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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ed Peters vs. George Neumayr vs. Cardinal Wuerl

Canon lawyer Ed Peters thinks George Neumayr is making a bad situation worse with regard to his criticism of Cardinal Wuerl over the prelate's handling of Fr. Marcel Guarnizo refusing Communion to lesbian activist Barbara Johnson at her mother's funeral. As one who agrees with George Neumayr, I think it's accurate to say that the cardinal himself made a bad situation worse when he apologized to the lesbian through his auxiliary bishop and then punished Fr. Guarnizo. Talk about scandal -- helping to advance the gay agenda! 

Ed Peters says the conversation has gone on long enough, that everything that could possibly be said has been said (according to his point of view at any rate). He has consistently insisted that his interpretation of Canon 915, etc. is the correct one and that the laity who disagree just don't get it. 

Well, he's right about that from my point of view and many other faithful laity who believed Fr. Guarnizo was correct and Ed Peters was wrong. Call it the "sensus fidelium" if you like. At least one canon lawyer, an anonymous priest, disagrees with Peters and supporst what faithful laity believed all along. He entered the fray to defend Fr. Guarnizo and publicly dissent with his colleague's interpretation of the subject canon laws. One can argue that anonymous opinions carry less weight than public opinions, but in view of what powerful prelates can do to their disrespected underlings whose rights are often violated, anonymity is probably a prudent course of action for a priest. And if this priest serves in the Archdiocese of Washington or another diocese with a bishop who operates llike Cardinal Wuerl, his action is more than understandable. After all, Fr. Guarnizo was denied due process. Why would Cardinal Wuerl hesitate to do the same to any priest who disagreed with him?


  1. I used to listen very attentively to the words of Dr. Edward Peters. However in the last year, I fear I am troubled by what he writes. With this latest and unfortunate scenario, I just have it in my gut that Fr. Guarnizo did the right thing. If Fr. Guarnizo had not complied with the order of Archbishop Wuerl, then I would have removed my support of him. However, he wrote once to clear his name and is remaining quiet--signs of humility perhaps?


  2. Difficult to know what 'Phil' has in mind (I recently took a lot of heat for my views on Michael Voris et al’s unauthorized use of the word “Catholic” in their enterprise, and of course for my pointing out that, based on the evidence so far, Fr. Guarnizo violated canon law in acting as he did, and before that, here, about some issues related to West’s TOB work, as I recall), but then, I don’t write to express my “gut feelings” on this issue or that, but rather to explain what Church law holds in cases before the public eye, even if what Church law holds comes as a surprise to some (or many).

    Bottom line, for me anyway, is that the Church has been around a lot longer than any of us, and has seen a lot more than all of us put together. Much of that experience over the centuries is woven into her law, and if her law directs us to act, or to refrain from acting, in a certain way, even against our first impressions, I’m inclined to say, Follow the law, at the very least till you are QUITE certain it does not mean what it surely seems to say.

    Others, I grant, prefer their gut feelings to law. Who am I to say them Nay? I write for people who want to know what the law says/means. Others need not worry about what I say.

  3. That all makes sense Dr. Peters, but obviously, there are differing interpretation of the law. If there were not, we probably wouldn't need lawyers or judges. In this case, I think most orthdodx Catholics would have looked more kindly on the Archdiocese's statements if they had also boldly proclaimed that lesbian Buddhists should not be presenting themselve for Holy Communion in the first place.

  4. One can have serious concerns about how the case involving Fr. Guarnizo was handled. There is nothing wrong with expressing those concerns. However, there are some lines that ought not be crossed and I think Neumayr crossed it. There are appropriate ways to express concern or disagreement, and there are inappropriate ways to do so. Neumayr lost professionalism, IMHO, in that he allowed his writings on this case to be guided by emotion, which led him to express himself in a way that is beneath the dignity of a professional, Catholic journalist.

    Further, there is a canonical side to this story involving Fr. Guarnizo, as well as a pastoral side. I don't agree with bishops placing priests on "administrative leave" because of a rift with the parish secretary and other staff. I find that very odd. However, I would never speak about a prelate - even one with whom I disagree, in the way that Neumayr did. There is nothing virtuous about that manner of speaking about a prince of the Church.

    After Easter I will talk about this, in general terms, because it has been an issue that has concerned me greatly. I'm quite certain that if a commentary like that were put under the nose of someone like Cardinal Burke, he would be profoundly disappointed. When I make my post, I'll try to explain why I think this to be true, and it has to do with a question he fielded at a recent conference about angry Catholics.

    Also, I really wish Fr. Anonymous would just sign his name to his work. We have both Ed Peters and Fr. Stuart MacDonald both putting their opinions and reputations on the line by offering their thoughts publicly. Fr. Anonymous gets to say what he wants without risking his reputation. How does anyone know if Fr. Anonymous really is a canonist? Does he have a JCL or a JCD?

    Fr. Anonymous seems not to comprehend a point that Fr. MacDonald is making with regards to administrative versus penal law, and the issue of administrative leave. I'm not even a canonist, have had no canon law training, yet understood what Fr. MacDonald said the first time, and he made it easier in his latest post (and he too takes issue with a priest being put on administrative leave for the reason given).

    I know Ed and Fr. MacDonald disagree on some points. Both of them take issue with some of the arguments presented by Fr. Anonymous. But, let me make this point: Ed Peters, Fr. MacDonald, and Fr. Anonymous (even though I don't like his anonymity) are all discussing their disagreements in a professional and dispassionate manner. I cannot say the same about George Neumayr.