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Family responds to Md. priest's defense of denying Communion

Thursday - 3/15/2012, 4:30pm  ET

UPDATE: Thursday - 3/15/2012, 4:27pm

WASHINGTON - There's now renewed controversy after a woman was singled out at a Gaithersburg church for being a lesbian.

Her brother, Larry Johnson, says their family got "some degree of closure on the matter" from the Archdiocese of Washington, which he says apologized, and has been "very respectful" about the issue.

But he says he felt the need to speak out after the priest involved, Father Marcel Guarnizo, issued a public statement explaining his actions. Larry Johnson calls the statement "repugnant" and "so full of mischaracterizations that I simply can't let it go."

The statement, which was posted on CNSNews.com, was the first time Guarnizo has spoken about the incident. He says he "did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation," and says he had no intention of hurting or embarrassing anyone.

Johnson also says Guarnizo's claims that his sister "announced" to the priest that her "lover" was present are false, and says the priest is using a migraine headache as an excuse for walking out on the services. Johnson is not asking for any specific action from the Church in response. He says he only wants to make sure that "if there is a final word on this, it's not this statement that he issued."

In announcing Guarnizo's removal, the Archdiocese of Washington cited allegations that Guarnizo intimidated parish staff. Guarnizo denied that, saying he was removed after trying to obtain written comment about what happened from the funeral director and a parish staff member.

Thursday - 3/15/2012, 2:50pm ET

WASHINGTON - Barbara Johnson's brother is now speaking out in response to the priest's public comments about the incident in which his sister was denied Communion for being a lesbian.

"This statement that purports to describe the actual facts is so repugnant and so full of mischaracterizations that I simply can't let it go," says Larry Johnson.

He says it is not true that his sister announced that another woman was her lover.

Johnson says his issue is with Father Marcel Guarnizo and not with the church itself.

Thursday - 3/15/2012, 8:40am ET

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - A Gaithersburg priest is defending his decision to deny Communion to a woman at a funeral Mass because she is a lesbian. The priest has since been suspended.

In a statement to the conservative website CNSnews.com, the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo said Barbara Johnson introduced another woman as her "lover" during a Feb. 25 funeral for Johnson's mother. "Openly confessing sin" should be done in a confessional and not before Communion, he said. He said he then quietly withheld Communion.

Guarnizo said that the incident was a "warning" to the church and that he's confident he did the only thing a "faithful Catholic priest could do."

In announcing his removal, the Archdiocese of Washington cited allegations that Guarnizo intimidated parish staff. Guarnizo denied that, saying he was removed after trying to obtain written comment about what happened from the funeral director and a parish staff member.

Johnson's family called Guarnizo's response "arrogant" and "deceitful." Johnson said he is politicizing her mother's death.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)