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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Thoughts on Fr. Guarnizo and the Funeral

There's an interesting discussion of the Fr. Guarnizo/Barbara Johnson funeral controversy at The Deacon's Bench (TDB) with additional information about what happened. (See: There's More to This Story) Presuming the email sent to TDB was accurate, and it's certainly plausible, Fr. Guarnizo:
1) Talked to the woman before Mass. She made it clear she was a lesbian living with her "lover" and he told her she should not approach for Communion. 
2) Father was, in fact feeling sick which explains his leaving the altar and not going to the grave. He arranged for someone else to accompany the body for internment, a fact omitted in every news and blog report
3) Barbara Johnson apparently presented a seriously distorted version of what happened to make Fr. Guarnizo look as bad as possible and went all out for the publicity making herself the victim and trying to destroy this priest's ministry.
4) Unfortunately, and not surprising, the Cardinal threw the priest under the bus, one more example of persecuting a good priest.
Prior to this additional information about what actually happened last Saturday, which is less sensational and more believable than the hysterical reporting, there was another discussion at TDB that I found deeply troubling. It included some comments about Canon Law 915 from canon lawyer Ed Peters whom I respect. He believed, according to the news reports which were obviously and on their face incomplete and sensational, that the priest was wrong. Since, according to Barbara Johnson, Fr. Guarnizo had just learned about the situation, how could she be said to "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin?" was his main point as I understand it. That seemed to be splitting hairs to me. The Church's position on active homosexuality is well known and Johnson's situation, which she shoved in the priest's face, fits by its nature the plain truth of persisting in "manifest grave sin." The woman didn't, after all, ask Father to go to Confession before the funeral. And there was obviously no intention to leave the sinful situation.

But that's not my only concern. Nowhere in the TDB discussion did anyone mention the scandal. Certainly if Barbara Johnson introduced her "lover" to the priest, that's how she introduces her to others. Many at the funeral must have known the situation. No doubt there were active homosexual friends in the congregation. Compare this to the Rainbow Sash movement that announces their active homosexuality and tries to receive Communion on Pentecost Sunday wearing the rainbow sash. Barbara Johnson did the same thing except that she wore a verbal sash almost daring the priest to do anything. Not only would she have committed a mortal sin of sacrilege by receiving Communion, but a mortal sin of scandal as well. Whether she had the complete knowledge of her actions only God can judge  (It's hard to imagine she didn't given her background.),  but certainly the other two requirements for a mortal sin were there: it was a grave sin and she gave full consent to it. Fr. Guarnizo spared this woman from her own sinful presumption at great personal cost.

Now how exactly did we end up in this situation where a parish priest is put in a position like this and is punished for what was, indeed, a pastoral action? Once again the moral responsibility falls at the feet of our bishops. They have failed to preach the truth. They have muddled the teaching of the Church and allowed "gay liturgies" that imply acceptance of the active homosexual lifestyle. They have failed to discipline renegade priests and nuns like Fr. Robert Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick unless Rome intervenes. They have permitted gay advocacy groups like Dignity and New Ways Ministry to flourish in their dioceses. They have done nothing about gay parishes like Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco, St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Our Lady Queen of Peace and St. Francis in my own diocese of Arlington, and scores of others around the country. Yes, the bishops gave us this latest Catholic-bashing crisis and it's a wake-up call to every priest in the country. Who will be next? Cardinal Wuerl's reaction doesn't surprise me. He had a reputation in Pittsburgh for advancing the gay movement and persecuting the orthodox. So it must have come easy to throw the priest under the bus.

In closing, I have a few questions for Barbara Johnson. If you didn't want controversy at your mom's funeral, why did you inject your disordered relationship by introducing your lesbian partner to Fr. Guarnizo as your "lover?" Why did you make a point of going to Communion after he told you not to knowing you would probably be refused? Who turned this into a media event and a witch hunt to end the ministry of a good priest?

The best thing anyone can do for this poor woman and her "lover" is to fast and pray for their conversion. And please pray for Fr. Guarnizo whose head is being demanded as the price of his integrity