Last month, Barbara Johnson made headlines by sharing her story that at her own mother’s funeral, the priest refused to serve her communion because she was a lesbian. That priest, Father Marcel Guarnizo, has now been placed on administrative leave. According to a letter from Bishop Barry C. Knestout obtained by the Washington Blade, Guarnizo’s priestly faculties have been removed while the Archdiocese completes an investigation into his actions:
This action was taken after I received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo has engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry. Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners, Father Guarnizo is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington until all matters can be appropriately resolved, with the hope that he might return to priestly ministry.
The letter does not specifically acknowledge Johnson’ allegations for how Guarnizo humiliated her, nor will the Archdiocese confirm whether those are the concerns expressed in the letter. Given the “hope” expressed that he will “return to priestly ministry,” this may just be an attempt by the Catholic Church to save face until the controversy dies down. After all, priests found to be abusing children have habitually just been moved to new parishes, so it would be an extreme change in policy to actually punish a priest for much less harmful infractions.
Watch Johnson’s CNN interview about the humiliation she experienced at her mother’s funeral: