Imagine, for just a moment, being in the midst of the shock and grief of losing your mother and turning to your church for the comfort of the familiar rituals and sacraments associated with death and burial. As you approach the priest for Communion, he unexpectedly withholds the Host and tells you, right there in the Communion line he will not give you the Sacrament because of who you love. Shaken, you return to your pew, and when you muster the strength to rise to deliver your mother’s eulogy, the priest walks off the altar, returning only when you have finished. Then, as the mourners head to the burial site, you are told the priest will not accompany your family to say the final prayers and conclude the rite. Instead of reassuring you in your time of mourning, your church shunned and rejected you, leaving you feeling even more alone.
This is exactly what happened recently to a woman by the name of Barbara Johnson and to her family when their mother’s funeral Mass was held at the Saint John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Father Marcel Guarnizo told Ms. Johnson he heard just before the funeral that she was romantically involved with another woman, and saw her relationship as grounds to deny her Communion, refuse to even be present during her grief-stricken eulogy, and leave the entire family scrambling for a way to conclude their mother’s funeral rites.
It is hard to imagine a more heart-wrenching failure on the part of our church.
The Washington Post, On Faith, February 29, 2012