Priest’s Defense of His Communion Denial is Contradicted by Statements from Lesbian Woman and Her Brother

March 16, 2012

Rev. Marcel Guranizo, the priest who denied communion to a lesbian woman, Barbara Johnson, at her mother’s funeral has issued a statement defending his decision.  In separate statements responding to Rev. Guarnizo, Barbara Johnson and Larry Johnson, her brother, refute a number of Guarnizo’s facts.

The Washington Post carries a news story about Guarntizo’s first public statement, which comes less than a week after he was removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of Washington.  You can read excerpts from his statement in this report.

The texts of the statements by Larry Johnson and Barbara Johnson follow:

Larry Johnson

Arrogant, Repugnant, Deceitful – Just a few of the adjectives that describe the written statement of Father Marcel Guarnizo. I am the oldest son of Loetta Johnson and the brother of Barbara Johnson. Barbara has been characterized, among other things, as a social activist. I am decidedly not. My goal is simply to ensure that the truth be told.

My family had finally hoped some sense of peace regarding my mother’s funeral had been achieved and we could finally grieve her loss. But the reprehensible Fr. Guarnizo has reinforced and confirmed how egregious his conduct was and how repugnant a person he is.

His “first time” public statement had clearly been disseminated by him from the beginning of the public dialogue; one need only read reported witness accounts that were posted on the internet that from the outset contained his fabrications.

And what of this “public statement.” My sister introduced her partner as her “lover.” An outrageous lie. Fr. Guarnizo did not “walk out” of my mother’s funeral, he just “quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy” (coincidentally when my sister’s eulogy began). He communicated to “our funeral director” that he was “incapacitated;” there was nothing “our” about this person, he was simply the representative of the funeral home that my family engaged to oversee my mother’s burial. And Fr. Guarnizo’s incapacity – another coincidence?

This is not a he said, she said. I personally witnessed these events. And anyone seeking to objectively evaluate this matter should consider one irrefutable fact. The only two people who have any first-hand knowledge of these events, exclusive of Fr. Guarnizo and my family, are the same two people that even Father Guarnizo has acknowledged are the source of the “intimidation” assertions about his conduct. Still another coincidence?

And finally, consider what Fr. Guarnizo has said about Bishop Knestout. The statement of Bishop Knestout that was read at St. John Neumann’s was itself a lie according to Fr. Guarnizo. There are no bounds to this man’s arrogance and deceit.

So Fr. Guarnizo has been busily collecting testimonies and affidavits (and intimidating?) rather than seeing to his ministry while at the same time refusing to speak in any public forum. And as to Fr. Guarnizo’s statement that contains “a warning to the Church” that these circumstances “can and will be repeated multiple times over,” I can only say the real warning is that which attaches to the conduct of someone like this priest who acts in such an un-Christian manner and then attempts to bully others into participating in his cover-up. I am truly grateful that this diocese (even though “Cardinal Wuehrl is not [his] bishop”) has seen him for who he really is.

Fr. Guarnizo has offered to discuss this publicly with any of the persons involved. Said most simply, where and when do you want to do this?

Barbara Johnson

I am once again deeply saddened by the actions of Father Marcel Guarnizo. At a time when my family should have been allowed to begin our mourning in peace, he has chosen instead to politicize my mother’s death once again.

I stand by every word I have spoken in the press, and in private, regarding the events of February 25th 2012.

When my 9 year old great-nephew who recently received his First Communion, and was present at my mother’s funeral, heard Father Guarnizo’s statement, he asked his mother, “Mommy, why is the priest lying?” His mother responded, “You know how sometimes when you get in trouble you tell a lie to try to get out of it?” He understood and then he asked, “Can we complain to the government?”

Since the government in this case is the Archdiocese, we have indeed brought our case to “the government.” And as we all know, this body has acted appropriately.

Please, Father Guarnizo, let my mother rest in peace, and let my family move past the traumas you have already visited upon us.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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