The Catholic Church is no stranger to scandals, and after a priest’s insensitive decision at a funeral service, the Catholic Church is unfortunately in the spotlight once again.
Barbara Johnson was denied communion at her mother’s funeral in Maryland because of her sexual orientation. The incident sparked controversy, and people are shocked with the priest’s lack of pastoral sensitivity — including the archdiocese. Johnson has spoken to several news sources and shared her story.
“I went up. I was standing next to my mother’s casket and he covered the bowl, and said, ‘I cannot give you communion because you are with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ I stood there with my mouth open in a state of shock for I don’t know how long.”
Johnson and her family have received apologies from the archdiocese, but won’t be satisfied until the priest, Marcel Guarnizo, personally apologizes and is removed from the parish, “so no one ever has to experience this on the most tragic day of their lives, again.”
It’s hard to distinguish where and when the line between following one’s religious rules and being insensitive to others is crossed, but it was undoubtedly crossed here. The amount of Guarnizo’s heartlessness in this scenario is truly shocking. Although priests technically have the right to deny communion to sinners, this incident is more appropriately defined as bigotry than Christianity.
Our expectations and tolerances should evolve as the world does, and new beliefs and morals should be embraced rather than publicly demeaned, especially at such a sensitive time as during a funeral. If Father Guarnizo felt strongly enough about Johnson’s choice of life to deny her communion, the issue should have been discussed privately. Instead, Guarnizo humiliated Johnson in front of everyone attending the service, turning a day meant to celebrate her mother’s life into a day scarred by an absence of compassion.
To add insult to injury, when Johnson gave her eulogy after communion, Guarnizo walked out of the service, leaving no priest at the burial.
What happened to treating all of God’s children with respect and dignity? When did Guarnizo make the switch from praying for sinners to humiliating them? It seems the extension of charity and kindness, an apparent staple in the Catholic faith, is completely contradicted by Guarnizo’s actions here.
A priest has no business continuing to practice if he’s forgotten such a simple and important concept as empathy. Perhaps Guarnizo should take a break from shaming and embarrassing others to spend a little more time self-reflecting and acknowledging his own unchristian qualities.
Guarnizo’s actions seem to stem from hate rather than reformation. A priest is meant to inspire not degrade; power trips have no place in the church.
So far, Guarnizo has refused to apologize, and despite Johnson’s attempts to reach out to the priest, she has received no response.
Lucas Sepulveda is a creative writing and media production junior and may be reached at email@example.com.