Father Guarnizo Takes On Cardinal Wuerl

by Michael Sean Winters

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This morning's Washington Post contains quotes from Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who made headlines for denying communion to a woman at her mother's funeral because she was a lesbian. Late last week, he was stripped of his faculties by Cardinal Wuerl because of what the archdiocese termed "credible allegations" of "intimidating behavior" towards parishioners since the event.

Guarnizo not only challenges the woman's accounts of the underlying event. He challenges the archdiocese, arguing that no subsequent activity of his warranted his being stripped of his faculties and that this is all really about his initial decision not to give communion to Barbara Johnson. So, he is calling everyone, except of course himself, a liar. Nice.

Guarnizo goes on to mention that he was soliciting affidavits from people. Hmmmm. I understand he has a right to defend himself, but if there is to be an investigation of the allegations against him, he doesn't have the right to be his own D.A. He also says that the meetings in question did not involve intimidation, that they were civil. Of course, this is the same man who did not see a problem in denying communion to a grieving fellow Catholic, so I am not sure I would take his word as the characterization of human behavior.

One of the subplots of this story - and you could smell it a mile away - is that Guarnizo now joins the ranks of those very conservative clerics who wrap themselves in the authority of the Church, but who bristle at the actual exercise of that authority as it regards themselves. Think of Father Pavone, who had made quite a public fuss over his bishop's decision to call him back to his diocese. Or Father Zuhlsdorf, who writes movingly about the importance of confession but apparently lacks faculties to hear confessions in the diocese where he resides. Now Guarzino challenges Cardinal Wuerl, and claims ythe cardinal's interpretation of Canon 915 "puts at risk other pirests who wish to serve the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C." Well, ya know, I will let Cardinal Wuerl decide which is more of a risk - disciplining a priest who evidenced no compassion for a grieving woman or letting this insanely nasty person ever again minister to the people of God on behalf of the Church.

Guarnizo, as I have noted before, is not a priest of the archdiocese. He was here - I believe the term is "ad experimentum." Looks like that is one experiment that did not work out too well.

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