March 10, 2012. DignityUSA and Dignity/Washington, DC today applauded the Archdiocese of Washington, DC for suspending Father Marcel Guarnizo from all ministry within the Archdiocese. In a letter to priests, Vicar General Barry C. Knestout cited “intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry” as the reason for the suspension. Father Guarnizo recently refused Communion to Barbara Johnson during her mother’s funeral because she is a lesbian.
“The Archdiocese has acted appropriately in removing Father Guarnizo from ministry,” said Allen Rose, President of Dignity/Washington, the largest Chapter of the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Catholics. “We are encouraged by this action, which will do much to restore Catholics’ faith in our Church’s commitment to pastoral ministry.”
DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke agreed. “What happened to Barbara Johnson and her family has saddened and outraged Catholics around the country and across the globe,” she said. “I hope that any Church official tempted to use the Eucharist as a weapon or punishment will take notice of what happened here, and refrain from similar action.
“The removal of Father Guarnizo is a good first step in response to the outrage of the denial of Communion at a family funeral,” Duddy-Burke continued. “Now, we call on the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to work on addressing the climate that allowed Father Guarnizo to believe this was an appropriate response. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics and our families experience exclusion at Mass every single week, although in ways not as dramatic as this incident. We need our Church leaders to hear what this feels like to us, and to work with us on ways to strengthen our Church. Can we honor the memory of Barbara Johnson’s mother, whose faith was clearly so important to her, by beginning to talk with each other?”
DignityUSA is the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, our families, friends, and allies. Founded in 1969, the organization has Chapters and members across the U.S. It is a founding member of Equally Blessed.