Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Persecution of Fr. Guarnizo

In re the campaign to destroy Fr. Marcel Guarnizo in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a few observations:

-- The whole business smells like a set-up. It appears that Fr. Guarnizo has a reputation as a faithful and orthodox priest.  It appears further that the complaining party in this ugly affair is not a reliable source of information regarding what actually happened. Good priests can expect more of this sort of thing.  Bishops need to be fathers to their priests and defend them against unjust attacks.   Catholics in the pews need to pray harder for their shepherds. 

-- Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law provides:
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.
It would seem that if any part of this canon applied in this case, it would be the language about "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin."  Not being a canonist, and not being familiar with canon law evidentiary standards, I hesitate to undertake a legal analysis.  I do note that at least one prominent canonist, Dr. Ed Peters, is of the opinion that Fr. Guarnizo erred, and his opinion appears to derive from the conclusion that the requirement of manifestness is not satisfied in this case.  Dr. Peters says:
Unless a substantial majority of the community in question (I’m assuming them to be adults, reasonably aware of Catholic life around them, etc.) knows at the time why a given individual is being denied holy Communion, that’s a pretty good sign that Canon 915 has not been satisfied, and that Canon 912 (and some others norms) has been violated.
However, Peters pursues his analysis as though this incident took place at an ordinary Sunday Mass, whereas it took place at a funeral.  The woman who was denied Communion was not just another face in the crowd, but the daughter of the deceased -- a prominent figure among those assembled.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that those gathered for the funeral were family and friends, and thus knew about this woman's living arrangements.  What I would like to see a canonist address is whether these factors change the Canon 915 analysis, and if not, why not.

-- Even if the priest erred, the punishment sought by the putative injured party is out of all proportion to the offense.  The high-tech lynching Fr. Guarnizo is currently undergoing is also out of all proportion to his alleged offense, and stands as stark proof that charity has gone cold in the world.  His apparent abandonment by the archdiocese is shameful.  If Fr. Guarnizo did indeed err, then, as Dr. Peters says in one of his posts linked above, it is correction rather than punishment that is called for.

-- Canonists and clergy who opine that Fr. Guarnizo did the wrong thing in this case should not be surprised by the fact that so many laymen are anxious to justify his actions, even on erroneous grounds -- even regardless of what canon law provides.  Such a reaction is the natural and inevitable product of decades of anger at the spectacle of hired hands allowing the wolves to ravage the fold with impunity while putting the smackdown on holy priests.  Monumental injustices continue unabated: national pro-abortion figures continue to be admitted to Holy Communion; certain parishes continue to be homosexualist playgrounds; gross liturgical abuses are still the order of the day in many places, and not a peep out of those charged with the responsibility of putting a stop to all this.  Naturally, the lay faithful are outraged to see the hierarchy straining out the gnat of a priest denying Holy Communion to a lesbian (if indeed this can be characterized as a "gnat") while swallowing all these camels.

-- In my judgment, the person most deserving of sympathy and support in this situation is not the lesbian who rushed into print with a sensational account of this business, but Fr. Marcel Guarnizo.  He, not she, is the real target of hatred in this whole affair.  It must have made him feel sick to be placed in such an awful position -- a situation every faithful priest must dread.  Whether he was right or wrong, he surely did the best he could in very trying circumstances.

Pray for Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, and for all our priests and bishops.


  1. This analysis is spot on. I'm linking to it from my blog.

  2. Of course it was a set-up. The daughter is a homosexual and set out to "make a point." That's what many of them do best.

    I say "many" because I'm trying not to paint every homosexual with the same brush.

    It is the daughter that turned this into a circus and the priest will suffer. There are powers afoot that seek the destruction of the Church, or at least the remaking of the Church in the way that will support whatever it is they want to do.

    Shame on the bishop for not standing up for his priest.

  3. Mary Ann, thank you for the link! Adrienne, I totally agree.

  4. Anita, thank you for posting this. The parish in question is mine so I am keeping this alive on my own blog, to keep Father Guarnizo in the eyes of us faithful Catholics. I too am linking to this post.

  5. Thanks for the link, Restore! My best wishes and prayers to Fr. Guarnizo.

  6. I agree with this post. No one was holding a gun to this womans head forcing her to be Catholic ...she has the freedom to choose her affiliations, but we (not being Kennedys or Nancy Pelosi) arent supposed to be able to choose abject obstinate sin AND full communion with the Church. She had the freedom to have a lesbian lover and bring her to Church, just not take communion.

    My mom left the Church 50 years ago and has done nothing but deride it since. The day her best friend died, she went to the local Church to light a candle but it was the time of Lent when we dont light candles...she went into the Church DEMANDING that they let her light one, The PRiest told her "no" and she proceeded to have a world-class conniption at the Priest and everyone there then she called me to scream so me more. She chooses to not be a part of the Church, why the heck should we cave to demands for her to redefine the very institution she rejects?

  7. Here we have a real priest trying to do what he is supposed to and now the Church is slapping him around for the benefit of the media. No wonder so few people take the Bishops seriously any more.

  8. I am very much inspired by and proud of Fr. Guarnizo for so loving and defending our Eucharistic LORD, and frankly, the soul of this woman. What beautiful faith he has! I pray this holy priest is being consoled by Our LORD for the right he clearly chose -- may he never doubt that he did the right thing and always remember that it is an honor to suffer for Christ. +JMJ+

  9. "Canonists and clergy who opine that Fr. Guarnizo did the wrong thing in this case should not be surprised by the fact that so many laymen are anxious to justify his actions, even on erroneous grounds -- even regardless of what canon law provides."

    I don't think they are surprised. Certainly, I am not, I've seen everything these folks have seen, and likely, considerably more. Much of my work has been to defend those folks. But the solution to decades of disregard for law is not more disregard for law, now, is it.

    Best, edp.

  10. But the solution to decades of disregard for law is not more disregard for law, now, is it.

    No. As a civil lawyer who has sworn to uphold the civil law and the federal and Idaho Constitutions, I do not advocate disregard for the law. But I do recognize that in this case, a lot of the response to the incident springs from being fed up with years of seeing bishops allow manifest injustices to slide. People who hold that Fr. Guarnizo was right, regardless of what the law says, may perhaps be blamed for not caring what the law says. However, I don't think they can be blamed for viewing this as a campaign of persecution against a good priest. In my judgment, this latter view is correct, even if Father violated canon law, since the "remedy" sought by the aggrieved party is out of all proportion to the offense alleged.

  11. I'm pretty sure we agree here. As lawyers, we have to help people think through the hard cases, lest they be used for bad law.

  12. The hard cases and the bad law were established by Cardinal O'Malley at the unspeakably grotesque funeral for the apostate Ted Kennedy.

    It is truly spoken by Our Lord of the Pharisees, that they strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.

  13. I should add: I don't find myself entirely persuaded that Fr. Guarnizo did violate the law -- certainly, if this were a criminal case in the secular court, with all the evidentiary standards and burden of proof that apply in that forum, I would judge this to be a defensible case. But even if he were to be found guilty in such a forum, I feel pretty sure I could get him a penalty not to exceed court costs -- no jail or probation.

  14. The Archdiocese sent a letter to the Washington Post, "sort" of apologizing, saying that "no one is entitled to the Eucharist and that anyone that obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion". has two stories about this fiasco and this woman bought her sex partner into the room to meet this Priest that she DID NOT want to do the funeral Mass. He told her not to come up to receive Holy Communion, but she left the room and her partner in sin, blocked him from going out after her. BEFORE Communion, he told everybody that was not right with God, cannot receive Holy Communion. She went up to him and he covered Jesus so she went to the other line to receive him. Just how did she get the Bishop's attention so fast, as we can't even get into contact with our bishops. +JMJ+

  15. I don't know if it makes a difference, but I've read that Fr. Guarnizo actually informed this woman BEFORE mass that she was not to present herself for communion. ( - see the last part, quoting a comment from Deacon Kendra's blog.) It seems she presented herself to spite the Church.

    I'm far from being a canonist (I've only been Catholic for a year), but it seems to me that "manifest" could simply mean that it's obvious beyond doubt; in this case, living a lesbian lifestyle is a sin obvious beyond doubt - it was obvious to the woman, and was made very obvious and clear to the priest; i.e. he was left in no doubt that she was obstinately living in grave sin. Unless by some less than 1 to a billion chance she had never heard that living a homosexual lifestyle was a sin, I can't see how this is possibly NOT a case of "obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin."

    I agree with the point of the priest's obligation to show pastoral care - an obligation which was lost here completely. But I get the feeling that this woman wasn't looking for pastoral care, nor would she have accepted it even had the priest offered it perfectly and without error.

    Aside from my belief he was right and (canonly) lawful in what he did, I'm praying for Fr. Guarnizo.

  16. The Vatican has provided insight into Canon 915 through The Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts (PCILT) with a Declaration dated June 24, 2000 (Declaration). In the Declaration the PCILT clarifies the phrase "and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin." This should not be disregarded!

    According to the Declaration 3 things are needed to establish the need to refuse communion:

    1. Grave sin- which cannot reasonably be in dispute here.
    2. Obstinate persistence - the Declaration specifically states that the only thing required is that the sin is enduring..."no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) [are] necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation."
    3. Manifest character - the Declaration clarifies that the opportunity for scandal must be removed.
    Here, the woman's sinful lifestyle was undoubtably known to more than a few in attendance. Not only was the funeral congregation comprised of some number of people who likely know the deceased's daughter, but her lifestyle was evident from the death notice published in the Washington Post death notice, listing the woman and her partner, Ruth, as if they are a married couple. It defies reason to claim the opportunity for scandal was removed.

    Given these Vatican instructions, it seems erroneous to suggest that Fr. Guarnizo was ignorant of the law. I'm curious how Mr. Peters would reconcile his demand that the priest verify the notoriety or obstinacy of the sin with this Declaration. Moreover, the PCILT states that while "prudence strongly suggests the avoidance of public denial...[that] is not the controlling factor." Rather, the Declaration states that when such "precautionary measures have not had their effect or... were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy." Fr. Guarnizo appears better informed on this matter than Mr. Peters.

  17. Thursday, March 15, 2012
    Eucharist is not to be given to the Quaker, Lutheran, and Buddhist since they are outside the Church
    If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either. If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.- Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, Archdiocese of Washington D.C

  18. Gnat. Camel. Stand with the priest. Stand against the Pharisees.

  19. the priest was within his rights to refuse communion. I am gay, but not practicing. I strongly oppose the Catholic Churh's teachings on the subject. So, I will avoid communion as I have done for 20 years.

    Hoever, if the priest at my mother's funeral choose to leave the church during my eulogy for her or refuses at the last minute to say prayers at the graveside as this priest did, I will give him a beating he'll never forget.

  20. Frank, do you realize that battery on a priest is a sacrilege? Would you really do that? Shouldn't you leave the judgment of a guilty priest to God?

    Besides, it is my understanding that Fr. Guarnizo walked out and failed to perform the graveside rites because he became ill. The thought of the villification he surely knew was coming would have been enough to make him ill.

  21. P.S. Please renounce your errors and come back to the fold. Hell is forever.