On Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s statement: “I believe that he, and those inclined to support him, need correction”

From Dr. Ed Peters:

Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s statement evidences misunderstandings of several aspects of Catholic law on the administration of holy Communion and confirms my sense that Guarnizo erred in withholding holy Communion in this case. Regarding those errors, I believe that he, and those inclined to support or even imitate him, need correction.

I offer here canonical commentary, and that, only for those who are interested in the operation of canon law in the Church and are aware of (or willing to take direction on) how this venerable legal system serves the Christian community. Those suffering, regardless of their doctrinal views, from various kinds of ecclesiastical antinomianism are invited to address their more basic concerns about the role of law in the Church in another context.

I comment here only on Guarnizo’s decision to withhold holy Communion from Barbara Johnson on Feb 25, except briefly to correct one parenthetical remark by Guarnizo: he apparently thinks that Cdl. Wuerl does not have the authority to “suspend” him. I have stated all along that Guarnizo is not suspended, but there is no question that Wuerl could suspend Guarnizo, or apply any other appropriate penalty, if things come to that (cc. 1408, 1412).

This is a blog post (if a longish one), so I can’t include as much scholarly apparatus (e.g., footnotes, in-text citations) as befits a study of this matter. Likewise, I must leave some useful but secondary points of law unstated here; none of those points, however, in my opinion, would rehabilitate Guarnizo’s decision in this case.

Summary of pertinent facts

Guarnizo admits that he only met Johnson a few minutes before her mother’s funeral Mass, admits that he had no knowledge whatsoever about the Johnson family, and offers no indication that he knew anything about the congregation gathered for Mass that day.

Guarnizo says that, a few minutes before Mass started, Johnson appeared in the sacristy and introduced another woman as her “lover”; further conversation was prevented by the “lover” standing in a doorway. There was apparently no mention of Johnson’s possible lesbian activism, her cohabitation status (if any), her degree of ‘alienation’ from the Church, or her possible involvement in Buddhism.

There is no reason to doubt but that Johnson was baptized Catholic and there is no evidence that she ever proffered an “act of formal defection” (when such were possible) or has been found guilty of a canonical crime such as apostasy (c. 751, 1364).

Primary applicable canons

Notwithstanding some unguarded talk about no one having the right to receive holy Communion, canon law provides a complex of norms that upholds the faithful’s fundamental rights—rights ultimately conferred by Christ through His Church—to receive the sacraments. Cappello, DE SACRAMENTIS (1945) I: 361

It goes on at great length and detail.  Read the rest.

Comments are now closed.


  1. Henry Karlson says:

    Well stated and explained.

  2. This reads like a legal brief against the priest. Maybe he should be sued in a church court at this point, and Ed Peters can be the prosecutor. Maybe the Apostolic Signatura should weigh in on this matter at some point.

  3. This is too complicated for a simple minded person like me. I think Jesus liked fishermen for a reason. I’m sticking with Guarnizo’s version of events. Canon law makes my head spin.

  4. Kevin, we were typing our similar reactions at the same minute I think.

  5. Love it, Kevin. Exactly.

  6. Henry Karlson says:

    Yes, we know, the priest doesn’t have to follow the laws of the Church. *shrug*.

  7. Ed Peters has a job and he’s not going to do anything to jepordize it. Therefore priest will always be wrong and the bishop/cardinal/whatever will always be right.

  8. As much as I respect the opinion of Dr. Peters, I think that his analysis after the fact really doesn’t help the situation.
    What the priest is dealing with is a situation which came out of nowhere, right before mass, and he needed to make a quick decision based on instant reacting to the situation.
    It is all good and fine to have a well thought out analysis after the fact, and we all know that hindsight is 20/20.
    However, given that he need to make a judgement about the conditions that existed at that moment, a decision needed to be made on the spot, I find it hard to accept that the priest was in error when he simply made a pastoral judgement call at the time.
    The Law serves the Church, but I think that we need to recognize the conditions present at the time.
    (and this is an example of the reason why I refuse to be an extra-ordinary minister of communion. That the law is so complicated, it takes a doctor of canon law to be able to wade through these. Why would i want the moral responsibility to make such a split second determination.)

  9. Are you the Henry Karlson of Vox Nova?

  10. Just think if Ms. Johnson followed the tenets of the faith concerning forgiveness of the perceived injury, we wouldn’t be talking about any of this.

  11. Mary Russell says:

    Interestingly, Peters does not comment on the fact that, according to Guarzino’s account, Johnson’s “lover” barred him from asking questions which would have helped clarify her status. The fact that she did this makes Peters’ claims even more nonsensical.

  12. Fr. Larry Rice says:

    Well. Minds are all made up on all sides. Obviously no need for further commentary or discussion.

  13. Henry Karlson says:

    Reread just what Deacon Greg put up in his quote… just a hint…

  14. vox borealis says:

    Peter’s analysis is excellent as always. This being said, one wonders if what is really at issue is the need to update Canon law to reflect rapidly changing realities. I mean, let’s face it, Canon Law was never designed to deal with an open homosexual wandering into the sacristy to announce the fact and then presenting him/herself for Communion. And this is just one of many, many similar circumstances that play out in the communion line these days, which were never envisioned when the appropriate Canons were devised.

  15. Wow, talk about the “Letter of the Law.” This may have truly been a situation where Father Marcel, more than likely with a genuine “fully formed conscience in accordance with the church”, simply acted upon it.

    (Nothing personal Ed, just sayin’).

  16. Catherine says:

    If a baptized Catholic who now belongs to a satanic coven strides into Church before Mass dressed in satanic garb and announces to the priest that he is going to presents himself for Communion, so he can obtain a Host to be later desecrated in a satanic ceremony, under Canon Law is the priest obligated to go ahead and give him the Host?

  17. Catholics aren’t supposed to act so uncharitable and run to newspapers and cry about being insulted. It’s all so twisted thanks to the main stream media. I vote we leave Canon law alone.

  18. It depends on how many angels happen to be dancing on the head of the pin that day.

  19. I’m sorry Mr. Peters and Mr. Karlson and anyone else who is offended at my uncalled for sarcasm.

  20. vox borealis says:

    Catholics aren’t supposed to, but they do, and this puts further pressure on priests and bishops. Canon Law should always be revisited to reflect changing realities. Perhaps priests need to be given more leeway in making these calls, so they are protected more under Canon Law. Or, conversely, maybe they should be given no discretion at all, which takes any decision (and therefore any blame) out of their hands.

  21. Then how would the priest have received “correction”?

  22. I don’t think we should dumb down Canon Law to accommodate scofflaws and hurt Priests.

  23. vox borealis says:

    That’s a pretty unfair comparison, no? And in any case, the Host is supposed be consumed immediately. If said person tried to pocket it, the priest would have every right to confront him in the pews and retrieve it.

    I see where you are going with your analogy, and we probably agree with each other more than not, but it serves little good to invoke ridiculous comparisons and analogies, I think.

  24. I don’t think he needed correction. And if he did, it shouldn’t be all over the media.

  25. vox borealis says:

    Who’s talking about dumbing it down? Modifying the law to reflect changing realities is not dumb. As for hurting priests, leaving it as is will likely hurt them more. Better to modify the law to provide more protection for priests.

  26. I don’t believe in changing realities. There is nothing new under the sun.

  27. I think that Ed Peters is a great voice of reason, and his blog is awesome. My one complaint is that none of us are experts. He is. I want to hear an expert speak to the other side. That is, I want to hear what the council of the defense, using the same canon law that Peters uses, has for an argument.

    I have no way of weighing in here, save my own intuitions. I find some aspects of Peter’s excellent and cogent analysis problematic. But I’m also not qualified, I don’t think, to really voice these intuitions of mine. Perhaps no canon lawyers will come to the defense of this priest, since what Peters says is in fact all that can be said. But I was under the impression that cases in canon law were much like cases in our secular jurisprudential system: both sides have a lawyer.

    I only mention this because, as much as I admire and respect Ed Peters, I’m curious as to whether we should be treating him as the sole possible voice of expertise. Am I completely off here?

  28. the conduct in which a communicant perseveres must be obstinate, manifest, grave, and sinful.

    Johnson’s conduct is obstinate and manifest because the lover is matter-of-factly introduced as such – not as “someone with whom, in a moment of passion, I was once unchaste”. The obstinacy is all the greater if Johnson consented to the “lover’s” barring the priest from further communication with Johnson. The gravity and sinfulness I trust are not in dispute.

    he can only be impugning Johnson’s ‘subjective’ state. That kind of discernment, however, is impossible for human ministers to make

    Nor was discernment necessary, as disclosure in unmistakeable terms had been made to him.

  29. Counsel was autocorrected as council.

    Or…I’m going to blame autocorrection.

  30. Even if Mr. Peters is right, it feels wrong because many of us support Father Guarnizo and we’re talking about the Body of Christ. I think erring on the side of protecting the Body of Christ is OK. If it’s such a big deal to Johnson, she should go repent, confess and take communion at Mass tomorrow.

  31. Catherine says:

    Can you imagine what would happen if a priest got into a tussle with a member of the congregation over an unconsumed Host? It would make far more sense not to give the person the Host in the first place. What about the scandal caused to the faithful when they see a priest giving Communion to individuals who make a public statement or otherwise indicate that they are at odds with the teachings of the Church?

  32. Mary Russell says:

    Still not getting it.
    Look, I’m reasonably educated Catholic laywoman, and Peters’ parsing of this whole thing defies common sense. I’m a family doctor; when a patient comes into the office and introduces her “partner”- this has actually happened a few times- I will know, and she will want me to know- that this is a sexually active, committed relationship. This is not rocket science, folks .

  33. Are you one of “those inclined to support him” who Dr. Peters believes “need correction”?

  34. Yeah, I’m one of them. I’m very biased, they probably wouldn’t sit me on the jury.

  35. If Ed is right and I have no reason to doubt it, then the Church needs to look into critical changes since many groups who are in total dissent from Catholic teaching as their life’s work are going to use the Eucharist or anything else to attack any priest who dares to speak out. So in a way what Ed is pointing out is a failure of the Bishops to have a clear consistent guideline once more. This has been a pattern for a long time. When the Bishop wants to use canon law, they use it, and when they want to ignore it, they do that as well. Too often it comes down against priests who are trying to do something like protect the Eucharist from sacralidge, the liturgy from abuse, and babies from being killed and that is a travesty. While a Bishop should indeed have a great deal of power in his dioceses, they should also have to follow Church law and teacing. We know that few have taken Canon 915- 916 too seriously. We know that letters from Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Burke in their official capacities at the Vatican have been ignored. I also think when a priest has this type of action taken, there should be a quick response to getting the issue resolved in a fair way at the Vatican and believe its Supreme Court equivalent should come into play for a rapid review under Cardinal Burke.

  36. naturgesetz says:

    The point is, when you’ve got to make a quick decision under circumstances such as Father Guarnizo faced, you’re supposed to administer the Sacrament. It’s not the minister’s job to prevent all unworthy Communions.

  37. That’s because you are a doctor and your patient and her “partner” are not coming to see you for a game of bridge. But if you were a funeral director, a client who introduces you to her “partner” would have different intentions.

  38. naturgesetz says:

    Dr. Peters isn’t saying that Fr. Guarnizo didn’t have a right to presume that there was a sexually active relationship. What he’s saying is that this information, which is all he had at the time, gave him no duty or right to withhold Communion from Ms. Johnson. And since he had no right or duty, based on what he knew, to withhold Communion, he had the duty to administer the Sacrament.

  39. You’re lucky.

  40. Dr Peters left us with alot to consider, and I thank him for the clear presentation.
    Even though Fr Guarnizo has been ordained many years, and has had a distinguished career, is it true that this most recent one year at the parish in the Archdiocese of Washington was his first year of pastoral work? I think if this is the situation, he should be cut some slack by the Archdiocese on any sanction against him, although it is doubtful that he helped himself by challenging the powers-that-be in the archdiocese by using the media.

  41. Mary Russell says:

    If I am understanding him correctly, Peters’ whole argument hinges on his assertion that Guarzino could not have known with certainty about the nature of the relationship given the information presented to him.
    Hogwash; a private conversation in a priest’s office has a lot more in common with a doctor’s consultation room thanit does with a bridge party. Let’s not forget, too, that he says her words were even less ambiguous- “lover”- and that his interpretation of her words were factually correct.

  42. Excellent insight, Romulus. I will analyze more of Dr. Peters’ critique shortly. Keep an eye out for it.

    God Bless!


  43. Greetings, naturgesetz:

    Who said “you’re supposed to administer the Sacrament”? Quick decisions can also be rational and correct, even if not typically the case.

    God Bless!


  44. Fine common sense approach, Dr. Russell. I’ll have more to say about such things in a detailed response to Dr. Peters’ post later today or tomorrow.

    God Bless!


  45. Yes i think ed needs correction. Smart guy but wrong on this one and now his ego and that of his supporters has been terribly bruised

  46. The continued arrogant presumption of this blogger Peters, once again holding himself out to be THE AUTHORITY on all things and again with the implication that canon law is the supreme center of the Catholic universe, inserting himself into yet another controversy as the judge of all things, continues to amaze.

  47. The Pharisees were experts on The Law. This did not stop the Romans from destroying the Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 A.D. Ed Peters is a Canon Law expert in the Archdiocese of Detroit . On February 21, 2012, the Archdiocese of Detroit announced that 53 parishes were to reorganize or close.
    S.O.P – Support Our Priests and please, please stop lecturing us ad infinitum “[r]egarding those errors, I believe that he, and those inclined to support or even imitate him, need correction.”

  48. Mr. Peters assumes facts not evidence.

    “There is no reason to doubt but that Johnson was baptized Catholic”

    Let’s review the facts.

    Mr. Peters states that Fr. Marcel Guarnizo had never met Ms. Johnson before a brief hostile encounter in the sacristy. Mr. Peters writes that Ms. Johnson stated the other female was her lover and the priest reports that the lover physically restricted his freedom of movement in his own church.

    I would like Mr. Peters to explain how a woman previously unknown to Fr. Marcel Guarnizo was a ‘baptized Catholic’? How would he know this based on a brief encounter? Does he have some invisible Catholic radar?

  49. naturgesetz says:

    Kevin and Bender —

    If either of you (or anybody else here) is more of an expert on Canon Law than Dr. Peters you can reasonably dispute what he says. But to dismiss what he says for no reason is merely stubbornness.

    MarkA —

    That’s completely beside the point.

    George —

    Dr. Peters does not say she is a baptized Catholic. He said, as you quote “There is no reason to doubt but that Johnson was baptized Catholic” What you write in now way contradicts what he wrote.

  50. I think Dr. Peters would say that even if a priest “knew with certainty” that a baptized Catholic woman is in an ongoing illicit sexual relationship that if that knowledge was not public (and whatever other reasons he listed) and that’s all he had on her, he didn’t have something in the law by which to deny the woman communion. But then, I don’t speak for Dr. Peters, and I only read his statement through once, and so I could have missed something. He’s very careful with his words, and so every word counts.

    As to your other comments, Fr. Marcel’s statement doesn’t literally admit to having a “conversation” with the woman. He alleged she said a word. But why she would allegedly have said it, what she meant if she said it or even why she “came into the sacristy” is not specified. So too, his “interpretation” is not well specified.

    Maybe Fr. Marcel looked upon the event like a doctor’s visit, maybe even like a preachy doctor, I don’t know. But I see little to lead me to believe that she came there for that. Again, a funeral parlor is not a doctor’s office. And there’s a difference between “Just wanted you to know she’s my partner/lover if we start hugging or holding hands during this grievous affair” and “Hey guys, let me tell you about my private sex life or lack thereof.” But who knows.

  51. naturgesetz says:

    I think you are not understanding him correctly. He is also saying that Fr. Guarnizo could not have known that that her conduct was publicly known (“manifest” means that, as one of the authors he cites makes clear), nor could he have known that it was obstinate, that is, persisted in even after the wrongfulness had been explained. He simply did not have enough information, based on his own account, to assume that she met all of the criteria which must be met before a minister refuses communion on the grounds that someone is obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin.

    BTW, I’m not sure what you mean by speaking of a private meeting in a priest’s office. That didn’t happen in this case. There was a brief encounter in the sacristy right before the Mass. A private conversation in he priest’s office would probably have been needed for him to know, and inform her, that he was obligated to withhold Communion from her.

  52. You mean Fr. Marcel did not have a canon lawyer counseling him in the preparation of his statement?

  53. Mary Russell says:

    Sandra, pretty loaded word, don’t you think? Whether she said “partner” or “lover”, the meaning of this communication should be obvious to everyone- especially since it was given in a sacred space on a solemn occasion (not a bridge match or a parlor game). Peters’ lack of common sense grates.

  54. I think he’s wrong for all the reasons I’ve previously noted since this story broke. I’m not going to (and can’t) cut and paste all of those prior comments here. Experts can be wrong. They are not infallible. And I think he’s wrong in this case. Worse, though, is that a priest who is “down” now continues to be kicked. I don’t like that.

  55. See what a few minutes of cross-examination would do in this case? Great insight George.

  56. Ed,

    I’ll stipulate to everything you’ve written, however…

    In the final analysis we have the pastor stating that the penalty incurred had NOTHING to do with withholding communion from Johnson. It had to do with his demeanor in the aftermath of a national scourging, and that is truly horrific.

    Could they not tell Father to take a few weeks away until things cooled down? Where was the support for this man? As for Canon Law and what it has to say, you know as well as I do that the quality of seminary training in Canon Law is pretty spotty at best. It comports with the overall heterogeneity of seminary education since the 60′s and 70′s.

    We need to drop the Johnson narrative, as Marcel’s pastor has taken great pains that the penalty incurred had nothing to do with it. That means that this priest was clobbered for having a bad week. Now, how disingenuous is that justification?

    That said, when a woman introduces me to her “lover”, I’m not thinking a “lover” of Chinese food, or art, or literature. The meaning is kinda plain, and if we are going to be forced into contortions over the meaning of “lover” in this day and age, then I’m going to find more productive pursuits for my time.

  57. John Tordoff says:

    Dr. Peters is a lawyer defending his client. His best defense is to address the legal situation rrather than the actual situation. The priest was approached just before Mass by two women one of whom told him that she was a lesbian who was in an immoral relationship. That was the in your face message. To do this at the funeral of a loved one is really something. I am praying for this poor priest who is being hung out on the PC line. I also pray for our Bishops. Some of them are too much in the world.

  58. Deacon Steve says:

    Obstinate does not mean repetative, but repetative in the face of proper instruction. A 5 min meeting before a funeral does not meet the criterion for proper instruction. There are a large number of Catholics that do not truly understand what the Church teaches on a matter that continue in sinful actions that would not be classified as “obstinately” continuing the behavior. Canon 18 as Dr. Peters points out requires that any canon which restricts the rights of a member of the faithful be interpreted in the most narrow way. The canons regarding the sacraments say that if there is any doubt then you decide in the favor of the person requesting the Sacrament.
    I am not a canon lawyer, but I just completed a Master’s level Canon Law for Pastoral Ministry class, and both canon lawyers that were teaching the class said the same things that Dr. Peters is saying in regards to c915 and c916. The commentary for the canons also agrees.

  59. Good point! It well might have been the product of counsel. I wonder, however, if that counselor will subsequently have the chance and the format to offer a detailed statement comparable to Peters’ own for the public digesting. Certainly, one cannot compare the nuanced, longish, and detailed account offered by Peters *on his excellent blog* with a terse public statement for and limited to the parameters given by traditional press.
    One can hope that if indeed the priest’s statement was a product of counsel, that this lawyer will do something similar to what Peters has so excellently done on his blog. Perhaps this is still coming.

  60. As a retired law enforcement officer, all I can say is that some of you sound like defendants and their family members criticizing the points of law made in a trial by the District Attorney. This is not a breaking of criminal law, which can be decided by a jury of peers.
    Some people don’t like, or believe in Canon Law. It’s there for a reason.

  61. I would not think that “matter of fact” is the definition of “obstinate”. I’d think there’d have to be deliberate refusal to accept correction once it’s (formally) offered. And not just reluctance or taking their time either. It’s also speculation as to why someone would block the door, if that even happened. It was a funeral. A sensitive time. Fr. Marcel’s statement does not in the slightest describe what he said. In fact, he doesn’t even say that he said anything or that he even wanted to say anything. It is all speculation and reading between the lines.

    You say, “The gravity and sinfulness I trust are not in dispute” and “disclosure in unmistakeable terms had been made to him”, but again, that’s someone’s reading between the lines. The word “lover”, for example, is not an “unmistakeable” term, and some reports allege “partner” instead. Neither word necessitates any sexual acts.

    And even if “disclosure in unmistakeable terms had been made to him”, as you call it, such a thing would not be sufficient to establish the subjective factors involved in being in the state of grace, as that would involve the person’s conscience not merely some words. Dr. Peters also mentioned “motivated by right intention”, but here too, perhaps he is saying the same conscience standard would apply. And he notes that subjective factors are part of Canon 916, which leaves the decision to the subject not to another party. It is Canon 915 which is in the other party’s control, and that is based on so-called objective factors. (I say so-called, because even such things as “obviously drunk” have a dividing line that may be different in the views of different people.)

  62. Good grief. Mr. Peter’s explanation is all legal mumbo jumbo. If the Fr. made a mistake over an awkward moment of which he needed seconds to make a decision, so be it, he made a mistake. But to treat this man as if he were a bad priest is frankly sickening.

    Ms. Johnson had the audacity to think she could receive the Eucharest while in a lesbian relationship and supposed a Buddhist convert. Fr. Guarnizo is a good priest from all indications, Ms. Johnson is a political activist trying to undermine the Church. That’s the bottom line.

  63. I agree with you, especially about Fr. Guarnizo being kicked. In essence his critics are claiming he’s a liar. I’m not in the habit of calling priests liars.

  64. Michele,

    Father Marcel was not punished for violating Canon Law in the Johnson case. Let’s just repeat that. Father Marcel was NOT punished for violating Canon Law in the Johnson case, and we have this from his pastor’s mouth.

    Father Marcel is being punished because of his demeanor in the week after the Johnson family funeral, a week that saw him being pilloried in the national media. As I’ve said before, I don’t know how many spousal relationships that could withstand the standard of deportment that Father Marcel is being held to here. I dare say that many of us have had weeks where we were impossible to live with and needed some serious reconciliation with our spouses.

    It’s the Cardinal’s call, but that doesn’t make it right or just simply because it’s his call.

  65. Michele, might you have a little bias toward the prosecution as former law enforcement officer? We also get a jury for civil cases in the United States remember. Those categories don’t apply in any case in this situation.

    Canon law is not something to be “believed in”. It is there for us; we are not there of it. It also is arguably inferior to the common law system in that there is no jury trial. There is no cross-examination, which as one scholar once said is the single greatest engine for the discovery of truth.

  66. Fr. Marcel or whoever the priest du jour may be has never met any number of people who stand in a communion line, especially at a funeral where people from all over may gather. Such a thing is hardly a just basis for denying communion. I think Dr. Peters meant there was no positive reason to doubt that Johnson was baptized Catholic. Fr. Marcel’s statement expresses no doubts about the woman in that regard. Her mother was obviously Catholic, and words like “lover” and someone exercising restraint during a sensitive event are hardly foreign to the lives of many baptized Catholics.

  67. I could comment lots now, but my comments on this site seem to have very short lives. They’re here for a day or so – then they disappear! How mysterious!!

    Look – this is the deacon’s blog, he can do whatever he wants. But sir, please have the honesty to state up front that the discussion won’t necessarily be open, and that comments (even if they meet your standards of decency) are subject to removal at your whim.
    I will say one more thing. Once upon a time my blog linked to Dr Peter’s site; that is now a thing of the past.

  68. I clarify: there is no jury trial or cross-examination – - by one’s own lawyer – - in the Church’s courts… It is an inquisitorial system. Joan of Arc, for example, had no lawyer. She was relentlessly interrogated by the bishop and his aides.

    There will never be a jury trial in Canon Law and there shouldn’t be for numerous reasons, but as a truth-seeking device the jury trial is probably superior overall.

  69. The meaning of “lover” depends on the speaker, if that even be the actual word that was used rather than someone’s altered recollection. We do not have the right to simply dismiss our moral duty to verify our assumptions before imposing them as fact upon others, especially when it imposes an accusation of sinful behavior along with it.

  70. naturgesetz – What is beside the point? That this is now the Sixth (6th) piece written by Ed Peters about the Fr. Marcel Guarnizo case since February 29th and now he feels the need to correct “those inclined to support or even imitate him”? How throughout this article he refers to an ordained Catholic priest as “Guarnizo” instead of respectfully as Fr. Guarnizo?
    I’m not sure what you think the point is, but my point is that I would rather see respectful support of our Priests than to listen to any more lectures from Ed Peters about why Ed’s so right from a Canon law standpoint.
    I respectfully refer Ed Peters to pray for the fruits of the 1st and 2nd Joyful Mysteries instead of pontificating his position against Fr. Guarnizo anymore.

  71. Dr. Peters Pontificates Against Father Guarnizo Once Again!

    But is his interpretation that favors human sensibilities over protection of the sacred host necessarily the only one possible as he claims it to be? If it is, should the Canon law be changed? Would Dr. Peters favor Canon law that coincides more with Father Guarnizo’s actions?
    Some Things to Ponder Regarding Dr. Ed Peters’ 3/15/12 Blog Post Entitled:
    “Canonical Observations on Fr. Guarnizo’s statement of March 14”
    1. Dr. Peters writes: “I offer here canonical commentary, and that, only for those who are interested in the operation of canon law in the Church and are aware of (or willing to take direction on) how this venerable legal system serves the Christian community.”
    Comment: Note two things here. One is the arrogant “willing to take direction on,” which means taking what Dr. Peters has to offer as direction. Real nice. If you don’t accept his teaching, forget about the commentary. It’s almost like denying others the opportunity to enjoy a different kind of communion with Dr. Peters. Seems a bit selfish and judgmental. 
    Next is the use of the term “Christian community.” No big deal, perhaps, but when you move from “canon law in the Church” to “Christian community,” something could be amiss. Does canon law serve the Christian community in a broad sense or narrow sense? I wonder what canon law has to say on this. 
    2. Dr. Peters writes: “Guarnizo admits that he only met Johnson a few minutes before her mother’s funeral Mass, admits that he had no knowledge whatsoever about the Johnson family, and offers no indication that he knew anything about the congregation gathered for Mass that day.”
    Comment: Whoa, Nellie! Dr. Peters’ statements bear the marks of classic red herrings in that the essence of the matter is not based on knowledge of the family or the congregation, so this is a gratuitous attack on Fr. Guarnizo, and it is largely off point. Even if Fr. Guarnizo did have some knowledge, what would constitute sufficient knowledge to satisfy the bogus standard that Dr. Peters is hinting at via the red herring statements? Moreover, Fr. Guarnizo’s statement reveals that he was scheduled to hear confessions from 9:30 to 10:20. Did he hear any? If he did, even with the seal of confession that prevents him from making known anything heard, he MAY HAVE NEVERTHELESS LEARNED QUITE A BIT…PERHAPS EVEN ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE, but we don’t know. We do know that if he did hear confessions, it is obvious that he would have learned something about some people in the congregation if that is important even in the least, which doesn’t seem likely except perhaps from a humanistic approach to things.
    In any case, Dr. Peters’ assertion is false and should be retracted. Let’s just say I am simply correcting Dr. Peters, because he needs to be corrected. 
    3. Dr. Peters writes: “Guarnizo says that, a few minutes before Mass started, Johnson appeared in the sacristy and introduced another woman as her ‘“lover”’; further conversation was prevented by the ‘“lover”’ standing in a doorway. There was apparently no mention of Johnson’s possible lesbian activism, her cohabitation status (if any), her degree of ‘alienation’ from the Church, or her possible involvement in Buddhism.”
    Response: It’s red herring time again, and Dr. Peters is adding information that is designed to make Fr. Guarnizo look bad, but it is not fairly stated, nor is it reflective of what Fr. Guarnizo actually wrote. Take a look at the actual statement of Fr. Guarnizo:
    A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy
    with another woman whom she announced as her “lover.” Her revelation
    was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms. Johnson, her lover
    stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I
    politely asked her to move and she refused.
    (Fr. Guarnizo Statement: 3/13/12)
    Once again, we need more information, but we should not jump to the faulty conclusions that Dr. Peters does, all the while accusing Fr. Guarnizo of jumping to a false conclusion, and others of doing the same thing in his defense.
    For instance, we do not know if anything was stated by Fr. Guarnizo in response to the announcement made by B. Johnson. If he did make even one statement about communion reception, that would be helpful, and if he did not, this does indeed weaken his case in terms of advising B. Johnson what she should or should not do. However, it would not devastate Fr. Guarnizo’s case as Dr. Peters and his “he’s the expert so he must be right” clan proudly proclaim.
    Now for the red herrings that Dr. Peters threw in to try to make Fr. Guarnizo’s judgment appear to be more unjustified according to Dr. Peters. In Dr. Peters’ own words once again:

    “There was apparently no mention of Johnson’s possible lesbian activism, her cohabitation status (if any), her degree of ‘alienation’ from the Church, or her possible involvement in Buddhism.”
    Response: Somewhat clever but most unworthy of Dr. Peters. There is no need to have a discussion about such possibilities as lesbian activism unless this is mandated by Canon law. There is no need to have a discussion about a possible cohabitation status unless this is mandated by Canon law. There is no need to have a discussion about what possible degree of alienation from the Church may be present unless this is mandated by Canon law, and there is certainly no need to discuss any possible involvement in Buddhism unless this is also mandated by Canon law. Imagine the silliness of fulfilling Dr. Peters’ imaginative requirements to make sure of certain things over X amount of time, and if you cannot, you simply do not have sufficient information to make a judgment to withhold Communion. A priest would have to ask and discuss things along the following lines to satisfy Dr. Peters’ red herrings:
    A. Are you involved in lesbian activism? If so, how involved are you? Are you a professional or amateur activist? Does your activism make you feel like you are no longer a good Catholic? Your feelings are the most important thing here, especially when considering receipt of Holy Communion.
    B. Are you cohabiting with your lover, or do you simply meet her on weekends at a local motel? Anyplace else? This is crucial information to establish your status as a notorious, active lesbian. You know, if you’re not a notorious lesbian as Dr. Ed Peters understands it, you could be an active lesbian in good standing, at least insofar as receiving Holy Communion.
    C. Do you feel alienated from the Church? What degree of alienation do you suppose is involved? For instance, Fifth Degree Blackbelt Alienation is the highest form you could feel, while First Degree Purple Belt Alienation is the lowest form you could feel. Here’s a nice color chart you can use to pinpoint where you believe your alienation is located.
    D. I have a sense that you might be involved in Buddhism. Is this so? Do you consider your involvement one that coincides with your Catholic faith, or do you consider it an important element in your growth as a human being? Remember that your feelings are paramount once again.
      
    Moving forward.
    4. Dr. Peters writes: ‘“Canon 843 § 1 forbids ministers from withholding sacraments from those “who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them,”…”’
    Okay. If a female person enters a sacristy and makes an unsolicited announcement (which may also be construed as a statement in public if other parties are present) that an accompanying female person is her “lover,” and then the person moves away while her announced lover acts to physically prevent a priest from seeking to continue the brief meeting,…CAN THIS BE CONSTRUED AS SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE THAT THIS PERSON IS NOT PROPERLY DISPOSED TO RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION, or must additional research or a silly survey as set forth above be conducted before making such a rational and prudent judgment?

    Bottom Line Time:
    1. B. Johnson made a definitive declaration that she was in a gravely sinful state by announcing that the person who accompanied her was (not used to be) her lover (in the present tense). What is the purpose of making such a statement in open defiance of Church teaching in a sacristy only moments before a Mass? Just a joke? Are such statements common? Why make such a statement at all unless it is purposely intended to illustrate a state of mind and obstinate attitude against Church teaching?
    Also, if good faith is to be presumed by a priest regarding typical Mass attendees who approach communion, then good faith should also be presumed by that priest when an attendee makes a definitive statement in the manner made by B. Johnson. In short, he must in good faith accept the fact that what she has proclaimed is true unless he is presented with evidence to the contrary, but what evidence did he actually receive except that which would corroborate the statement of a person not properly disposed to receiving communion?
    2. B. Johnson made such a declaration in public, again just prior to Mass. Why not sooner? Why not sooner? Why not sooner? What does this say about being properly disposed to receiving Holy Communion? Please apply some common sense here.
    3. B. Johnson’s accomplice exhibited some belligerence toward the priest by blocking him in his attempt to possibly provide more priestly/pastoral actions. What does this say about proper dispositions, obstinate perseverance in manifestly grave sin, etc. when you have an accomplice so interfere? What is the purpose of having someone block a priest after making an announcement concerning one’s status? Please also apply some common sense here. Again, if B. Johnson was properly disposed to receiving communion, then why wait until the last minute to make such an announcement in a hit-and-run fashion, and then have your accomplice serve as a blockade of sorts? Why would B. Johnson demonstrate such obstinate behavior in having the possibility of catechesis prevented just prior to Mass?
    Who in their right minds would ever judge such a person to be properly disposed to receive communion?
    So perhaps Fr. Guarnizo has the support of Canon 843 as well as Canon 915 if this will also permit an interpretation not limited to Dr. Peters’ and others’ interpretation, even if theirs is the most prevalent interpretation favored by an overwhelming majority.
    5. One more for now. Dr. Peters cites examples about priests in doubt, and what they should do if in doubt. Where does Fr. Guarnizo express that he had any doubts about what he should do? His consternation over the pain and discomfort, etc., does not equate to having doubts in terms of his actions, and indeed, his own defense manifests no doubts whatsoever. Of course, Dr. Peters believes he should have doubts, and Dr. Peters would obviously have plenty of doubts because common sense and making quick judgments are not given much weight in his fundamentalist letter of the law approach to interpretation only as he deems it should be.
    Lastly, if the Canon law must be interpreted to only accept Dr. Peters’ interpretation, then perhaps it should be changed to prevent greater abuses of the sacrament. Perhaps even Dr. Peters would support such a change, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. 


  72. Greetings, Daisy:

    Please see my response to Dr. Peters above. Some more things to consider.

    God Bless!


  73. Hi, Dan:

    Please review my response to Dr. Peters above. I believe you will enjoy some common sense applications I try to bring to this issue.

    God Bless!


  74. Hi, Joan:

    Please see my post above in response to Dr. Peters’ critique. I think you’ll enjoy my call for the application of more common sense.

    God Bless!


  75. Sandra,

    I lived through, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”.

    I have no inclination to generalize Clinton’s parsing of the incredibly obvious.

  76. Hi, Father:

    For a somewhat different take on this matter, please check out my response to Ed Peters near the top of this section of the site.

    Thanks for your service, and God Bless!


  77. Nice insights, Vox. Please check out my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site. Some of it dovetails in with your own expressed concerns.

    God Bless!


  78. Very insightful in just a few short words, Klaire. For a more lengthy discussion you might find interesting, etc., please see my post near the top of this section of the site.

    God Bless!


  79. A fine illustration of the absurdity of not applying common sense to legalistic interpretations, Catherine. Please see my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site. I believe you’ll enjoy more common sense.

    God Bless!


  80. Hi, Nate:

    Sometimes you can find experts that may not announce it as loudly as others. In any case, without claiming any special expertise per se, I invite you to check out my response to Ed Peters near the top of this section of the site.
    It may provide you with what you are looking for, at least to some extent.

    God Bless!


  81. See the critique of Dr. Peters’ blog near the top of this section of the site.


  82. Hi, Deacon Steve:

    To give you some more things to consider, please check out my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site.

    God Bless!


  83. Hi, Sandra:

    For some more things to consider regarding this matter, please read my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site.

    God Bless!


  84. Mary, maybe in your view of things, the meaning of a word should be obvious to everyone. But I know many people who have different views. For many of them, the meaning shouldn’t be obvious to everyone so much as appreciated afresh like a new day, and as individual as the speaker. Personally, I don’t find “lover” to be inappropriate for a “sacred space on a solemn occasion”. I’ve heard many a use of the word “lover” in such a space, and come to think of it, at various Buddhist/Christian gatherings. It can be a teaching technique and learning tool.

  85. Greetings, Bender:

    A most intriguing assessment. Please see my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site. Some of my concerns coincide with your view, plus I present some common sense to consider.

    God Bless!


  86. Wow! Naturgesetz:

    Your comments remind me of the pharisees, etc., asking by what authority our Lord dare question the elders and experts of the Synagogue.

    Let me and others know when the gift of infallibility and perhaps impeccability is bestowed upon Ed Peters, and perhaps a particular Canon should go along with it.

    God Bless!


  87. Thanks, DB. I’ll take a look.

  88. If you’re not inclined to abide by whole of the moral law, you’re not so inclined.

  89. Good insights, John:

    Please check out my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site for some more things to ponder that I believe you will enjoy and find beneficial.

    God Bless!


  90. Spot on, Manny. Please see my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site. It goes into more detail along the lines you set forth, plus it throws in some humor to help drive home the common sense that needs to be applied here.

    God Bless!


  91. Greetings, Mark A:

    Very fine insights. Please see my response to Dr. Peters near the top of this section of the site. I believe you’ll enjoy my approach that dovetails in with some of your comments.

    God Bless!


  92. Maybe something is rotten in Denmark. I think the commentary here shows that the plebes in the Catholic “comboxes” are much better educated and intelligent than previously contemplated or given credit for. We don’t take off our thinking caps when the experts deign to enlighten us with their knowledge (other than Admiral Dumblewinker of course). We are doctors, bankers, professors, laborers, maids, home makers. We are, owing to our also being American, a collective kind of Abraham Lincoln, you can fool us sometimes, but not all of the time.

  93. pagansister says:

    Joanc.57: The Church could use a bit of updating—-there is reality and there is “we don’t want to change because we are a 2000 year old religion and all is well”. Well it is obvious the not all is well. An extreme example (and I know some will be ticked but—) was it OK for the misconduct (to put it mildly) by the priests towards children, that has occured for many, many, many years and had it totally overlooked by the higher ups in the Church to protect the reputation of the Church? No calling secular authorities to help, no punishment for the priests,send them away for a bit to think things over and then reassign them etc. Many Catholics don’t follow the tenents of not living together before marriage, do use ABC etc. Reality, Joanc57. Reality.

  94. pagansister says:

    IMO, Catherine, there is no comparison to what you describe and what Ms. Johnson did. Ms. Johnson believes herself to be a Catholic. In your scene, the person obviously doesn’t consider him/herself to be Catholic. And what is with the satanic thing about a person taking a host to use for something bad? Someone else brought that up in another posting. I have not heard of that happening, but I suppose it could.

  95. Jesus had knowledge of the law. He came to fulfill it, not to abolish it. I dare say that those who are being so dismissive of Dr. Peters and his concise considerstion of canon law cannot say the same.

  96. hey DB we ALL know about “your post near the top of the section” now maybe you can figure out why so few people are commenting on it?

  97. naturgesetz says:

    The point is that Fr. Guarnizo’s attempted justification of withholding Communion from Ms. Johnson is invalid. The closing of churches in the Archdiocese of Detroit — which is what you were talking about in your comment immediately preceding mine — has nothing to do with it.

    And how about a respectful support of our bishops?

  98. The obstinacy lies not merely in the shamelessness with which Johnson flung the fact of her habitual unchastity in the priest’s face, but also in the physical intimidation clearly intended to shut down the encounter and deny him the ability to make the response she knew he must have intended.

  99. naturgesetz says:

    But you’re not canon lawyers.

    And you can also fool yourselves some of the time. When the comboxes show people “obstinately” unwilling to take information from those who know what they are talking about, that’s what’s happening.

    Look, nobody says homosexual activity is anything other than gravely wrong. But to say that homosexual activity is gravely wrong is not the same as to say that a priest may or must refuse to minister Communion to someone he has good reason to believe is engaging in homosexual activity. It is the job of the individual Catholic to consult his or her conscience. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says, “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.” It does not say, “The elders should examine people and exclude the unworthy from the bread and the cup.”

  100. What you’re not getting is that it is not the duty of the priest to deny people communion except in the unusual circumstance where providing communion would create manifest scandal. Canon 915 lays out the material elements that have to be satisfied for that circumstance to exist and Dr. Peters lays out the evidentiary foundation for those elements to be proven. It is the duty of the priest to provide moral instruction sufficient for Catholics to determine if they have a duty under 916 to refrain from communion; however, that does not give rise to a duty or even a right by the priest to deny them communion unless the conditions of 915 are met.

  101. naturgesetz says:

    So you will not call Fr. LaHood a liar when he says that the removal of Fr. Guarnizo was not because of what he did at the funeral.

    And I think you are simply incorrect when you say that Fr. Guarnizo’s critics are calling him a liar. In the post that this thread is based on, Dr. Peters took Fr. Guarnizo’s statement for granted and showed why he believes that Fr. Guarnizo’s own statement does not provide adequate justification for what he did.

  102. You smell the flatulence?

  103. N, with respect, you should cut loose the sea anchor of Ed Peters’ obsessive ruminations on this case. He is turning us all into Pharisees. In the civil law world, no one would ever stop thinking because a lawyer told him to; it would be laughable. Lawyers are wrong all the time. So are judges. So are bloggers.

  104. I thought it very helpful, actually.

  105. Catherine says:

    DB thanks for presenting your analysis of Ed Peters commentary. I suspect that Canon Law is not meant to be impractical advice. After all, the Church could just leave all Tabernacles open and let everyone saunter on up to the Sanctuary and help themselves self-service style to the Eucharist. And thus, the Church would be spared the messy business of refusing Communion to those who demand the Eucharist without any restrictions placed on them.

  106. Here’s an interesting story on how much Canon law is respected by some currently in authority. You win your case in the Apostolic Signatura? Oh my dear boy, that doesn’t mean a thing….



  1. [...] 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 [...]

  2. [...] Marcel’s statement: “I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do” On Fr. Marcel’s statement: “I believe that he and those inclined to support him need cor… Filed Under: Priests, Ripped from the headlines, Sacraments « Illinois priest banned [...]