Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fr. Guarizno's statement

The situation involving Fr. Guarnizo continues to unfold. Here is a part of Father Guarnizo's recent statement about the matter, as reported by Catholic News Service (hat tip: Matthew Archbold):

A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her “lover." Her revelation was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms. Johnson, her lover stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I politely asked her to move and she refused.

I understand and agree it is the policy of the archdiocese to assume good faith when a Catholic presents himself for communion; like most priests I am not at all eager to withhold communion. But the ideal cannot always be achieved in life.

In the past ten days, many Catholics have referenced Canon 915 in regard to this specific circumstance. There are other reasons for denying communion which neither meet the threshold of Canon 915 or have any explicit connection to the discipline stated in that canon.

If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either. If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with Canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.

During the two eulogies (nearly 25 minutes long), I quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy lavatory to recover from the migraine that was coming on. I never walked out on Mrs. Loetta Johnson’s funeral and the liturgy was carried out with the same reverence and care that I celebrate every Mass. I finished the Mass and accompanied the body of the deceased in formal procession to the hearse, which was headed to the cemetery. I am subject to occasional severe migraines, and because the pain at that point was becoming disabling, I communicated to our funeral director that I was incapacitated and he arranged one of my brother priests to be present at the cemetery to preside over the rite of burial.
Read the rest here.

Interesting, no?

I will say just two things: first, if Father Guarnizo is indeed subject to debilitating migraines then I have complete sympathy for his inability to accompany the family to the grave site (especially just having had two days' worth of that pain). As my fellow migraine sufferers know, stress can be a trigger, so it's even entirely possible that the stress of the situation re: Barbara Johnson's untimely revelation was a contributing factor to the onset of the pain.

Second, Father seems to think that there are reasons other than 915 why a person may not be admitted to Holy Communion. If he is misinformed or badly educated, I'm sure that his superiors will make sure that he understands that he does, indeed, have to act henceforth as if everyone who approaches him for Communion is a baptized Catholic in good standing, regardless of whether he has been informed otherwise (even by the person himself), unless the person in question is obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin.

UPDATE: Ed Peters says yes, Father is misinformed (badly educated?) and so are all of his would-be defenders. I suppose that if a heterosexual male were to introduce a priest right before Mass to his female lover (using that word) the priest would be likewise required to assume that the couple is chaste and platonic, right? And to give them Communion? Because 915 has not been met?


Rebecca in ID said...

This commentary on canon 915 by Cardinal Burke is a little long but well worth the read. "The text of the canon is clear. Those under the imposed or declared ecclesiastical penalties of interdict and excommunication, and those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be given Holy Communion. The text makes it clear that the Church has the responsibility to deny Holy Communion to those who are known to be under the imposed or declared penalties of excommunication and interdict, and to those who are known to persist obstinately in manifest grave sin. Although the text does not state so explicitly, it is clear that the Church's responsibility is carried out by the minister of Holy Communion.

Regarding those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, it is necessary to know that indeed the person does obstinately persist, that is, that his pastor has informed him about the grave and public sinfulness of what he is doing and has cautioned him about not approaching to receive Holy Communion...
Clearly, the burden is on the minister of Holy Communion who, by the nature of his responsibility, must prevent anything which profanes the Blessed Sacrament and endangers the salvation of the soul of the recipient and of those scandalized by his unworthy reception of Holy Communion."

It seems like there has not been much discussion of this last point, that this is about scandal but also about avoiding profaning the sacrament and endangering the salvation of a soul. It ultimately has very much to do with charity towards the sinner.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the migraine. I don't have them myself, but my wife used to have them. I remember her vomiting from the pain.

However, I am still curious. How did he end up there by way of the Moscow archdiocese?

I am Fredo Baggins. For some reason, CPATCHA is not accepting my URL

Patrick said...

Fascinating letter. Clear and concise, except for the vague references to the alleged "intimidations" and the vague language about the girlfriend blocking his path in the sacristy.

Nonetheless, my takeaway from his letter (which sounds very believable) is that he made the right judgment call at the communion rail and he deserved/deserves the support of his superiors.

The papers got it wrong. It's not a story about a lesbian and the RCC. It's a story about a poorly handled HR incident within the RCC.

I continue to have, in general, more respect for the priests who serve on the street and less for those who sit behind desks.

Pauli said...

This was so obviously a setup. Maybe Obama will call up these grrls and congratulate them.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Obama isn't that stupid. Nice try.

Rebecca in ID said...

Will someone pls send a query to the Vatican already, for heaven's sake, since the overeducated seem to have lost their faculty of common sense?

Chris-2-4 said...

If Ed Peters says that Canon Law does not permit a priest to deny communion to someone who went out of their way to tell you they were actively engaging in a homosexual lifestyle immediately before mass, then I will accept his judgement that Canon Law does so hold, because Ed Peters is very knowledgeable.

However, if he is indeed correct in his interpretation, I would contend that it just means the law is an ass in that regard...