A lesbian in Maryland was recently denied communion at her mother’s funeral, and the incident has sparked outrage, even from the local Archdiocese.
Former Catholic school teacher and lifelong observant Catholic Barbara Johnson suffered a one-two blow when she lost her mother. First, she had to cope with the grief of losing a parent and planning a religious funeral. Then, she suffered the homophobic hostility of the presiding priest, Father Marcel Guarzino, at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md.
According to the Washington, D.C. CBS affiliate WUSA, on February 25, Guarzino prevented Johnson from receiving communion at her mother’s funeral shortly after learning that Johnson was a lesbian. When Johnson went up to receive the host, Guarzino allegedly said, “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman.”
Guarzino then added insult to injury when he left the altar after Johnson began to deliver her eulogy. He didn’t return until after Johnson finished, and closed out his godly behavior by refusing to accompany Johnson, with her mother’s body, to the cemetery, claiming that he’d “suddenly fallen ill.”
“No other family should have to suffer what we did from this man,” Johnson told WUSA. The Archdiocese of Washington responded to Johnson’s complaint and agreed the priest acted improperly. “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,” it said. Johnson said she and her family were satisfied with the apology.
Guarzino, in a letter later posted online, insisted that Johnson had suddenly, unbidden, revealed her female “lover” to him at the service and Catholic doctrine prevented him from administering the sacrament. “I am going to defend my conduct in these instances, because what happened I believe contains a warning to the church,” he said. Johnson’s family responded by calling him a liar, liar, vestments on fire.