Burying a parent is a difficult time in any person's life. Anybody who has had to do it knows the grief, stress, and general pain and suffering that goes along with parents' funerals. But this difficult process was made a whole lot more difficult for a woman in Maryland identified only as Barbara.
Imagine going to your mother's funeral, only to be turned away from communion by the priest. Then, imagine the priest literally walking out of the funeral as you read your eulogy. Well this is exactly what happened to Barbara. Why? Because Barbara happens to be a lesbian, and the priest wasn't too pleased about her personal living arrangements. (Because, judging from my own experience in helping start a Gay-Straight Alliance at a Catholic college, the Church assumes that you're having sex against Church teachings if you're in a same-sex relationship.)
When Barbara attempted to take communion this past weekend at her mother's funeral, the priest, Father Marcel Guarnizo, stopped her and said, "I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church."
That's bad enough. But it only got worse.
He then abruptly left while Barbara was delivering her eulogy - apparently lesbians repulse Fr. Guarnizo even when they're reflecting on their mothers' lives. Finally, he told the funeral director that he was "too sick" to deliver the final blessing at the grave site. From Ann Werner's piece at Addicting Info, which first reported this story:
My friend Barbara, the daughter of the deceased woman, was denied communion at her mother’s funeral. She was the first in line and Fr. Guarnizo covered the bowl containing the host and said to her, “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church.” To add insult to injury, Fr. Guarnizo left the altar when she delivered her eulogy to her mother. When the funeral was finished he informed the funeral director that he could not go to the gravesite to deliver the final blessing because he was sick.Denying communion to a woman at her mother's funeral because you don't like her sexuality...that sounds totally Christlike, no? The piece continues:
I will tell you a little about the woman who drove that priest from the altar. She is kind, she is smart, she is funny and she works hard promoting the arts. She pays her bills, she cares deeply for her family and she loved her mother and her mother loved her right back. And now she will never set foot in a Catholic church again and who can blame her?
It is time for Christians of all stripes to stop and think about the teachings of the Jesus they proclaim to love so deeply and revere so much. I spent twelve years in Catholic school and the Jesus I was told about would never have turned away anyone for any reason and certainly not on the occasion of burying a parent. Fr. Guarnizo has a lot to learn about Christianity and the Catholic Church has a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus if behavior of this sort is tolerated.Maybe Fr. Guarnizo was still pissed off about the Maryland marriage equality victory.
This is but one small story but it is indicative of the battle raging in America today. It is an ugly battle and one I never thought I would see. But it is here and we must deal with it. We must keep politics out of religion and religion out of politics. Perhaps if we can get back to a place where the separation of church and state are once again accepted as one of the founding principles of this country, stop trying to out-Christian each other, stop vilifying other religions and other people based on purely human and not godly concepts, we will begin to mend the fractures that are tearing us apart today. To do that, the Father Guarnizos and the Rick Santorums of the world will have to undergo a radical change of heart and I don’t think they have it in them. So it is up to the rest of us.
As for me, I send my love and condolences to my friend Barbara and all of the other family members who were made to witness such an egregious display of prejudice in such an inappropriate setting. To Father Guarnizo, I say, “Jesus would weep.”
David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement provides a little context for understanding this extremist priest:
Father Marcel Guarnizo is an anti-choice activist who has delivered speeches about abortion, like the one we located below, which calls abortion clinics — one, in particular which he mentions by name — a “veritable death camp.”Anti-gay wingnuts can bark about "religious freedom" all they want - but I think most of us recognize this kind of violation of human dignity as fundamentally appalling and disgusting. And that it happened to Barbara at her mother's funeral...there are some truly evil people in the world.