anyone who presents must be administered. But reading this post it does say – properly disposed -. I think the priest was right.

  86. AnnAsher says:

    How did this respect her “devout mother” for her to turn the Requiem into fodder for the advancement of homosexualizing society and the Church? Love for her mother would have been expressed by sitting quietly and taking a back seat to her mother’s desire for the Requiem Mass! The Mass does not need the invention of persons to make it meaningful. Love would have obeyed – not sought controversy. Methinks she did this on purpose knowing the outcome. She doesn’t live under a rock – she’s the lesbian daughter of a devout Catholic mother – she knew the rules.

  87. Jim Ryon says:

    If by chance you do not understand why I just said what I did, and on what authority I stand in saying it, you need to stop posting comments about this case and start studying the tradition on sacramental discipline, before you lead others into serious confusion and cause more problems for the Church.

    What utter arrogance. Since a common sense reading of Canon 843.1 would indicate Fr. Estabrook is correct, maybe you could deign to give us an argument (case law etc.) as to why he is wrong. Or perhaps maybe you should stop posting comments.

  88. Fr.Estabrook says:

    In the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments letter of July 2002, Jorge A. Cardinal Medina Estévez, Prefect, writes, “Another fundamental right of the faithful, as noted in canon 213, is “the right to receive assistance by the sacred Pastors from the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the Sacraments.” In view of the law that “sacred” ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them” (Canon 843 s.1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person’s unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared.”

    So what exactly is “unrepented public sin”. Would the lesbian in this case had to be making out with her “lover” during Mass?

    The priest made a judgment, and it sounds like he believed she was an unrepented public sinner…i wonder why he thought this…

  89. jhayes says:

    As Fr. Fox has pointed out, we’d o not know he facts of this situation. A number of the ” facts” presented in posts here do not agree with those in this interview ith Ms. Johnson, the woman who was denied ommunion:

    Johnson said she and her family met with St. John Neumann’s music director, who assured them they would be able to deliver two eulogies. However, in a brief meeting with Guarnizo before the Mass, Johnson said the priest said there could only be one eulogy — that “this is how it is done all the time.”

    Johnson said her brother responded: “Well, we don’t bury our mother all the time.”

    In that meeting, Johnson said Guarnizo never offered his condolences for her mother’s passing. And when he asked Johnson’s partner who she was, she replied, “I’m her partner.”

    Johnson said during the Mass, Guarnizo — without having spoken again to her in private — denied her Communion, saying, “I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.”

    In shock and dismay, Johnson’s friends and family did not take Communion.

    “My whole family wished to take Communion not only to be in communion with Jesus Christ, but to be in communion with my mother, with each other as we grieved,” she said.

    Guarnizo said he was ill and left during the eulogy, Johnson said. He did not accompany the family to the burial site. According to Johnson, he made no effort to find a replacement, so the responsibility fell to the funeral home director, who called on Fr. Peter Sweeney of Silver Spring, Md., to join the family at the cemetery.

    Sweeney’s demeanor was a stark contrast to that of Guarnizo, Johnson said.
    “He was an angel, a balm on our hearts,” she said. “He was everything I knew the Catholic church to be.”

  90. Sissy says:

    As a new convert, I am very confused by Dr. Peter’s comment at 6:30 am. His example doesn’t seem analogous to the case of Ms. Johnson who is, by all accounts, an openly out-and-proud, long-time lesbian publicly professing to be apostate (she self-identifies as a Buddhist). A credible witness says she presented her lesbian companion to the priest, introducing her as “my lover”. According to this same witness, the priest quietly counseled Ms. Johnson not to present herself for communion. She did so anyway, and was spoken to by the priest in a whisper (according to other witnesses). Her friend later ran to the internet to falsely claim that the priest had made a scene at the Mass and had “coldly” refused to attend the graveside service. No one knows for sure what the priest actually whispered to her – we only have her word for it. Taken all together, these behaviors on the part of Ms. Johnson et. al, sound to the average lay person to fit the description of “grave scandal” described in Canon 843. In fact, the events sound calculated to create scandal.
    Just for my own understanding of Canon 843, other kinds of scandal aside, is the priest required to serve communion to someone who has openly left the Church for a non-Christian religion? Ms. Johnson lives her life as a Buddhist apparently, not a Catholic. If the priest knows a non-Catholic is standing in front of him, is he required to offer the Host anyway? And if the faithful in attendance know this individual is not Catholic, does this fit the definition of “grave scandal”? I’m not trying to be sarcastic; I’m sincerely lost at this point.

  91. Sissy, this matter is simpler than many seem to understand, and more complicated than many want to admit. I suggest you start with the resources I have gathered here:

    Don’t be frightened off by charges of “arrogance”, that is the default response whenever a professional points out the errors of an amateur these days, it goes with the territory. But in the end, they usually just repeat the same errors asserted earlier, more loudly, as if volume and emphasis supplied for accuracy.

    Of course, people are free to disregard my views on any topic they wish. I know what I’m talking about, but I’ve no authority to enforce any view.

  92. plemmen says:

    Quite a controversy. I thank our Lord that I was never stupid enough to attempt to receive communion without first having made a good and truthful (as well as contrite) confession.
    BTW, thank you to everyone who clicked on the link I posted yesterday to my public confession of wrongdoing (part one). Today I published Part Two:
    Please pray for me and for all sinners.

  93. Mrs. O says:

    Could Dr. Peters, or Fr. Z please explain to us the meaning of manifest sinner and if the Church has to give a proclamation on the person? That would help a lot. Or if Dr. Peters has already written about this, a link?

  94. ddobbs says:

    Would the circumstances be any different if the lesbian couple were “married”. Gay “marriage” has been around for a few years in Canada and some European countries. Lets say two lesbians got “married” in front of hundreds of people. Would that be considered “Manifest” and “Obstinate”? This is a situation that is sadly becoming more common in Canada.

    I know that many priests are unwilling to withhold communion because they do not want to cause a scene. But I watch at least 2 or 3 people every week go to receive communion when the whole church and the priest included know they are not even Catholic. The priest gives them communion anyway under the auspices of pastoral sensitivity.

  95. mlmc says:

    Fr. Z (and other’s tutored in canon law)-if the scenario described in sissy’s post is true- ie Mrs J described her partner as her “lover” and as told in private not to present herself for communion- was the priest correct (in this scenario) in denying her the sacrament when she in fact did present herself? I think describing her as her lover removed any doubt as to the nature of their relationship. Did her willful disregard of the priest’s instruction qualify her as obstinate etc? Obviously, this all assumes sissy’s description is accurate.

  96. Andy Milam says:


    I have not read through all of the posts, I apologize for any comment which may be rehashed. My thoughts:

    Manifest and obstinate. That is the key, now isn’t it? Here is the quick of it all though…to those who were assisting at the funeral she was most likely known. I doubt there were many people there who would be aghast at her lifestyle. If they knew her mother, they most likely knew her. Example; my brother is a fallen away Catholic. My family knows this. He knows this. Many people in town know this, because of how he has comported himself over the years. When the time comes that Mother and Dad pass away, if my brother has not reconciled to Holy Mother Church, the assumption will be that he will not present himself for Holy Communion. If he does, I will expect the same thing to happen. He is known to be fallen away in several different ways, 1. through his marriage outside the Church and 2. through his lack of assistance at Holy Mass over the last 20 years.

    Using that as an example, can. 915 does apply. First, she is known, granted not to the national and global level as Pelosi, but she is known. That is manifest. Second, it is obstinate. She has not changed her lifestyle.

    Perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps I am being “uncharitable.” But honestly, I disagree. I believe that I am exercising the greatest charity. I love my neighbor, that is why I practice religious tolerance (not liberty) and that is why I will take any opportunity to catechize the Christian, be ecumenical with the Orthodox, and evangelize the non-Christian.

    Was the timing good? No. Was Father pastor justified? In my eyes, yes. I will pray that through disinterested friendship that this woman finds solace in the truth of Holy Mother Church and is able to overcome her homosexual actions. I will pray for Father pastor, that he is able to continue to be charitable.

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  98. robtbrown says:

    Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Anyway, here’s a case: a few minutes before Sunday Mass, one of the ushers mentions to you that he has been an active member of a local pornography ring for many months and that he has been helping others embezzle funds from his employer for over a year. He shows no remorse for his conduct before blithely processing out of the sacristy for Mass. You do realize, I trust, that if he presents himself for holy Communion at Mass, you may NOT withhold It from him? Notwithstanding his appalling disposition.

    If it is the case that there is not public knowledge of his actions, then I agree. The priest, however, is morally obligated to advise the man not to receive Communion.

  99. This might help address some of the questions above:

    If not, sorry, I have to get back to work. Check out this page for more info:

    Best, edp.

  100. Sissy says:

    Dr. Peters:

    Thank you very much for your kind answer to my inquiry. I never realized a priest is required to serve those who make a public request (in most circumstances). I appreciate your help in my Catholic education. May I impose on your patience to ask one additional clarification? I see from your link that the Canon states:

    Olim: 1917 CIC 855. § 1. All those publicly unworthy are to be barred from the Eucharist, such as excommunicates, those interdicted, and those manifestly infamous, unless their penitence and emendation are shown and they have satisfied beforehand the public scandal [they caused]. § 2. But occult sinners, if they ask secretly and the minister knows they are unrepentant, should be refused; but not, however, if they ask publicly and they cannot be passed over without scandal. (See also: Canon Law Digest I: 408-409.)

    So, I understand that the priest had to serve Ms. Johnson despite her lifestyle choice. However, the Canon states earlier that those who can be refused are those forbidden by law. Would that include individuals who publicly maintain that they are non-Catholic? I’m unclear as to what class of individuals would be included as “forbidden by law”. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

  101. robtbrown says:

    One other point: In so far as the lesbian was the daughter of the deceased, I wonder whether there would already have been public knowledge of her situation.

    BTW, I have a friend of 60 years who was ordained in the early 80’s. His first assignment was replacing a priest who simply walked out of the priesthood and attempted marriage. Some months later the ex presented himself for Communion to my friend at mass, who denied him the Host. (I think it might have been at a priest’s funeral with many priests present.) My friend received scads of phone calls from priests and laity applauding his action.

  102. Mrs. O says:

    Thanks Dr. Peters. That example did help.

  103. jhayes says:

    Sissy, that was then (olim) – i.e. the 1917 Code.

    In the current (1983) Code, it is replaced by

    1983 CIC 915. Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

  104. Sissy says:

    Ok, thanks, jhayes. I read it on the link Dr. Peter’s provided, so I just assumed it was current. So, my conclusion is that a priest can’t refuse to serve someone who requests communion publicly unless there is some generally “public” ongoing, exhibition of manifest grave sin. And “public” is apparently understood in Canon law to mean behavior much more widely-known than just that which might be observed within the parish or local church.

    So, apparently, there is no prohibition on serving communion to known non-Catholics who request it publicly.

  105. Johnno says:

    Dr. Peters could well be right with regards t how the law should be applied. And I’m confident that indeed he is correct in the procedure with regards to the law.

    But could not this be argued as placing the ‘letter of the law’ over the ‘heart of the law’? No doubt as a canonical lawyer, Peters is correct. But it this the sort of strict legalism we want running the Church? Which is not to say I wish to just merely throw canon law out, which is important, to the wind on a simple whim… But the discussion about canon 915 ought to be considered in Christ’s words and in examples where such ‘laws’ were broken for good reason in the Scriptures with regards to David, and with regards to the Pharisees accusations of Christ, as to what the law is supposed to protect and guard and intended to be at the heart of a matter, and as to what this particular situation calls for as will other future situations not accounted for when men write these laws. Least the danger lies in that the Church hierarchy and canon lawyers persecute the good and abuse Christ’s body and make sinful souls more sure about their sin for the sake of serving strict legalism over Christ and morality.

    I worry in all honesty not out of some pride or arrogance, that this could be a bigger problem with regards to the Church than we’d have thought… But certainly, the bishop’s office could have better worded the letter to also take into account that the priest was acting for the sake of the Church even if he misapplied the strict letter of the law.

  106. chantgirl says:

    The priest who refused her communion is the one who will have to answer to God, and hopefully he made the right call. While we don’t know all of the details of what the priest knew or discussed with the woman beforehand, her behavior after the fact is quite revealing as it sounds like an agenda may be involved. I know traddies can sometimes be quick to pounce because we are used to having been treated like second class citizens within the church of the last half century ( denied communion because we were kneeling and so on), and we are fiercesome defenders of the tenets of the faith, but we do, generally, need to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people are genuinely trying to remove themselves from a sinful situation or overcome a tendency. In the case of an adulterous affair, or an addiction to porn, or a struggle with same-sex attraction, people don’t tend to make one clean break, get to confession, and then never sin again. It is often a process with many fits and starts. I remember as a teenager struggling with premarital sex that I often made resolutions, went to confession, and then sinned again in less than a week. All of the priests for a radius of ten miles probably heard my confessions and knew of my difficulty. My friends knew I was struggling with this sin. It was not private. However, if I approached the communion rail, the priest would not haveknown whether or not I had committed any individual mortal sins since my last confession unless he heard my confession right before Mass. That said, priests and bishops, the hour is late for you to start preaching about mortal sin, and sexual sin etc. Catholics in America are like unruly teenagers who have not been given solid discipline and teaching. Hold politicians accountable. Hold all of us sitting in the pews accountable. Some people will repent and some will leave the Church, but at least everyone will know what being Catholic actually entails and you will not have to answer to God for your silence.

  107. Gulielmus says:

    As complicated and distasteful as this all is, I must agree with jhayes that we don’t know what exactly happened. The differing versions of the story cast a somewhat different light on the priest’s actions, and I am not persuaded by the apparent hordes of witnesses in the sacristy who tell ever-more egregious versions of the events. It was said in the 19th century that if everyone who claimed to have been in Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot were actually there they must have been stacked like firewood or they wouldn’t have fitted. This is beginning to sound like that– and it makes me suspect the accuracy of the reporting.

  108. wmeyer says:

    Although we do not know by direct witness what occurred, I would offer this further insight. They both give every appearance in that article of being proudly Lesbian, publicly Lesbian, and publicly and proudly promiscuous. It is difficult in the extreme to imagine a justification for someone in such a state to receive communion. And it is entirely possible, given Ms. Johnson’s public statements, that the good priest was all too aware of her persistent and obstinate behavior.

  109. tcreek says:

    What is the sense in discussing this when the source of the main problem is much higher up and very evident?

    If you haven’t and care to,view the link in my post at Feb 29, 9:50. It is disgusting what went on at that Mass. The now cardinal archbishop of New York and president of the USCCB seems very happy to be in the presence of many openly gay and lesbian “Catholics” who use their “Catholic” parish to promote their lifestyle. How many thousands of “communions” have they received with nary an objection raised?

    Archbishop Dolan HAD to know what goes on at that parish and should have declined to “reconsecrate” the church.

    In the current situation, Fr. Guarnizo who denied communion and the lady that attempted to receive are both victims of many years of false shepherding.

  110. Christine111 says:

    I have a feeling that when the priest has to stand before the Judgment Seat of God and give an account of his actions here, God will not parse Canon 915 and talk legalisms, but will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As to what He will say to his bishop…

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