Jewish Journal

Priest denies lesbian Communion at mother’s funeral

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 29, 2012 | 4:06 pm

Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post has an absolute must-read story about a lesbian who was denied Communion at her mother’s funeral.

Barbara Johnson was at St. John Neumann Catholic Church with her partner, and the Rev. Marcel Guarzino learned of her relationship just before the service. When Johnson went up to take Communion, the priest reportedly put his hand over the bread and said he wouldn’t give it to Johnson because she lived with a woman. He then left the service while Johnson delivered the eulogy and didn’t attend the burial or find a replacement priest.

Boorstein reports on a letter that Johnson sent Guarzino and one Johnson got back from the D.C. archdiocese in return:

“You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” she wrote in a letter to Guarnizo. “I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”

Late Tuesday, Johnson received a letter of apology from the Rev. Barry Knestout, one of the archdiocese’s highest-ranking administrators, who said the lack of “kindness” she and her family received “is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.”

“I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” Knestout wrote. “I hope that healing and reconciliation with the Church might be possible for you and any others who were affected by this experience. In the meantime, I will offer Mass for the happy repose of your mother’s soul. May God bring you and your family comfort in your grief and hope in the Resurrection.”

This story is obviously a talker and it’s immediately been followed by debate—and good Catholics are on opposite poles on this one. Boorstein follows up on that here.

Denying Communion might have been within the priest’s discretion—in fact, I think that it probably was—but I agree with the apology from the archdiocese.

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