MARYLAND

Gaithersburg priest who denied communion to lesbian at mother's funeral placed on leave

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (ABC7/AP) - A priest who denied communion to a lesbian at her mother's funeral has been placed on leave.

Barbara Johnson.

In a statement titled "Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington Regarding Fr. Marcel Guarnizo," there was no mention of the denial of communion to Barbara Johnson, but it said the Archdiocese had "received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo had engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry."

The archdiocese has already apologized to Johnson for the priest's actions at the February funeral in Gaithersburg.

Johnson and her relatives, meanwhile, have asked the archdiocese to remove the priest.

Father Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia and has been serving in the Washington area for about a year.

The archdiocese issued a statement after the funeral saying the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo's actions violated policy but any action against him would remain confidential because it is a personnel issue.

Johnson's family issued a statement Sunday saying the letter doesn't pertain to the funeral, but they hope the action will ensure others won't suffer the same treatment.

The following statement was released:

Statement of the Archdiocese of Washington Regarding Fr. Marcel Guarnizo

Effective March 9, 2012, Father Marcel Guarnizo's assignment at St. John Neumann Parish is withdrawn and he has been placed on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed until such time as an inquiry into his actions at the parish is completed. Father Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia, and has been serving in the Archdiocese of Washington since March 2011 as parochial vicar at the parish.

This action was taken after Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Washington, received credible allegations that Father Guarnizo had engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.

Given the grave nature of these allegations, and in light of the confusion in the parish and the concerns expressed by parishioners, Father Guarnizo is prohibited from exercising any priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington until all matters can be appropriately resolved with the hope that he might return to priestly ministry.

 

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