Denial of Communion requires discretion.

The controversy regarding the denial of Holy Communion to a Lesbian in an openly homosexual relationship rumbles on. Little has been said in the reports I have seen about receiving the Blessed Sacrament unworthily yet it behoves us all, at this penitential time of year, to examine our consciences, and, head for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Washington D.C., Mar 3, 2012 / 06:06 am (CNA).- Amid controversy over reports that a Maryland women was denied Communion because of her lesbian relationship, a priest who writes on faith and culture emphasized the need to balance respect for the Eucharist with pastoral sensitivity.

“These are delicate matters,” said Msgr. Charles Pope, who blogs about culture and current events for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

He explained to CNA on March 2 that it “requires some judgment on the part of the priest” to apply Church teaching on when to deny Communion to an individual.

On Feb. 28, the Washington Post reported that Barbara Johnson was denied Communion at her mother’s funeral after introducing her lesbian partner to the priest before Mass.

The incident took place on Feb. 25 at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., which falls within the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Johnson said that Fr. Marcel Guarnizo covered the host and told her that by living in a lesbian relationship, she was sinning in the eyes of the Church.

Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law instructs that those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin should not be admitted to Holy Communion.

Msgr. Pope explained that this means the priest must know that the person’s sin is grave, that it is manifest – or well-known – and that the individual in question is obstinate in his or her sin before denying the sacrament.

That generally means that the priest “would need to meet with them privately,” he said.

Conflicting reports make it unclear whether Fr. Guarnizo had warned Johnson upon meeting her partner before Mass that she should not present herself for Communion.

Msgr. Pope said that in his experience, most people do refrain from coming forward for Communion when the circumstances are explained to them.

However, sometimes they do not, he said, and such situations require “prudential judgment” by the priest “in that moment.”

He explained that a priest may have to make an instantaneous judgment when he sees the individual come forward for Communion. Even if the person has already been warned, perhaps he or she did not hear properly or did not understand.

“Right there at the altar may not be the time or the place” to offer a better explanation, he said.

Ultimately, he explained, there is a “great deal of discretion” required by the priest as he seeks to apply the principles laid out in Canon 915.

Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, vicar general of the archdiocese, wrote a letter to Johnson apologizing for the “lack of pastoral sensitivity” shown to her.

However, Johnson said that she will “not be satisfied” until Fr. Guarnizo is removed from his ministry. She wrote a letter telling the priest that he would “pay dearly” for “judging” her.

“I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life,” she said.

Gay advocates have been fighting fiercely in Maryland, which recently became the eighth state to pass legislation legalizing “gay marriage.”

Fr. William Byrne, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, responded to the incident with a statement, which was published in the Washington Post on March 1.

He explained that priests have “an obligation to make sure that the sacraments are respected.”

In the case that a person is in a state of mortal sin, he or she should not receive Holy Communion, Fr. Byrne said.

Although the communicant is primarily responsible for determining his or her own worthiness to receive the Eucharist, there are some “extreme cases” in which “it is appropriate to consider denying Communion,” he explained.

Priests should ideally handle such situations by discussing them privately with the person before denying them Communion, he added.

“No one is entitled to the Eucharist,” Fr. Byrne said, noting that the ability to receive the Body and Blood of Christ is “a blessing and a grace.”

Msgr. Pope emphasized that the goal of Canon 915 is not to keep sinners away from the sacraments but to “restore them to communion” with the Church.

Trying to spare people from receiving unworthily is “part of the pastoral practice of the Church,” he said.

He added that it is not just homosexual activity that is condemned by the Church as a grave sin, but many other activities as well, including an unmarried heterosexual couple cohabiting or an individual in an invalid marriage.

The Catholic Church is “not trying to single out” homosexuals, he said. “To receive the Eucharist worthily is essential.”

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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13 Responses to Denial of Communion requires discretion.

  1. Sixupman says:

    What Catholic does not know one should be in a State of Grace prior to reception of the Sacrament?

    What Catholic does not know the nature of Mortal Sins?

    Modern Catholics! At parish NOMs all seem to partake of the Sacrament, therefore all must be assumed to be in a State of Grace. Likely?

    The good priest was ‘set-up’ a situation becoming more prevalent – a tactic by the homosexual lobby to push the boundaries and very effective it is proving to be in the UK, why even the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster appears sympathetic to the cause.


  2. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes you’re right in your first two sentences Sixer! Crikey!

    For the rest, it’s all a tactic by those perfumed fairies to push their frilly boundaries. They’re probably Lutherans to boot, with their “set-ups”. Oooh.. !

    It’s Dawkins to blame in the end.

    Moderns! Ugh.

    It’s got to stop.


  3. rebrites says:

    So sad to see law enforcement trumping compassionate communication, in an institution supposedly set up to bring the lost back to God´s love. Even more sad to see the offended person responding with anger and threats. If there´s a devil, he is the clear winner in this situation — one my grandad would call “a perfume contest between two skunks.”


  4. Sixupman says:

    Rebrites: So a priest who takes his vows seriously is a “skunk”, a statement which reflects more upon the person commenting than the priest. After all, he is not a paedophile a tendency not unknown amongst the homosexual fraternity!


  5. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I was wrong – it’s not Dawkins to blame this time.

    It’s Rebrites –

    sez Sixpack, whose last sentence is like explosives strapped to his chest.


  6. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Come on down Sixer, a professional counselor is here for you….


  7. toadspittle says:


    “After all, he is not a paedophile a tendency not unknown amongst the homosexual fraternity!”

    You are skating on painfully thin ice here, Sixpack. The “tendency” to paedophilia is, lamentably, not unknown among certain fraternities not a million miles from this very blog. Has caused a bit of grief, too.

    If you get Toad’s drift..


  8. toadspittle says:

    Doh! Toad has just noticed he got Sixupman’s name wrong!
    This was, he swears, a genuine mistake, and he is sorry. (Bit funny, though!)


  9. kathleen says:


    I believe you an Episcopalian – right? I don’t know all the ins and outs of your Church, but may I just ask you a couple of questions?
    Do you believe in the Real Presence in the consecrated Bread and Wine in the Holy Eucharist? If so, is just anyone allowed to receive it, irrelevant of whether they are in a state of grace or not?

    It goes without saying that we are really all unworthy of receiving Our Blessed Lord, hopeless sinners that we are…… but if we are repentant of our sins and weaknesses, have a firm purpose of amendment and a real desire to follow His Divine Law, we can say with sincerity: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You under my roof; say but the word and my soul shall be healed”. Then the Holy Catholic Church allows us this tremendous grace and gift: to receive the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus in this unfathomable mystery.

    The woman in question was clearly not in this category.


  10. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    With all this talk of lezzies it is timely that a bishop in Scotland said the other day that a Scottish Government which backed same sex marriage did not deserve the support of the Catholic community. This was Bishop Phillip Tartaglia ( and echoed by Archbishop Conti – both fine Scots names) referring to Premier Cameron’s idea of the rightness of same sex marriage. .

    I fully agree with Bish Tartaglia. I am pleased that the homosexualist community is now left in peace, for they do no harm. I cannot use the word ‘gay’ as it strikes me as the most idiotic word to use, suggesting empty headed silliness. And many of them are not..

    BUT marriage is society’s blessing and approval of the union of a man and a woman for the purposes of procreation and the well being of that society. Churches and religions of all stripes are also involved, usually. So as I once said “a man needs a husband like a fish needs a bicycle”. Anyway everyone gets divorced so it’s a lot of trouble and expense for nothing.

    On domestic matters, I am a tad concerned however that in this thread, Kathleen has not yet flirted with Toad. Reassuringly, however, they are not ‘same sex’.

    Further on domestic issues, isn’t tartaglia a kind of delicious pasta?


  11. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Ah no! – it’s tagliatelli!

    Same thing innit?


  12. kathleen says:

    Mr. W @ 17:32 yesterday,

    Great comment Mr Whippy! You had me in giggles….. something usually only Toad can do 😆

    Flirting with Toad did you say? 😯
    Oh boy, I do love him, but he’s green and ugly. 😉


  13. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes K! he’s green and ugly -we’ve seen his pic. Tho’ beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” where whatshername falls in love with Puck, also not known for his beauty. Juliet fancied Romeo, even tho’ he was a bit of an eejit. And on a recent jolly jaunt, I marvelled (not without some jealousy and chagrin) at the lovely women who were with supremely ugly blokes.

    Yet, and yet! I note that you say that Toad is the only one to have you in giggles… speak of love, too. Methinks you protest too much!

    smiley thingies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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