Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Persecution of Fr. Guarnizo Intensifies

I trust that Dymphna will not mind my borrowing this image from her excellent blog: it is a good reminder that faithful priests can expect no easier fate than that which befell Him Whose representatives on earth they are.  And now, one faithful priest who has been suffering before the world on account of his love of the Eucharist, has been given a new and heavier cross to bear.

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, who denied Holy Communion to an open lesbian (who, by the way, is also an activist and practicing Buddhist) has now been placed on administrative leave, and prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington.  Dr. Peters expounds on what this development means and what it doesn't mean from a canonical point of view.

The March 9th letter from auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout cites "credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry."  These allegations are not specified but are described as being of a "grave nature."

I have never been to Gaithersburg, Maryland, and neither I nor anybody I know personally am familiar with the particular ins and outs of the parish where Fr. Guarnizo was stationed.  I must confess to not knowing what exactly gave rise to the allegations that have led to Fr. Guarnizo being put on administrative leave.  However, a few general observations spring to mind.  

-- Firstly, it is interesting that it has taken until now, when he has become embroiled in controversy, to discover the "intimidation" tactics of a priest who has been in the parish since March, 2011.  Even if there are legitimate grounds to place Fr. Guarnizo on leave, the timing of this new action against him stinks.  It looks like the lesbian activist has won.  That the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Washington, D.C. appears to be caving to a lobby of public sinners ought to be a matter of concern to the cardinal archbishop. 

-- Secondly, it has long been my experience that it is the support staff who wield the real power in many organizations -- parishes included -- because very often only they know how to keep them running on a day-to-day basis.  In an age when parish priests are frequently and routinely transferred, and laity are "empowered" pursuant to the "spirit of Vatican II," it seems to me that the parish staff, who are often the only real constants in the parish office over the long term, enjoy an accumulation of influence and thus a certain security not shared by the priests that they see coming and going down the years.  

-- Thirdly, Fr. Guarnizo appears, by all accounts, to be, overall, a man of sense.  It is ridiculous to suppose that a sensible priest who has only been in the parish for a year, is not the pastor, and is, moreover, incardinated in another diocese, should try to "intimidate" the parish staff who are higher on the totem pole than he is.  That he should do so at a time when his own influence is at its lowest ebb, and he knows he does not enjoy the backing of the archbishop, is absurd.  That parish staff should actually feel "intimidated" by a priest in such a tenuous position -- even if the lesbian-Communion imbroglio had not taken place -- simply strains all credibility.

I continue to stand by my previous analysis of this business.  In the light of all that has emerged so far regarding this ugly affair, I am perfectly prepared to believe that someone has been deploying intimidation tactics; but I am not prepared to believe that that someone is Fr. Marcel Guarnizo.    Pray for him and for all embattled priests.


  1. Right on Anita! It is the Archdiocese who acted in haste and imprudently this time!

  2. T.P.C., it certainly gives every appearance of having done so.