A woman in the Washington, D.C., area is reeling after being denied communion at a funeral Mass for her deceased mother. From the Washington Post:

Deep in grief, 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.

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 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.

The Archdiocese of Washington said that the offending priest’s actions were against church policy:

“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.”

An auxiliary bishop sent a letter to Johnson expressing his regret for the lack of pastoral kindness:

“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,” Knestout wrote. “I hope that healing and reconciliation with the Church might be possible for you and any others who were affected by this experience. In the meantime, I will offer Mass for the happy repose of your mother’s soul. May God bring you and your family comfort in your grief and hope in the Resurrection.”

Another Washington Post writer sought comment from Guarnizo to no avail, but found a video of him praying in front of a Maryland clinic. Read the post and see the video here.

While episodes like this are perhaps not common in the church, it is not surprising when they do happen. Strong rhetoric against same-sex marriage and even legal protection for gay individuals from US bishops makes its way into parishes, and some priests seem to forget their duty to serve as pastors. At a Mass I attended last weekend, the priest said that Catholics are engaged in severe “spiritual warfare” and that Lent is a time to polish our spiritual armor.  In an article in this month’s US Catholic, one priest said he was more concerned about “protecting the faith” than allowing a child of a same-sex couple into his parish school. It’s sometimes easy to dissociate language from actions, though perhaps the story above is an example of what trumped up rhetoric looks like in real life.

Comments

Katherine McEwen | 3/20/2012 - 11:55am
After reading the article and all the posts, I still believe the priest involved at that funeral had the pastoral sensitivity of a rock.  Charity needs to come before the cold rule of law.  Laws are made for people, not people for the law.  And there are times when the spirit of the law needs to be shown over the letter of the law.  Pharasaical bloviating at a person's mother's funeral is just downright unjust and uncalled for.
david power | 3/3/2012 - 8:50pm
Maria and Juan and other interested parties,

What is communion with Christ?Having read what Maria just wrote I am left  wondering if anybody knows who Jesus is.This woman  seems to have bypassed the Lord in her search for communion.Is Christ to be found amongst us at a Mass???
JIM MCCREA | 2/29/2012 - 5:39pm
There are parishes all over this country where people known to be LGBT, in or out of a relationship,  are welcomed in the church, at the altar and given the Eucharist.

What "the church" teaches and what The Church does are 2 very different things.  The Holy Spirit blows where She will, irrespective of what a bunch of "celibate" old men say and think.
Juan Lino | 3/2/2012 - 10:21am
David,
 
“…you can be sure the Priest would have been seized by the Holy Spirit too.”  LOL, yes I have no doubt about that! 
 
I never met Don Gius, and would have liked to, and people who did have told me stories about him.     
 
Anyway, I’m done writing about this, especially since it reduces my chances of making TYPOS!
 
VSS…
david power | 3/2/2012 - 9:09am
Juan,

Don Giussani said that as he got older his consciousness could no longer bear so many things.Things were just "Good" or "bad".This may seem to a person who has never read Giussani to be a simplification and they would of course be right.This I consider "Bad" ,not very complex at all.
My post was to show that somebody is at times being more "catholic than the Pope" and that is something nobody could really accuse me of being.
Nobody should want to be more catholic at all.
I am not into a censoring of the body of christ just lmao at the idea that people imagine that power is not what is behind all of this.If that poor woman had gone to the sacristy with her girlfriend and  a cheque for a seminary or to pass onto the bishop for his "charitable offerings" as they say in the Vatican you can be sure the Priest would have been seized by the Holy Spirit too. 
Enough of all that.
Juan btw you are the TYPO king .Or maybe you are the only one who is aware of his errors.
When I read this morning about the Teacher and the student my first reaction was "at least he is taking an interest in his students" :).
Juan Lino | 3/2/2012 - 7:46am
Big typo: So, yes I believe that Blair, Brother Roger, Murdoch, the governor of my state, certain politicians, should NOT have been given Holy Communion!!
Juan Lino | 3/2/2012 - 7:35am
So, the old “more Catholic than the Pope argument” finally shows up.  Ok, here’s my response. 

This “nobody” believes a person can commit the sin of sacrilege.  This “nobody” believes that a “priest has an obligation to make sure that the sacraments are respected, and any person who obstinately perseveres in manifest grave sin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”  This “nobody” believes in scandal as outlined in paragraphs #2284 to 2287 in the CCC.  This “nobody” believes that sins against chastity (adultery - Abe here’s the link! - homosexual acts, fornication, etc.) are grave (or “mortal”) sins when the three required conditions are present.  This “nobody” believes people should follow their conscience and if they discover that it’s poorly formed, correct it.  This “nobody” believes that Protestants should not receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church.  This “nobody” believes that saints and popes can make mistakes.  This “nobody” believes he can made mistakes, use poor judgment, misunderstand things, etc., but “I will not go along just to get along” about certain things.  This “nobody” believes that some of the “careerists” in the Church follow Machiavelli more than Christ (although they would have been better off reading “The Art of War” or “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms” instead).  And I could on, and on, and on!
 
So, yes I believe that Blair, Brother Roger, Murdoch, the governor of my state, certain politicians, should have been given Holy Communion!!
 
Now, if the Zeitgeist police want to come to my house to ship me off to the American version of the Gulag for reeducation (along with this priest) so that I can be a good old Spanish boy that’s no trouble at all, I welcome them to try.  And I would hope, although not too much, that some of you would stand with me because I can tell you that I will stand with you.  Yes, I will tell you that I do not agree with you when I think you are wrong but I stand with any individual who is being oppressed by “power”. 
 
So do I support what Barbara did?  Yes I do.  She probably thought that what she was doing was not sinful and so wanted to receive Holy Communion at her mother’s funeral.  Do I support what the priest did?  Yes I do.  He also thought that his actions were not sinful.   
 
Do I think the priest had bad timing, is insensitive, probably abhors people with SSA? Yes!  Does he need “sensitivity training”?  Yes.  Is it right for the Bishop, Archdiocese, etc. to apologize for his insensitivity if he won’t? Of course. Should he examine his conscience? Yes. If it’s true that the woman wants “revenge” do I think that’s wrong.  Of course.
 
Yes, one must sometimes draw a line in the sand and stand up and fight for what they believe in.  If you didn’t know what I believe in, now you do.
david power | 3/2/2012 - 4:40am
Juan,

Tony Blair has always been vocally Pro-Abortion and Pro-War and also Pro Gay marriage and until 2007 he was an Anglican ,nonetheless he was given the Holy Eucharist in the Vatican by the last Pope.
This is a massive double standard and unacceptable behaviour.This woman was at her mother's funeral and her crime was that she loved in the "wrong" way.How can we justify this??Blair was a big fish and so worthy and she a nobody and so worthy of chastisement.Pope Benedict gave Brother Roger the Eucharist even though he
 never was a catholic.
Do we condemn these actions too?? 
Rupert Murdoch is a Knight of St Gregory even though he is involved in more porn than Hefner .
Why on earth should any parish priest be more stringent than Popes or even supposed Saints?

Rick Fueyo | 3/1/2012 - 9:45pm
The good Fr may be well intentioned, but he is Pharasaic, unpastoral and causing scandal.  Thank God (literally) for ex opera operato, or it would be impossible for the Host he distributes to be appropriately sanctified.  He profanes what he touches 
William Lindsey | 3/1/2012 - 9:43pm
Amy Ho-Ohn writes,

''Everything that has been reported about the incident is gossip and hearsay. The truth is known only to the participants. The secular media are drooling in joyful anticipation of a feeding frenzy.''

I'm confused.

The Washington Post is reporting today that the Archdiocese of Washington has apologized to Ms. Johnson for the indignity and pain inflicted on her at her mother's funeral.

The same source cites Most Rev. Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop and vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Washington, to say, “In my years as a priest, I have encountered many pastoral situations and know that kindness to those experiencing personal loss is a necessary part of the church’s call to charity. The fact that you did not experience this is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.” 

And so I'm confused: does Ms. Ho-Ohn think the officials of the Archdiocese of Washington are dabbling in ''gossip and hearsay''?

And if officials of the Archdiocese of Washington have weighed in with the statements cited above, why is Ms. Ho-Ohn speaking of a ''feeding frenzy'' by the secular media?

The comments of Washington archdiocesan officials suggest to me that the question of the secular media's involvement is a red herring here, and that it's also disingenuous to speak of gossip and hearsay when archdiocesan officials are making statements that verify media reports and Ms. Johnson's own testimony, along with that of other eyewitnesses.

The comments of Washington archdiocesan officials suggest to me that we Catholics have every reason in the world to be be concerned about whether charity and pastoral sensitivity predominate at our liturgical celebrations.

Always.  In every place.  In every time frame throughout history.

Because how do we remember Jesus in any effective way otherwise? 

Love, justice, and mercy are what Jesus was about, and what we have to be about if we remember him meaningfully.  Not shoving people from the table and inflicting indignity on them at a mother's funeral.

And not defending or excusing such behavior, while we call ourselves exemplary Catholics. 
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/1/2012 - 9:10pm
Maria, I have not been to mass at the Dominican House of Studies. Maybe someday I will make a point to go there.  I like the weekday masses at the Holy Trinity chapel, which is one of my two favorite chapels in the DC area.

The explanation you post is helpful. Ms. Johnson is not excommunicated nor was she trying to use the eucharist to make a political statement, so it seems the priest in question was wrong, as it was not his place to judge the woman who presented herself for communion and take it on himself to deny it.  It seems that he was the one who actually may have misused the eucharist and the entire funeral mass to make a political statement since he also walked out during the eulogy and refused to go to the cemetary. This was a funeral mass with friends and family only in attendance. One can pray that he has learned a good lesson from all of this and that in the future he will remember that his first response should not be to judge, but to love.  Apparently the pastor of that parish was ''pastoral'' and has apologized to the family of the deceased for his assistant's very poor judgment.  A diocesan representative has also apologized to Ms. Johnson and her family for this very sad and unfortunate lack of charity.
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/1/2012 - 7:30pm
Maria, thank you, I hadn't noticed the zen group.  But, it meets a bit too early for me on a Saturday.

 I guess you aren't much of a Merton fan.  If you aren't quite ready for zen, maybe you should try Trinity's (John Main) christian meditation group instead. John Main was a Benedictine monk and headmaster at St. Anselm's Abbey for several years. Is that straight-up Catholic enough for you?  It meets in the  early evening after the 5:30 daily mass I think. Check the bulletin for the day. Try it - you might be pleasantly surprised.  God is often more easily heard in silence.

david power | 3/1/2012 - 6:16pm
Maria,

That is how I always pictured you! :) 
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/1/2012 - 6:14pm
Maria, as an alumna of Georgetown, I  disgree strongly with Ms. Sheridan's opinion that Georgetown ''needs'' anyone to bring it back to its ''Catholic identity''. It never lost it.  Holy Trinity lives true Catholicism in an exemplary way. Perhaps some like a parish with a narrow focus on being pious and spending their lives attending ''devotions''  but others prefer a lived christianity. It's parishes like Holy Trinity that keep many Catholics in the church in spite of so much that seems designed to drive them out.  

Juan, I wrote too fast and my sentence was misleading. There are two articles. One is by Fr. Martin, and the other, the ''Love your Enemy in the Pew'', is by Gerald W. Schlabach.  It starts on p. 9 of the bulletin and Fr. Martin's article starts on p. 1
david power | 3/1/2012 - 5:21pm
Thanks Jeanne,

Very interesting article  with a very ignatian spiritual practise at its core, agire contro I believe it is called.Still ,he went too far with the Weigel thing I would prefer the wailing and gnashing of teeth.   
Juan Lino | 3/1/2012 - 5:19pm
My bad, a momentary lack of decorum Tim; it shouldn’t happen again. 
 
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I am obviously having a “bad proofreading day” – mea culpa.
 
One of my paragraphs in #20 should read: As Anne alludes and Joe points out, the question of whether the priest applied canon 915 correctly is open to debate but I agree with both of you that from the little we know it doesn’t seem to be the case.
 
Another should read: Abe, …although I wonder if St. Paul wouldn’t take both of us to task for uncritically swallowing the “cultural “commandment”…
 
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Anne – have you ever heard the expression “amor es dolor “?  My mom taught it to me and I think it’s extremely realistic because love does include pain!  So, I do not believe that being told “no” (yes, it should be done nicely if possible but sometimes it must be done harshly) means that the person doesn’t love me. 
 
I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that I agree with Fr. Ronald Rolheiser’s statement.  Some, I know, will interpret it as a license to engage in sacrilege, but I don’t take it that way at all.
 
You wrote: I do believe that one must follow one's conscience - but, a properly formed conscience does not lead someone to harm another person and this priest did cause harm to another. That should have tipped him off that he had not fully informed his conscience and it was misleading him.”  Hmm… I think you’re really stretching it here Anne.  Yes, we must follow our properly formed conscience but to say he caused her “harm” when there’s the possibility and appearance that she might have intentionally set-up the situation is definitely a stretch.  It reminds me of my younger sibling who made themself cry just before my mom and dad got home so that I could get punished, so forgive me if I am skeptical.  Sure, you can say I am stretching it too, but we don’t know do we.  I do know that there are some people with SSA that intentionally set-up these situations; was she one of them, I don’t know.  Once peoples, egos, emotions, etc., are involved reason usually is discarded.  I am trying very hard to not condemn either one yet because appearances are not facts. (I hope that makes sense!)
 
What I am railing against is the glee that some in the media (and inside the Church too!) exhibit when they’ve discovered a new tool to bludgeon the Church with.  Yes, criticize what’s wrong in the Church, reform what needs reform, but speak out against Anti-Catholicism.  Also, we (and include myself here) allowed the media to “play us” (my first comment is exhibit 1) by stimulating up our emotions.  Amy saw that, we didn’t; or maybe we did but it allows us to promote our agenda.  Anyway, let’s never forget that the Media is an excellent “Grifter” (watching the movie “The Grifters” will clarify what I am trying to say).
 
I do uphold the rights of people like Sr. Louise Lears and Fr.Roy B and countless others who disobeyed their bishops under the assertion that their properly formed conscience obligates them to do it and I uphold the rights of the Church to affirm when individuals are wrong and to publically acknowledge that they have separated themselves from the Body of Christ, which is what “excommunication” acknowledges, and/or teaching ideas harmful to the Church.  So yes, anyone who harms the Body of Christ should be disciplined.
 
As a personal aside, I’ve been denied communion twice so I know how it “feels” – the first time by a “conservative” priest who somehow decided I was some kind of a gay terrorist; and another time by a “liberal” priest because I wanted to receive Holy Communion while kneeling.  Did I think they were “unloving”, no; did I think they were “jerks with issues”, yes!  Did it become my mission to destroy them for embarrassing me – pleeeeease, I have better things to do with my time.  As Ghandi said - and this is from memory, ok - we want to change people’s minds not punish them for faults we all have.) 
 
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Abe – it seems like you and Anne are zeroing in on the same point, from different directions, in your new comment (#26).  My blinders about this being the painful thing that it’s being made out to be are there because of my life experiences, which were not comfy middle-class experiences.  They were tough and I am surprised that I lived through them and/or that I didn’t end up in jail.  The funny thing is that I believed in evil long before I believed in God because that’s what I saw.  I am helping my friend work with teenagers because I am hoping that by telling them what I did, what I saw, what happened to me, that they will avoid the experiences I had.  I know that sometimes people have to go through what they have to go through.  So I appreciate that you and Anne are trying to nudge me to be less like “Spock” and more like “Kirk” about certain things.
 
Perhaps what I am about to say is not on point but I love the messiness of the Church! Yes, like Fr. David Telemond said in the movie, The Shoes of the Fisherman, there are times when I hate Her; but in the end, I definitely love Her because I love Christ.  Given a choice, I would rather hang with someone like Heather King than the many “I’m fine, you’re not” people I’ve met in certain Catholic circles.
 
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Norma – brava for your comments.  Yes, a bit of Fr. Jim’s humor would be great.
 
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Jeanne – Fr. Jim’s article 'Love the Enemy in Your Pew' looks really good – I find it so I can read the whole thing.
 
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I’m signing off for a while.  Blessings to all.
Jeanne Linconnue | 3/1/2012 - 4:14pm
Deacon Kandra (#24), there is a strong emphasis on personal piety and devotions at St. John Neumann, but a minimal involvement with social justice, other than the pro-life activities, narrowly defined. The danger that seems to come with an emphasis on personal devotions is that they seem to lead some into an excessive focus on self - they pray for their own salvation, they earn indulgences for themselves and family or friends, it becomes all about themselves - and too often does not seem to lead people to begin living the teachings of Jesus - who said that the great commandments are to love.  The priest at this funeral mass did not show any love at all for the woman whose mother's funeral was being held.  If pious practices don't lead people out of themselves to express this love for our neighbors as Jesus told us to do (including to Ms. Johnson) or to live those actions Jesus said we are all required to do to show love as defined in Matthew 25, they they are empty piety.  Somewhere Jesus scolds the pharisees and scribes for an excessive concern about outward things and outward piety  - what they wear, and rituals, and laws but no spirit, and long prayers with too many words, and praying in public so everyone will see how pious they are.  Jesus warned of the risks.  Sometimes it seems there is an inverse ratio between the number of pious and devotional activities in a parish and how many social justice ministries it is involved with. The more devotions a parish has, the less the engagement with the hungry and homeless and others in need and with the entire range of pro-life activities (death penalty, war, poverty and hunger, adequate healthcare etc).  I also don't see how a Latin mass can create more love in people's hearts than an English mass. This parish collects groceries for the St. Martin's food pantry but is not unique - this food pantry is supported by most of the parishes in the area. Generally parishoners simply drop off groceries at their home parish before mass on Sunday and a couple of faithful volunteers take it to the food pantry - it's absolutely necessary support, but not really ''active'' engagement with the food pantry.

Vince (#25), take a look at the weekly bulletin of Holy Trinity church in Washington DC for a glimpse of a very vibrant parish, with extensive offerings for nurturing the spiritual lives of its parishoners and then many opportunities for them to live the social justice teachings of Jesus in a huge variety of ministries.

There is an article by James Martin, SJ in the March 4 bulletin also called ''Meeting the Victim, Loving the Poor'' which is a good read, and a short piece  called ''Love the Enemy in Your Pew'' on p. 9, which offers some very timely advice for this discussion.

''So this Lent, listen to uncomfortable voices in your community. Listen without arguing back, for as long as it takes to really hear. Listen deliberately. Listen for the back story behind positions you may never agree with. Debate later.

Listening is the virtue this proposed Lenten discipline would inculcate if practiced throughout the year; it could become a lifelong habit. Especially in our era of culture wars, in which the blogosphere allows us to flame “enemies” we never meet face-to-face, nothing may affect us short of sitting down over coffee or on a park bench to listen face-to-face.

Listen particularly to someone who represents all you think might be wrong with the church. A Catholic neighbor, for example, who is so impassioned about some ways of defending life that he or she seems to ignore other ways. Or an openly gay Catholic who continues to receive the Eucharist or an activist campaigning to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Listen to the fan of that dangerous neoconservative columnist George Weigel, or the fan of that idealistic peacenik Jesuit John Dear; the parish liturgist who still includes those awful guitar-Mass ditties in the new Roman Mass or the patriarch in the next pew who glares when someone changes “his” to “God’s,” for “the good of all God’s holy
Church.”
NORMA NUNAG | 3/1/2012 - 3:12pm
#9 Amy, I agree with you wholeheartedly.   And Juan I appreciate your courage.  Now, let's all heed David's suggestion to only attack ideas, not persons..... as hot issues seem to always deteriorate into judging, condemning, and making unfair generalizations (such as, the hierarchy, the bishops and the priests are this and that, as though we are privy to their office, thoughts, reasons for their decisions on whatever).   And Tim, thanks for being such a great referee/moderator. 
Thank you all, I really enjoy all your comments, although some moments they get too serious, that I wish Fr. Jim, S,J. would appear and inject some good humor, laughter and joy into the discussions.
Kang Dole | 3/1/2012 - 12:55pm
Juan, I appreciate your response. I would make two observations.

First, I would challenge your repeated reference to making people "uncomfortable." It does not seem to me as though discomfort was the fruit of the priest's actions, and when you consider the context and what happened, that shouldn't be surprising. Shame and the exacerbation of grief seems to have been the result.

Second, I would argue that Paul does validate certain sorts of accomodation, as well as patience and understanding.There are issues of doctrine, hierarchy, and penalization at play in a Roman Catholic context that were not present in the same way in Paul's communities, but still. Look back over the same letter we've been discussing. It's in 1st Corinthians that Paul touts his efforts to be all thing to all people for the gospel. It's there that he warns against discomforting the "weak" and thus causing them to fall away from the gospel. Now, we can disagree about who's weak and who's strong, but I think that the pastoral implications of Paul's words resonate in this situation.
Vince Killoran | 3/1/2012 - 11:48am
Sorry to be so exacting about this but I did read the parish bulletin-it's loaded with pro-life and anti-gay marriage events and news; as you note, there are other activities but they do not originate at the parish (they're more announcements or acknowledgement of donations).  I don't know what we are to make of the $19k weekly collection-it's certainly not a sign of engagement with Catholic social teaching.  The parish is located in an affluent area.

My point was not to zero in on this parish but to note the shift in priorities over the decades.  Sadly, my own parish bulletin reads very much like that of St. John Newman. 
Juan Lino | 3/1/2012 - 10:06am
I strongly believe that the Liturgy of the Eucharist should NOT be “politicized” but that’s, unfortunately, what has happened in my short lifetime - perhaps it has always been that way and perhaps it will always be that way, some of you further down the road are in a better position to say.
 
None of us were there, none of us can see into Ms. Johnson’s  or Fr. Guarnizo’s hearts, minds, souls, etc.  to really know what their motivations were at the moment.  On the surface, I think they were both a mixture of good and bad, a fact that none of us can avoid.  
 
It’s very easy to say “I would have done something else” but until the moment arrives you really have no idea what you would do.  And, because “I’ve been there”, I never say “Oh, I would never do that” because I have seen the depths of the evil that resides in my heart, and in the hearts of others, up close and personal!   
 
As Anne alludes and Joe points out, the question of whether the priest applied canon 915 correctly or not is open to debate but I agree with both of you that from the little we know it doesn’t seem to be the case.
 
Joe, while I disagree with some of the points of your exegetical interpretation of St. Paul’s letter, and the thrust of certain parts of your comment, I agree with your general point, although I wonder if St. Paul would take both of us to task for swallowing the “ cultural “commandment” that we should never make a person uncomfortable, physically, mentally, or emotionally."  (Although I must say that in our little “America blog” community we don’t seem to suffer from this problem as much as those in the community at my office where everyone tries so hard to be politically correct.)
 
Well, in my opinion, some of the comments are now strongly sliding toward “Loshon Hora”, so maybe a “time out” / “walk away” is needed, as Amy so wisely indicated, and I’m going to do just that because I'm not interested in participating in that game.
GREG KANDRA | 3/1/2012 - 11:19am
Re: the parish and its social concerns
 
A visit to the parish bulletin will show a much wider array of activities and involvement.  Like many parishes, it operates in a cluster, with other nearby churches.  While it seems clear ''life issues'' are a priority, there does appear to be active engagement in a nearby food pantry and a variety of other social resources.  

Not insignificantly, the parish seems to have a thriving devotional life, with 24-hour perpetual adoration, one Mass celebrated every week in the Extraordinary Form, confession available every single day (even on Sunday) and a number of regular opportunities for prayer outside of Mass (including novenas and daily rosary.)

The weekly collection - at last count $19,000 on a recent Sunday - is nothing to sneeze at, either.

One priest at St. John Neumann may be misguided and lack proper discernment when it comes to this issue.  

But the parish appears to be doing a lot of things right.  Or so it seems.    


 
Vince Killoran | 3/1/2012 - 10:25am
I notice a couple of unfortunate calls not to analyze the situation since "we don't know what's in their heart."

This is a cop-out. It reminds me of Bush v. McCain back in '04 when Shrub allowed sleezy attacks to go on against his opponent and then slyly defended himself with fake outrage by deploying this same excuse. These are adults; the priest in question had considerable power.  By their deeds you shall know them.
Juan Lino | 3/1/2012 - 10:13am
Oops - I meant "Abe" not "Joe" in my comment about St. Paul's letter.

Anne - you comment showed up as I was posting mine - I read it shortly and reply later.
 
Beth Cioffoletti | 3/1/2012 - 9:28am
I appreciate your clear thoughts, Anne.

It seems to me that whenever you try to confront evil "out there", in the world, in another person, without confronting it first in yourself, you end up in some strange way becoming infected with the very evil you are fighting.

That's why love has to always come first.  I really hope this priest can get some help in figuring this out in himself.
Anne Chapman | 3/1/2012 - 8:42am
Juan, as you know, the ''greatest of these is love (charity)''.  This priest failed on every count when it came to demonstrating love and charity - during communion, by walking off the altar during her eulogy of her mother, and by suddenly developing a ''headache'' and refusing to go to the cemetary for the burial. 

The one this priest ''loved'' and was ''protecting'' (somehow I doubt this woman represented a threat to Jesus in any possible way - I suspect Jesus would have gathered her in his arms and let her weep on his shoulder) would never treat another like this priest treated this woman. This priest needs some time to read the gospels, and to reflect and contemplate on what Jesus taught through his life.  Maybe he would begin to gain some clarity and sorely needed humility and understand that he is not called to judge and humiliate a woman at her own mother's funeral - he is called to love, he is called to serve.  Matthew 25 would become real to him if he moved away from his comfortable, upper-middle class parish.  It is doubtful he has ever refused communion to any parishoner he knows who is failing to live up to what Jesus did ask of us - to love, to serve the ''least of us.''   Jesus did not worry much about other people's sex lives - the hierarchy and clergy are obsessed with it, unfortunately. But Jesus did talk a lot about not judging, he talked a lot about feeding and clothing the poor, and visiting the prisoner.  And he talked a lot about love.

 This priest has a an unfortunately distorted understanding of what Jesus asked  at the last supper - to remember him and what he taught us when sharing the bread and wine. His life was all about love - he died for it, giving up his body and pouring out his blood out of love. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser once observed that the eucharist is not reserved for the sinless among us. It is for those struggling with the sins in their lives - which is all of us, including that priest.

I do believe that one must follow one's conscience - but, a properly formed conscience does not lead someone to harm another person and this priest did cause harm to another. That should have tipped him off that he had not fully informed his conscience and it was misleading him.

If you think he was right to follow his conscience, no matter the harm he was doing to another person, then I assume you also uphold the rights of people like Sr. Louise Lears and Fr.Roy B and countless others who have disobeyed their bishops, whose actions did not harm anyone as this priest's lack of charity harmed Ms Johnson?

Do you think that he should be disciplined as they were - denied the sacraments as Sr. Louise was, or threatened with excommunication as Fr. Roy B has been?

Beth Cioffoletti | 3/1/2012 - 7:49am
It wasn't the protest before an abortion clinic that bothered me, David (#14).  It was the way the priest directed his attention to the doctor who performed the abortions, and the rhetoric that he was using to incite the crowd - calling the dr. the "Butcher of Germantown" and comparing abortion to the crimes and criminals of the Holocaust.  Whether or not this is a valid comparison, I won't go into, but he is using language just like the rhetoric of Nazi Germany, and it fires subconscious collective passion and fanatacism that almost always results in violence.

This is a big problem for the Church.  That this soft spoken and mild mannered young priest could fall into this big dark hole is scary.  I actually hope that what I saw in that video is not as profoundly dark as I experienced it. 

Kang Dole | 3/1/2012 - 7:28am
Juan, since you raised Paul's discussion of the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor 11 in support of the priest's behavior, I would like to discuss something that you said after:

" Or should he be an apologist for the cultural belief that we should never make a person uncomfortable, physically, mentally, or emotionally."

It seems to me that the primary problem at the Supper in Paul's eyes stems from a particular consequence of the group's tendency to divide along various lines (in the case of the Supper, class), namely that some members are looked down upon by others. When Paul instructs the Corinthians to "judge the body" (and I think that there are a cluster of meanings attached to that instruction), the particular onus that is being set upon the Corinthians pertains to how they treat others at the Supper: does their behavior at the meal bring others to shame? does their behavior contribute to the "building up" that is being encouraged?

Now, the Roman Catholic ritual of the eaucharist is not the same ritual as the Lord's Supper at Corinth, but since Paul's discussion of the latter is viewed as foundational to the former (and since you've cited it in defense of the priest in question), I thought that it should be pointed out that that priest seems to be as much in violation of Paul's instructions as anyone else.
JOSEPH CLEARY II | 3/1/2012 - 7:09am
Because denial of communion is something we take very, very seriously in our church, the church in cannon law and the ordinary have specific written rules and instructions when and how this should occur. 

Nothing- including the so called backstories that have been published - indicate that these rules were followed prior to public denial of communion.

Add to that the walking off altar and skipping the graveside burial and you have an easy call for ArchD to offer an apology.

That said - this is not an excuse for the priest acting as he did because he needs to follow cannonlaw and the direction of the ordinary - this lady should have shown an ounce of class and not gone out of her way to introduce her friend as her gay partner right before the mass to a new priest . She is a former catholic school teacher and knew better. 

Juan Lino | 3/1/2012 - 12:26am
Ok, more is “coming out” and here’s an excerpt:

“I just wanted to let you know that there is a lot more to this story than has been published. I was in a meeting with Fr Marcel and heard the whole story. The woman in question brought her lesbian partner into the vesting sacristy just before the funeral Mass and made sure to introduce her partner to Fr Marcel, introducing her as her ‘lover’. He told her then that she should not present herself for Communion.”

Read the rest here:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2012/02/from-the-e-mail-i-wanted-you-to-know-there-is-more-to-this-story/
We've now got a he said / she said situation!  Let the rumble begin...
Juan Lino | 3/1/2012 - 12:04am
My Communications teacher taught me that “communication is not what you say but what the other person hears” and I’ve clearly forgotten that because I presumed that the starting point of my comment was clear when I started my comment by mentioning Thomas Nast (who created some of the most anti-Catholic cartoons in American history).  
 
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Amy (#9) succinctly sums up my starting point when she writes “Everything that has been reported about the incident is gossip and hearsay. The truth is known only to the participants. The secular media are drooling in joyful anticipation of a feeding frenzy.”  
 
To be even clearer though, as far as I am concerned, the priest was “protecting a PERSON” from willful abuse by another person.  In other words, I don’t think the priest was simply “protecting the faith”, as the article erroneously states, but rather that he was protecting His loved one, something each of us would do as well.   
 
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Beth - I was very impressed by your "elightened" comment (considering the exchange we had on another post), which I would sum up as, “I think your problem is that you’re not getting laid.”  What you would have said if I had written something like that to any of the women who post comments here regularly?  Well, whatever female spirit you are worshiping seems to favor sexism, and, based on my study of your idol Thomas Merton, I can’t imagine that he would cheer that such a forward-thinking spirit!  
 
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David – thank you for your support and for pointing out that we must vigorously attack ideas, not persons.  A great reminder for all of us!
 
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Hi Anne!  Cute set-up, but I am not buying!  What if I framed the question as follows: “what if the priest’s conscience would not permit him to obey the Bishop?”  Should he follow his conscience?  
 
Lack of charity – really?  What if he wanted to prevent her from “eating and drinking judgment on herself” (to allude to St. Paul) isn’t that charitable?  Shouldn’t a priest prevent a well known public adulterer, publicly known hit man, publicly known men or women that enslave maids, etc., from committing a sacrilege (see paragraph #2120 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) or creating scandal (see #2284 to #2287 in the CCC) in the parish.  Or should he be an apologist for the cultural belief that we should never make a person uncomfortable, physically, mentally, or emotionally.  
 
Again, we don’t know the details - perhaps he asked her not to come up for communion, etc., etc., who knows.  

Beth Cioffoletti | 2/29/2012 - 7:50pm
You never can be really sure about that spirit (good or bad?), and for sure I have followed the bad one more times than I care to admit.

I once heard that if there is a sense of "urgency" about something that you feel you need to say, it's best to wait. 

I didn't feel urgency with my comment, or that sense of righteous reaction that I sometimes feel when I want to respond right away ... but rather it was more a now or never comment.  If I didn't say it now, I certainly wouldn't say it later, and it was something that seemed to need to be out there.
david power | 2/29/2012 - 7:35pm
Beth,

I know what you mean as the spirit often pushes me in a similar direction, but is it the good spirit or the bad spirit?? 
I agree with most of what you wrote and think that people should not take the Church too seriously as God is far greater but Juan has shown a lot of courage and is dealing with a complex situation and I wish him only well in that no matter which way the chips fall.Playing dice is best done in the abstract is my basic message.
I think there is an equal  measure of mystery and beauty in all sexuality but how it is expressed is an open question. 
Amy Ho-Ohn | 2/29/2012 - 7:34pm
Everything that has been reported about the incident is gossip and hearsay. The truth is known only to the participants. The secular media are drooling in joyful anticipation of a feeding frenzy. Doesn't this seem like a wonderful opportunity for the entire Catholic blogosphere to shut up and mind its own business?
Beth Cioffoletti | 2/29/2012 - 7:21pm
Ok, David (#6), I will try to open my mind and heart and respect the sincerity of what people say here.
But, dunno, it seems the Spirit, SHE was pushing me to say what I did and let the chips fall where they may ...
Anne Chapman | 2/29/2012 - 6:32pm
Juan,  just so you know - the priest's bishop, Cardinal Wuerl, has explicitly stated that priests are not to refuse communion to those who present themselves for communion, regardless of what the priest ''knows'' or ''assumes'' about the state of their souls and consciences based on external knowledge. The Cardinal himself gives communion to ''notorious'' Catholics such as Nancy Pelosi.

 So, this priest has been disobedient to his bishop.  Is disobedience to a bishop now acceptable to those for whom ''obedience'' to the institution and its human representatives and its human rules and regulations is the highest virtue?  Cafeteria disobedience?

I'm sure Ms. Johnson knows the church's teaching - she grew up Catholic, was educated in Catholic schools, and taught in them for many years. By all accounts, she was an outstanding teacher and an excellent role model for the girls at her school (which she had attended).  Being well-educated in the Catholic faith, she also well knows the church's teachings on conscience - and her conscience is clear. Catholic theologians including Ratzinger, Aquinas, and Newman, among others, have ALL consistently affirmed that individual conscience MUST be followed.  This priest needs a bit more education into his own church, not to mention a few sessions on what Jesus taught.

Should every priest who suspects parishoners of using the pill or condoms refuse them communion? Should he interrogate each communicant at the rail about which ''sins'' they might be guilty of?  How about singles - should he ask them if they are ''sleeping'' with anyone before he gives them communion?  Or if they are living with someone ''in sin''? The only sins the church ever worries about in these cases have to do with sex. If he knew that Ms. Johnson had never once cared for the ''widows and orphans'', never contributed a dime to anyone's welfare, supported the death penalty and wars, or was guilty of countless other beliefs and actions that are contrary to church teaching do you think he would have denied her communion? 

This was a funeral - for the woman's mother
!
 The behavior of this priest was a true scandal as well as a sin against charity.

david power | 2/29/2012 - 6:19pm
Beth ,

Go get a lover and you will be equally satisified.Not.
Juan is on his journey with God and for you to dismiss it in such a facile way is thoughtless.
If the fact that a person with that orientation agrees with the teaching of the church disturbs you maybe you should open your mind and heart .Maybe the Lord is saying different things to different people.
God is not found neccessarily in other people .
What Juan wrote was correct.People know ,to be shocked is to audition for the role of Captain Renault in Casablanca.
I am not bothered either way as I have seen way too many incidents of Priests preaching  all orthodox and then  acting in another way.But I think we have to respect the way of others and Juan has always shown a genuine spirituality in his comments and inspires me a lot just as do all of those on here who have SSA.
I agree with what Jim wrote about the duplicity of the Church and especially the Holy Spirit blowing where HE  wills but the most important thing is that we have respect for the experience of our fellow believers in Jesus.  
Beth Cioffoletti | 2/29/2012 - 5:55pm
ps - Juan, for God's sake, forget about the Church.  Go get a boyfriend and be who you are!  That's where you're going to find God.
Beth Cioffoletti | 2/29/2012 - 5:49pm
I made the mistake of watching the video, and was so creeped out I don't even want to eat supper.  This Fr. Guarnizo is seriously scary and was drumming up collective fanaticism with that crowd.

What a task the Church has, to straighten out this sickness.  I hope this is an isolated incident, but I fear that it is more widespread that I imagined.  Juan's comments (above) don't give me much hope.
Anonymous | 2/29/2012 - 5:00pm
The pieces cited remind me of a verbal version of a Thomas Nast cartoon!  Barbara Johnson is the one who made this an issue by going up to receive and now we get to see the typical spin.  Everyone person I know with SSA (and I know plenty) knows that the Church teaches that those “living the life” should not go up to receive in a Catholic Church – so what’s the real motivation behind this?  I can definitely tell you from experience because I know from the inside how certain groups are happy to use Alinsky Tactics to remake the Bride of Christ into their own image.
 
And it’s beautiful to see Fr. Guarnizo thrown under the bus for preventing sacrilege and scandal (two things the Church still believes in – “wink”, “wink”.)  Another fine example of what I called “wink” theology in another comment. 
 
And before I get a barrage of comments accusing me of being “anti-Gay”, keep in mind that I am a man with same-sex attraction who loves the Church and strive to abide by Her teachings.  
Vince Killoran | 2/29/2012 - 4:57pm
Well, I can't imagine this story will interest IAT readers!

I went to the parish website, as I do when I read about clerics' pro-Life activism, and I discovered the thing I always do: St. John Newman Parish in Gaithersburg ("a friendly and compassionate Community") has given over their "social concerns" fully to the re-criminalization of abortion.  They don't seem to work on economic justice, health care, prison ministry, abolition of the death penalty, or the environment. There is a St. Vincent de Paul chapter to distribute alms and that is it.

When pro-Lifers argue that the anti-abortion should take pride of place, they really mean that it is the only issue on which they will work.