Rorate Caeli

A Canonical Defense of Father Marcel Guarnizo

By a contributing unnamed Father and Canonist:

A Canonical Defense of Father Marcel Guarnizo

As a priest and canon lawyer, I'd like in canonical terms, to revisit the controversial events surrounding the denial of Holy Communion to Barbara Johnson by Father Marcel Guarnizo. First of all, while I agree with many of the points by the very well-respected canonist Dr. Ed Peters, I believe that even with the rather limited information currently available, Father Guarnizo very possibly and correctly satisfied the conditions of canon 915 in denying Holy Communion to Barbara Johnson. Secondly, I would like to comment on Father Guarnizo's unjust "administrative leave" in light of the Code of Canon Law.

Part 1 - Canon 915 and Father Guarnizo

The first rule of interpretation in canon law is to read the canon. Canon 915 reads

"Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

As Ed Peters clearly points out, canon 915 lays an obligation on the minister distributing Holy Communion to deny Holy Communion to certain parties. Who are these parties? The first two parties are those who have been excommunicated or interdicted by imposition or declaration. The third party to be denied Holy Communion are those who fulfill all of the following three conditions, i.e., those who

1. Obstinately persist
2. in manifest
3. grave sin.

How is this canon to be interpreted? Ed Peters rightly mentions a general norm:

Can. 18 - "Laws which establish a penalty, restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are subject to strict interpretation."

as well as canon 912:

Can. 912 - "Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion."

On the other hand, Father William Byrne, Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, in the Archdiocese of Washington's press release, states,

"We should receive Jesus with the intention of becoming more like Him. No one is entitled to the Eucharist. It is a free gift and should be received with humility and reverence."

Ed Peters is again correct to say that the burden lies upon Father Guarnizo to prove he satisfied the requirements of canon 915. On the other hand, canon 915 lays a grave obligation on the minister of Holy Communion to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege and to prevent scandal. It goes without saying that the minister who violates canon 915 should be justly punished.
Ed Peters summarily explains why Father Guarnizo does not fufill the conditions of canon 915:

"Guarnizo did not know, and could not have verified, whether Johnson’s sin (speaking objectively), which could be grave (a conclusion I think a Catholic could reach based on the words used here) was also manifest, as well as obstinate and perseverating (sic). "

This statement raises a question. Given the extremely limited information we currently have from a variety of sources, how exactly does Ed Peters judge that Father "Guarnizo did not know, and could not have verified" Barbara Johnson was not a manifest, grave sinner? It is safe to assume that Ed Peters was not present at the chapel for the funeral, nor was he in the sacristy, nor does he have knowledge of who or how many persons witnessed the conversation that took place between Father Guarnizo and Barbara Johnson.
Ed Peters goes on to quote a number of very reputable and traditional Catholic moralists and manualists who express in various terms the meaning of canon 915. Let's look carefully at canon 915. Here's the canon again.

Canon 915 - "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."

What is the purpose of canon 915? Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest tribunal in the Church) answers this question in a paper regarding the liceity of admitting pro-abortion politicians to Holy Communion in light of canon 915. (For those who haven't read the paper, the quick answer is "no".) Cardinal Burke states that Canon 915 exists primarily to prevent sacrilege while at the same time preventing our Greatest Good from being violated. His Eminence also remarked in the Jesuit periodical America Magazine that,

"Canon 915 deals with the state of someone who persists in an open, serious moral violation and so has gravely sinned. This means you can't receive Communion, but it is not saying you are excommunicated. It's just saying you have broken, in a very serious way, your communion with God and with the Church and therefore are not able to receive Holy Communion."

The same point is implied in St. Paul's scolding of the Corinthian Christians during Mass:

"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."

The minister who applies canon 915 actually does the sinner a great service in charity by preventing him from committing another grave sin.
The secondary purpose of canon 915 is the prevention of scandal. What is scandal? Cardinal Burke says:

“The first and properly theological meaning of scandal is to do or omit something which leads others into error or sin. The second meaning is to do or omit something which causes wonderment (admiratio) in others. Denying Holy Communion publicly to the occult sinner involves scandal in the second sense. Giving Holy Communion to the obstinately serious and public sinner involves scandal in the first sense."

In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas says that although there is a need for the minister distributing Holy Communion to protect the good name of the hidden sinner, there is also an obligation to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege by a public sinner.
Since Barbara Johnson doesn't fall into the first two categories of canon 915, let's see she if she fulfills the following three conditions for the last category of persons, i.e., those who

1. Obstinately persist
2. in manifest
3. grave sin.

1. Obstinately persist
What does it mean to "obstinately persist"?

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (PCLT), the department of the Vatican whose job it is to interpret authentically both universal and particular laws in the Church, states that this phrase "obstinate persistence" is

"the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of "the situation in the Church."
"Obstinate persistence" denotes an objective (not subjective) state. Although commonly misunderstood, it is not necessary that warnings be issued in order to judge "obstinate persistence".

Before the funeral Mass, Barbara Johnson declared her homosexual status by introducing her lesbian lover to Father Guarnizo. What was the purpose of this action? We now know, from media reports, that Barbara has been with her partner for 20 years.
We also know that Barbara Johnson walked out of the sacristy while her lover blocked the doorway.

2. "Manifest"
What does "manifest" mean?

Among the leading canon lawyers currently living in North America is Professor John Huels at St. Paul's University. In his 1985 commentary on canon 915, Professor Huels writes that

"a manifest sin is one which is publicly known, even if only by a few."

Although tempting, it is not possible completely to equate the term “manifest” with the term “public”, since, in the 1917 Code these two adjectives are used to describe those who are not allowed a Catholic funeral. (1917 Code of Canon Law, c. 1240. Alii peccatores publici et manifesti [Other public and manifest sinners])If “manifest” were exactly the same as“public”, why would the legislator have used both terms?“ Manifest” can also refer to the fact that certain moral actions by their very essence are always immoral and are objectively wrong.For example, we say that it is“manifest” or clear, i.e., there is no doubt, that a certain moral action is definitely wrong.The term “manifest”would certainly in its definition, a politician who is actively attempting to pass legislation to facilitate direct abortions. Understandably there is overlapping in meaning but the the term "public" can mean "that which is provable in the external forum."
The Jesuit theologian Father Davis, in his classic Moral and Pastoral Theology published in 1938, declared that

“He is, relatively speaking, a public sinner, if he is known to be such by those who observe that he asks for the Sacraments. He is said to ask for them publicly, if he does so, in the presence of any others, many or few, who would recognize him as a public sinner.”

The ancient Rituale Romanum stated:

"All the faithful are to be admitted to Holy Communion, except those who are prohibited for a just reason. The publicly unworthy, which are the excommunicated, those under interdict, and the manifestly infamous, such as prostitutes, those cohabiting, usurers, sorcerers, fortune-tellers, blasphemers and other sinners of the public kind, are, however, to be prevented, unless their penitence and amendment has been established and they will have repaired the public scandal."

Furthermore, as Cardinal Burke mentions in his commentary on canon 915,

“Regarding the denial of Holy Communion, the [1720 Ruthenian] Synod made its own the perennial discipline of the Church:
'Heretics, schismatics, the excommunicated, the interdicted, public criminals, the openly infamous, as also prostitutes, the publicly cohabiting, major usurers, fortune-tellers, and other evil-doing men of the same kind, however, are not to be admitted to the reception of this Sacrament, according to the precept of Christ: 'Do not give the Holy to dogs'. "

A notorious act here means an act that cannot be concealed.

The well-respected Father William Woestman adds that,

"the public reception of Communion by a public sinner implies that the Church and her ministers somehow condone the public serious sin."

An author that Ed Peters is familiar with and recommends is the Dominican Father Halligan. Father Halligan, in Administration of the Sacraments, states that a crime

"is public, if it is already divulged or is so situated that it may and must be concluded that it will easily become commonly known."

Who else was present in the sacristy on the day of Barbara Johnson's mother's funeral? Who else could have heard the conversation that took place between Father Guarnizo and Barbara Johnson? Usually before a liturgical ceremony such as a funeral, a number persons can be present in the sacristy (e.g., altar servers, schola members, members of the recently deceased, the parish secretary, etc.). In addition, reasonableness is assumed in law. Is it not reasonable that the community, largely made up of Barbara Johnson's family, knew of her lesbian relationship before the funeral if not at least at the funeral? At family gatherings like funerals or weddings, people "catch up" and learn how everyone and everything has been going since the last funeral or wedding. People find out family news. Even strangers discover a little bit about who's related to whom and so on. Is it not very reasonable that more than a few people present in that church building knew about the lesbian relationship between Barbara Johnson and her lover? Every human being lives in a community. What about the community of which Barbara Johnson is a member and amongst whom she lives? Are they supposed to assume that Barbara Johnson received Holy Communion just like everybody else? Doesn't this create scandal in Cardinal Burke's first sense where the faithful are led into error about who is worthy to receive Holy Communion?

An unnamed source present at the funeral mentioned that most of the congregation was mysteriously not made up of those around the age of the recently deceased mother but were more around the age of Barbara Johnson. An unusually small percentage of people came up to receive Holy Communion. If these were friends of Barbara Johnson, what about the possible scandal that could have taken place if Father Gaurnizo had given her Holy Communion? This witness is confident that the vast majority of the persons present for the funeral knew about the lesbian "lifestyle" of Barbara Johnson.

3. Grave sin.
Regarding "Grave Sin", the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts declares that this is
"understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability."

Now that we've walked through a working description of the phrase in canon 915 asserting that those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion," what is a concrete example of people who fall into this category? The answer is given to us by Blessed Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Catechism and again, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Blessed John Paul II in Familaris Consortio in 1982:

“The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted hereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict the union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is a another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage."

Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1991:

"As far as the internal forum solution is concerned as a means of resolving the question of the validity of a prior marriage, the magisterium has not sanctioned its use for a number of reasons, among which is the inherent contradiction of resolving something in the internal forum which by its nature also pertains to and has such important consequences for the external forum."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 1650-1651:

"If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic Communion as long as this situation persists. "

Pontifical Commission for Legislative Texts in 2000:

"In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts "others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful."

The noted 1917 Code commentar Fr. Lincoln Bouscaren, SJ, in Canon Law Digest (vol. 1, 408-409) also relates the case of

"a woman that was living in open concubinage with a relative, went to confession to a missionary, and was admitted by him to Holy Communion. The pastor of the church questioned the propriety of this course of action on the part of the missionary, and referred the matter to the Ordinary of the place. The latter forbade the admission of the woman to Holy Communion until she should have separated from the man with whom she was living. From this decree, the missionary had recourse tot he Sacred Congregation of the Council.

Question: Whether the decree of the Ordinary is to be obeyed.

Reply: In the affirmative."

Father William Woestman logically concludes that

"the same principles apply to everyone whose habitual lifestyle is manifestly gravely sinful, e.g., the unmarried "living together," homosexuals or lesbians in a public relationship, those actively participating in the performance of abortions, drug traffickers, gang members."

We can see that Ed Peters clearly contradicts the point reinterated by Father Woestmann:

"I think that withholding Holy Communion from those divorced and remarried outside the Church is an application of Canon 915 (see, e.g., Kelly, in GB&I COMM [1995] 503), but I need not prove that point to show that withholding the Eucharist from divorced-and-remarrieds, that is, those who status is de iurepublic, is appropriate under, among other things, the 1994 CDF Letter on Communion for Divorced and Remarried Catholics, n. 6. Of course, as Johnson is apparently not divorced and remarried outside the Church, and because Guarnizo did not suspect her of being so, his implicit appeal to the CDF letter and/or c. 915, fails in law and in fact."

Objectively, homosexuality is graver than adultery. I don't understand why Dr. Peters says that it is licit to use canon 915 to deny Holy Communion to those who are divorced and have remarried but it is not licit to use canon 915 for a lesbian in a homosexual relationship.

Up to this point, we've applied our attention to law relevant to the particular situation of Baabara Johnson. Now we ask, what should be done practically in a concrete situation?

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts again provides the answer.

"Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls."

"The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community."

We know that Father Guarnizo did not make the funeral arrangments for Barbara Johnson's mother. We also know that after hearing confessions from 930-1020am, Father Guarnizo wanted to speak with Barbara before the 1030am funeral Mass but was blocked by Barbara Johnson's lover. We also know that Father Guarnizo's action to deny Holy Communion to Barbara Johnson was extremely discreet.

Part 2 - "Administrative Leave" and Father Guarnizo

Regarding the "administrative leave" and the loss of his priestly faculties in the diocese of Washington, DC, Father Guarnizo says

"I would only add for the record, that the letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash."

The major question in this matter is where is the necessary element of due process?

John Beal, a well-known canonist at Catholic University, argues that "administrative leave" can only take place after a formal judicial penal process has been initiated, and not during the information-collecting preliminary investigation. This assumes that the prelimary investagtion of canon 1720 was actually carried out. Thus, the Ordinary should have decreed that the acts of the investigation be handed over to the Promoter of Justice who then presents the libellus (petition of accusation) to the judge. Canons 1720, 1721 and 1722 need to be applied.

Can. 1720 "If the ordinary thinks that the matter must proceed by way of extrajudicial decree:
1º he is to inform the accused of the accusation and the proofs, giving an opportunity for self-defense, unless the accused neglected to appear after being properly summoned;
2º he is to weigh carefully all the proofs and arguments with two assessors;
3º if the delict is certainly established and a criminal action is not extinguished, he is to issue a decree according to the norm of cann. 1342–1350, setting forth the reasons in law and in fact at least briefly."

Can. 1721 "§1. If the ordinary has decreed that a judicial penal process must be initiated, he is to hand over the acts of the investigation to the promoter of justice who is to present a libellus of accusation to the judge according to the norm of cann. 1502 and 1504.
§2. The promoter of justice appointed to the higher tribunal acts as the petitioner before that tribunal."

Can. 1722 "To prevent scandals, to protect the freedom of witnesses, and to guard the course of justice, the ordinary, after having heard the promoter of justice and cited the accused, at any stage of the process can exclude the accused from the sacred ministry or from some office and ecclesiastical function, can impose or forbid residence in some place or territory, or even can prohibit public participation in the Most Holy Eucharist. Once the cause ceases, all these measures must be revoked; they also end by the law itself when the penal process ceases."

According to Father Guarnizo's report, the legal measures demanded by canons 1721 and 1722 were simply not applied:

"The letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash."

Where is the right of defense for Father Gaurnizo? Did the Ordinary initiate an administrative process or a judicial penal process with a decree of judicial weight? What about the libellus, the formal petition of accusation? Where is the promotor of justice to ensure that the proper juridical motions are taken at each step of the trial? Where is due process?

In short, I respectfully but substantially disagree with Ed Peters' view of Father Guarnizo's alleged violation canon 915 based on the arguments offered above. In addition, the misfortune of the the loss of faculties that Father Guarnizo has suffered has seemingly come about without due canonical process. Furthermore, why did the diocese not mention canon 916, which reminds the faithful of the obligation to receive the Eucharist worthily in their letter of apology to Barbara Johnson? Although any information whatsoever about the entire situation is at a premium, it seems like the Diocese of Washington, DC is more willing, at least externally, to place its trust in somebody who (although canonically is not Buddhist as Ed Peters rightly points out) professes to be a Buddhist, has illegally attempted marriage with her lesbian partner, and was a speaker on March 17th at a national conference for gays and lesbians. Finally, is Father Guarnizo guilty until proven innocent?

I'm making these points in order to highlight every priest's obligation to safeguard the Holy Eucharist and to highlight that every priest accused of wrongdoing should receive a right of defense in a just trial.


  1. Isaac S.6:55 PM

    Excellent post! I have to say that after this incident and the Michael Voris affair I've lost all confidence in Ed Peters' ability to interpret Canon Law. He seems very Pharisaical in that he tries to strictly interpret each individual Canon while ignoring the entire reason that Canon Law exists in the first place. I used to be a big fan of his, too.

  2. Jack O'Malley7:18 PM

    An eloquent defense of Fr. Guarnizo by Fr. X.

    And I agree with Isaac S. relative to Dr. Peters. A lawyer, particularly one who is a blogger, ought to be laying out the case both for and against the person in question, if he truly wishes to shed light on the application of canon law. He should not be acting as the prosecutor. Perhaps Dr. Peters should rename his blog In the Dark of the Law given the secrecy in which Fr. Guarnizo was condemned by Cardinal Wuerl.

    It is to be hoped that this scandalous incident will increase the field of public commentary by canon lawyers. Even if they have regrettably to do so under cover of pseudonym.

  3. Anonymous8:37 PM

    Re: Defense Against Attacks by Canon Layer

    Fr. Guarnizo was not charged or accused by the Archdiocese of Washington of violating Canon 915; or any other Canon for that matter. For some strange reason the good Canon Lawyer Peters, joined by another Canon Lawyer (Fr. Stuart MacDonald)decided to very publicly try and condemn Fr. Guarnizo on their own initiative; and they, independent of any Bishop's authority, found Father guilty of violating Canon 915.

    There are a couple of problems with the good Canon Lawyers actions.

    * By what authority do these good gentlemen declare that Fr. Guarnizo is guilty of violating Canon 915? Does either Canon Lawyer works for the Archdiocese of Washington. Are they engaged by any party to this matter?

    * By what method did these good Canon Lawyers come to know the facts of the case? Did they interview the principal parties and witnesses and take statements? Rr did they rely on secular news accounts, hearsay, gossip and speculation?

    * How does Fr. Guarnizo appeal from the Canon Lawyers very public condemnation of him? Indeed did the Canon lawyers afford Fr. Guarnizo due process rights before they very publicly condemned him? How does Fr. Guarnizo get his good name back?

    Indeed one may ask who is now safe from attack by Catholic Canon Lawyers?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  4. Thank you Father X for presenting the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. I too have lost some respect for Mr. Peters as his analysis seemed to adhere to the letter but not the spirit of the law.

  5. It's interesting to note that the 'compendio de teologia moral arregui-zalba' (compendium of moral theology) the standard Spanish moral theology textbook till just after the council that went 14 editions in Latin under arregui and a further 10 when revised and expanded by zalba states ' all ministers are by fidelity to their office, reverence due to the sacrament, the charity due to our neighbour and obedience to the church, are obligated under pain of MORTAL SIN to deny the sacraments not only to those who are unable to receive them, but also to:

    The public sinner, all the sacraments of the living must be denied him as long ad he does not publicly show sufficient amendment...' point 513 of the 2nd Spanish edition published in 1947

    Later it states some applications of this point and states ' One can administer the sacraments of the living to a public sinner whos perverse life is generally recognised in the area where he asks for the sacraments when:

    a) he asks for them privately, when because of the minister and the circumstances he has confessed he has taken away the proximate occassion, if he was in it...

    b) if he asks for them publicly, it is necessary that as well reparation for the scandal he has caused, he is seen to go to confession by others and that he will shortly divulge this

    C) in danger of death, always when he has confessed or given signs of contrition in front of witnesses, as soon as circumstances permit'

    You'll have to pardon the rough translation but its certainly very interesting given that some seem to think that it is only under canon law that one can deny communion. I wonder how priests using this book today would be treated?

  6. Someone9:14 PM

    Very good post, and good to see someone taking up the challenge to respond to Dr. Peters. His recent posts, in my opinion, show an inordinate attachment to his own opinions in this matter, in that he vilifies those who take issue with him.

    Two things. First, what about the necessity of being properly disposed? Someone who is clearly intoxicated or high would have to be denied Communion, even if Can. 915 is not relevant at all in this situation.

    Second, if a priest believes that giving Communion in a concrete, problematic case would involve formal cooperation in sacrilege, it seems to me that he would still have to follow his certain conscience, even if it is erroneous.

  7. Picard10:24 PM

    "if a priest believes that giving Communion in a concrete, problematic case would involve formal cooperation in sacrilege, it seems to me that he would still have to follow his certain conscience, even if it is erroneous."

    Yes, of course - but that is a platitude that also Ed. Peters does not question.
    Yes, he has to follow his conscience [subjective level] - but that does not answer our debated question if he violated c. 915 [objectively] --- if you admit that his conscience could be erroneous then it follows that he would really have violated c. 915 in that case!

  8. Anonymous11:12 PM

    So, why do countless priests with the full knowledge of their bishops continue to give those who have, without justification, abandoned their catholic marriages?

    Particularly when their spouses remain faithful to their vows and the priests and bishops involved know this fully?

    Why are those like myself openly castigated for bringing this and very related information up, frequently, when it is a real scandal which catholic blogdom intentionally hides by NOT keeping it in the faces of their bishops and their Pope, by openly calling Benedict out for not helping those in abandoned marriages, who have repeatedly sought aid from the Church and been ignored for over twenty years!

    And how much worse is the scandal in front of little children who know the score and see the clergy openly supporting public and permanent adultery, when their
    parent has civilly remarried and the same garbage goes on, in THEIR faces!


  9. Very good!, Excellent!

    Really, it also was a matter of common sense. I read comments printed through secular venues in which non-Catholics and even fallen- away Catholics defended Fr. Guarnizo's refusal of Holy Communion to that woman. In essence what they said was that if you don't follow the rules, you can't play.

    (By the way, lay Eucharistic ministers should completely be dispensed with.)

    Can you believe it? Then she and her partner were honored by a "Catholic" symposium. Incredible.

    I hope Fr. Doyle reads this canonical defense of Fr. Guarnizo.

  10. Prof. Basto1:23 AM

    Excellent vindication of the correct actions of Fr. Guarnizo. Now the Church needs to void the illegitimate act that placed him unjustly on administrative leave without due process.

  11. "Given the extremely limited information we currently have from a variety of sources, how exactly does Ed Peters judge that Father "Guarnizo did not know, and could not have verified" Barbara Johnson was not a manifest, grave sinner? It is safe to assume that Ed Peters was not present at the chapel for the funeral, nor was he in the sacristy, nor does he have knowledge of who or how many persons witnessed the conversation that took place between Father Guarnizo and Barbara Johnson."

    Which is why Mr. Peters had no business holding forth on this subject in the first place. He knows as much about the pertinent facts as anyone else who has been made aware of this incident.

  12. Gratias3:45 AM

    This was a trap for Fr. Marcel Guarnizo. He was against abortion and that is sufficient to be targetted by anti-Catholic homosexuals. There are many public agitators and unfortunately timorous Cardinal Wuerl does not have the stuff needed to guide the most important diocese in USA politics. So an excellent American priest is lost to the Church. No one to defend him, just like the "Gays" took out Fr. Rodriguez in Texas.

  13. The Washigton Archdiocese acted with haste placing all blame on Fr. G. Even condemning him for un-pastoral behavior. The greatest of the modernist sins. The provocation was overlooked. The whole affair leaves a bad taste.

    Gives the impression of punishing the innocent and praising the guilty. Of course, I am not a canon lawyer.

  14. Picard8:20 PM

    To strengthen the arguments of the post of the annon "Fr. X" against Ed. Peters:

    I looked up the Jone-manual of moral theology (one of the most famous traditional manuals, at least in German speaking countries) and
    a) in No 457, 2. we learn (like in other manuals - so only to strengthen the argument) that a priest should not only deny the sacraments to a sinner if his sin is really manifest/public, but also if it is not yet known, but (presumably) will be known/public/manisfest soon.

    So as the behaviour of Barbara Johnson showed clearly, that she was not trying to hide her sinfull situation and most probably this sinfull partnership would get known to many of the congregation soon, Ed. Peters seems to be wrong and Fr. Guarnizo seems to have reacted correctly.

    And more
    b), as no. 457, 1. shows, the main reason why the sacraments must be distributed [to] a not public, not manifest (only private) sinner is that he has still the right of good reputation (good fame).

    But then in our case if the sinner himself reveals his sinfull situation to everybody and does not try to hide it, then you can not "hurt", undermine his good reputation. He (or her) himself undermines it, makes the sin public, seems to be proud of it [and not ashamed] - so no need to be carefull re that!!

    (And btw., in our modern, liberal times a lesbian, that outed herselfe, does not loose reputation, but for contrary rather gets more...)

  15. Father “Anonymous” certainly demonstrates what I and others have maintained was at least possible, …which is the providing of a legitimate defense of Fr. Guarnizo’s actions in accordance with canon law.

    Unfortunately, too many people who don’t know better, and many people who should have known better simply buy into the narrative that Dr. Peters is the last word in canon law interpretation. Perhaps buoyed by such blind loyalty, Dr. Peters dismisses opposing views regarding this matter with the exceedingly disrespectful “I’m the expert and others either agree with me or they need correction” approach.

    Well, the defense now provided by Fr. “Anonymous” illustrates once again how foolish such misplaced pride is in one’s own limited expertise, because the good Father’s analysis provides greater authoritative references than those presented by Dr. Peters and fellow travelers. Moreover, Father “Anonymous” directly addresses some of the unique aspects of this case instead of trying to claim that it is substantially like others that Dr. Peters uses to support his interpretation and application of Canon 915 and other canons in opposition to Fr. Guarnizo’s actions. This alone illustrates greater depth of thought and analysis than that exercised by Dr. Peters and his fellow travelers in discussing this case.

    This is indeed a serious matter, but I have to admit to a major belly laugh after reading through the superb analysis by Father “Anonymous,” because a vision of many people with eggs covering their faces danced through my mind. As I have mentioned previously, the Dr. Peters interpretation may prove to be the more accurate one in the long run,…but it is certainly not the only one possible, even according to canon law, so anyone who maintains that "the Dr. Peters interpretation is the only one possible" has the egg facial that they brought on themselves by believing that the Dr. Peters interpretation has a quasi-ex cathedra status. :-)

    Lastly, note the style used by Fr. “Anonymous” in his commentary. He doesn’t accuse Dr. Peters of being confused or not up to the intellectual challenge of commenting on the case as we unfortunately see from Dr. Peters on occasion when people challenge his views. One hopes that Dr. Peters and others will adopt the style of Fr. “Anonymous” if they choose to offer a critical response to the learned commentary provided by Fr. “Anonymous.”

    God Bless!


  16. Excellent research and insights, Picard, and your last line concerning how the modern world views lesbian proclamations, etc., is superb food for thought regarding the facts of this case that are different than other cases typically referenced in the application of Canon 915.

    Well Done and God Bless!


  17. Anonymous10:15 PM

    Ms. Marie

    "Fr. MacDonald has responded to this post"

    Thank you for the link. I may have missed something but I could not find anything in the good Father MacDonald's response regarding three key questions:

    1. As Fr. Guarnizo's own Bishops (Moscow & Washington)have not accused him of violating Canon 915 (or any other Canon for that matter) by what authority do the good Lawyer Peters & Father MacDonald have the right to publicly judge and condemn Fr. Guarnizo for his alleged violation of Canon 915?

    2. Where did the good Lawyer Peters & Father MacDonald obtain the facts upon which they judged Fr. Guarnizo? Did they interview and take statements from teh principals and witnesses; or did they rely on secular newspaper reports, hearsay and gossip?

    If Fr. Guarnizo's superiors never accuse him (let alone find him guilty) of violating Canon 915 how does Fr. Guarnizo get his good name back now that the good Lawyer Peters and Father MacDonald have publicly judged him and found Fr. Guarnizo guilty of violating said Canon?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  18. Our Lady of Sorrows12:46 AM

    Father Marcel Guarnizo remains in our prayers. By his actions, Fr. Guarnizo dispels the darkness of sin. This is one way that the holy Priests of God can help to save many souls. Deo gratias!

    All for the honor and glory of God!

  19. Lynda3:14 AM

    This is an analysis which is much more in conformity with, the nature and purpose of each of the applicable individual laws and principles, and an ESSENTIAL HARMONIOUS AND PRIORITISING INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION of all those laws and principles than I have heard heretofore in respect of the circumstances of the instant case. It is quite a relief to hear a canonist give a much more comprehensive and balanced study of all the major principles involved than did Mr Peters. As a lawyer myself, I found Mr Peter's analysis to be inadequate, and too narrowly focussed on, for instance, the principle of strict interpretation of a law that prevents a member of the faithful from receiving a sacrament, when, whilst needing to take account of this, there were other equally important principles, substantive and procedural, to take into account. A law may not be applied to a set of facts in a way which conflicts with reason. Canon law may not be interpreted to conflict with the moral law to which it is subject. The application of the "manifest" criterion has been applied in an unreal, tortuous, and frankly absurd, way in respect of the supposed (for purposes of analysis) facts of the case. The supposed facts are such that Ms Johnson's sin, in openly living in a sexual relationship with another woman, was reasonably known and knowable by anyone who would come to know her (as a matter of objective reasonableness). In fact, the circumstances objectively tend to notoriety, which extends beyond the requirement of "manifest". The analysis by Mr Peters and others appeared to be analysing the case from the perspective of the worst possible/weakest possible case on behalf of Fr Guarnizo, for no good reason (other than perhaps as a purely theoretical exercise?). I found such analyses/opinions to be most unhelpful in illuminating the truth in the given circumstances, particularly where many faithful are shocked and scandalised by the treatment of Fr Guarnizo by the Diocese. There appeared to be a failure to accept that Fr Guarnizo, who clearly assessed himself as being apprised of all the relevant facts and law, was in fact, so apprised. There was no fact supposed that I am aware of, that could have ousted the presumption that Fr Guarnizo had all of the necessary knowledge to refuse the Eucharist in the circumstances. His conscience, was presumably well informed by all of the relevant data. The apparent rush to judgment by the Diocese (a rather irrational one in the light of the published letter to Ms Johnson) is deeply regrettable, scandalous even. I am glad to see that this analysis points out that a warning is not required, per se, to prove obstinate persistence (and relevant authority cited). It is very much a pity that this canonist discerns that he should be anonymous.

  20. It would appear that Mr. Peters' misapplication/misinterpretation of canon law in this matter is persistent (but perhaps not obstinately so), manifest, public, and grave (but of course not in a canonical sense). ;-)

  21. Picard1:45 PM

    Thanks DB. For you and all the others that may be interested in the exact quotes of Jone here I´ll cite them (translation by myselfe):

    Jone: Katholische Moraltheologie. Schöningh, Paderborn 1949 [13th edition],

    457, 1.
    ...The sacraments must be denied a private/non-public/occult sinner, if he wants to receive them non-publicly. But if he aks for them in front of others [publicly] then they must be administered him, so that he does not lose / will not be deprived of his good reputation ["guter Ruf"] and...

    457, 2.
    ...If a public sinner wants to receive the sacraments in a place, were his delicts are unknown, then the sacraments must be also denied him there, if his delicts will become known in this place soon; if they will presumably remain unknown/occult, then the sacraments must be administered him...

    [Btw., a linguisditc question:

    Do you say in English "the sacraments must be administerd him" or "to him" or is it better to say "he must be administered the sacraments"?
    And the same for denied - is it "the sacraments must be denied him" or "to him" or is it better to say "he must be denied the sacraments" - or sth. else??!

    And do you say "administer" or better "distribute" or "contribute" sacraments - or what else?!

    Perhaps sbd. could please give me some lesson in English here... Thanks for helping!!]

  22. M. A.9:44 PM


    English is a very strange language. There are many rules with as many exceptions to the rules.

    However, with regard to your questions:

    Proper: "the sacraments must be administered to him"

    Perfectly fine: "the sacraments must be denied him"

    passive voice, also correct:"he must be denied the sacraments"

    "Administer" is the proper word to use in the given context.

    God bless!

  23. Picard12:19 PM

    Thanks M.A.:

    Two questions:

    1) Is the passive also correct with "administer" and "distribute" - so: "He must be administered the sacraments" or "he must be distributed the sacraments"?

    2) If I use contribute or distribute, is ist also: "must be contributed/distributed to him" or can you say "must be contributed/distributed him", too?

    God bless!


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