Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-05-27
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Lesbian denied communion at mother's funeral
by Chuck Colbert

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

The denial of communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral has touched a raw nerve among LGBT Catholics, prompting a variety of responses locally and beyond.

But first, the facts of the incident are perhaps best described in the words of the woman, Barbara Johnson, 51, who explained to local metropolitan media in Washington, D. C., what Rev. Marcel Guarnizo said to her, "I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church that is a sin."

His denial stunned Johnson, a lifelong Catholic and former Catholic schoolteacher, who lives with a partner of 20 years. Johnson has ties to Chicago, having lived here for some time.

"I just stood there, in shock. I was grieving, crying. My mother's body was behind me, and all I wanted to do was provide for her, and the final thing was to make a beautiful funeral, and here I was letting her down because there was a scene," she told the Washington Post.

The setting, for what Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry called a "grievous error of one priest," was a funeral Mass at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md.

Not only did Guarnizo put his hand over the communion platter, but also he walked away during Johnson's eulogy. And he refused to go to the cemetery with the family for her mother's burial.

"For Barbara Johnson, this is an utterly unbelievable and painful experience," said DeBernardo of New Ways, a gay-positive ministry of reconciliation, healing, and justice for LGBT Catholics, based in Mt. Rainier, Md.

"The fact that it has resonated so strongly within the Catholic community shows that people are very concerned. Gay Catholics are upset," he added.

"What it tells me is there has to be a lot better pastoral training of priests, particularly on gay and lesbian issues," said DeBernardo.

Joe Murray, executive director of Chicago's Rainbow Sash Movement, was pointed in his assessment. "I think this illustrates how open to bullying some priests can be under the current teaching on the homosexual person in the church," he said.

"The present climate of hostility to everything LGBT in the Catholic Church, I fear, has only encouraged this priest to take this course of action," said Murray.

Equally sharp was lesbian feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D. who voiced similar sentiments. "The Eucharist is a sacrament, not a political football," she said.

"This terrible abuse of one family at a time of great pastoral need is but a snapshot of anti-LGBTQ theology in action. It is outdated, outmoded, and outrageous," said Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, or WATER.

Based in Silver Spring, Md., WATER is a feminist educational center and social justice network.

And yet Chris Pett, president of Dignity Chicago, sounded a softer tone. "The Catholic Church has always taught that its mission is to be the sacrament of Christ to the world, an agent of healing and spiritual nurturance. It is our belief as LGBT Roman Catholic communities, like Dignity Chicago, that we are called to live that mission every day and in every situation," he said.

"It appears more and more that the Spirit is calling us to be that sacramental presence of Christ to our community; and we will continue to be faithful to that call, in spite of efforts by leaders in the Church to deny our dignity and baptismal rights as happened in Maryland," Pett said.

For its part, the Washington archdiocese acknowledged in a statement, that Guarnizo had acted inappropriately, saying, "Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting."

The Washington archdiocesan policy of not withholding communion and for priests to counsel Catholics privately is similar to the rule in the Chicago archdiocese under leadership of Cardinal Francis George.

Johnson also received an apology through correspondence from an auxiliary bishop.

"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," Bishop Barry Knestout wrote.

Johnson told local media that she was satisfied with the archdiocesan apology, adding, although the damage done to her family and mother's memory cannot be repaired.

Still, she does not want Catholics to walk away from a faith her mother dearly loved. "So many people have said to me that now they will never go back. That would break my mother's heart," Johnson told the National Catholic Reporter ( NCR ) .

However, the Johnson family wants disciplinary action taken against Guarnizo. In a letter to him, she wrote, "You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the Day of Judgment for judging me. 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."

The Johnson family's mission is "not to divide the church," Barbara told NCR. "Our mission is to receive an apology from Fr. Marcel."

- Chuck Colbert. All rights reserved.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

WORLD New HIV news, Catholic event, conversion therapy, Hungary anti-trans bill 2020-05-27 - A global trial stated that a new HIV drug injected every two months effectively reduces the rate of infection, and provides longer and ...

Gay News

"Something to Talk About Live!" to discuss religious exemptions in support of discrimination 2020-04-22 - According to the newly released "2019 American Values Atlas" by PRRI, there has been a slight but noticeable decline in opposition to religiously-based ...

Gay News

Night Ministry webinar focuses on COVID-19 and the homeless 2020-04-10 - The Night Ministry hosted a Q&A webinar April 9 to address issues that affect people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-profit ...

Gay News

COVID-19, closed churches and LGBTQ Catholics 2020-03-29 - Is anyone anywhere around the globe thinking about anything other than COVID-19, the coronavirus that has paralyzed almost all human activity? I imagine ...

Gay News

SPLC releases 'Hate and Extremism' report 2020-03-23 - The Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual "Year in Hate and Extremism" report, identifying 940 active hate groups across the United States ...

Gay News

Sister Sheila Lyne dies at 83 2020-03-17 - Sister Sheila Lyne—a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy for 67 years who led Chicago's Mercy Hospital as president and CEO for ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Blackmailer killed, Anderson Cooper, Apple CEO, church settlement 2020-02-25 - After posting a Facebook Live video in which she threatened to out a man if he didn't pay her $5,000, 40-year-old Indianapolis woman ...

Gay News

ELECTIONS 2020 JUDGES (COGHLAN VACANCY) James Derico Jr. on current judgeship, church, LGBTQ history 2020-02-19 - Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Derico Jr.—a member of the LGBTQ community—finds himself in the position of several of his colleagues in ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Legislators walk out, hit-and-run arrest, lawsuits, Dan Reynolds 2020-02-18 - Democratic lawmakers in Virginia's legislature walked out as a Republican-invited pastor delivered a prayer that condemned homosexuality, LGBTQ Nation reported. Robert Grant Jr. ...

Gay News

Smollett indicted on new charges 2020-02-11 - Embattled actor Jussie Smollett has been indicted on new criminal charges nearly a year after Cook County prosecutors dropped disorderly-conduct counts against him ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.