The Pink Humanist Archive.Read past feature article

IF THERE’S one thing many Catholics are really good at is demonising their victims. The latest instance of this despicable trend concerns a Maryland woman, Barbara Johnson, who was humiliated by a Catholic priest during her mother’s funeral earlier this year.

According to The Advocate, when Johnson came forward to receive communion, Father Marcel Guarnizo, the vicar of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, told her, in front of others in attendance:

I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church.

He also left the altar when Johnson delivered a eulogy for her mother, and did not attend the burial.

Despite clearly being a victim of homophobia, certain Catholic commentators have attempted to portray her as the villain of the piece.

For example, Thomas Peters, writing at, called the situation:

A blatantly political attempt by Johnson to generate sympathy and support for gay marriage and to foment public judgement against the Church.

He added:

Now Johnson is on a crusade to get the priest, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, removed from ministry saying that Fr Marcel ‘brought [his] politics, not [his] God into that Church yesterday’ and that he will ‘pay dearly on the day of judgement for judging [her].’ She continues: ‘I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.’

Peters then reveals, quelle horreur, that Johnson is a Buddhist, and asked:

So what was she doing presenting herself for Communion at her mother’s funeral if she apostatized?

Although the question is open to debate, it is generally accepted that Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. Bryan Cones, writing for US Catholic, makes this point:

Many Catholics admire and explore Eastern religions, and unless she made some public proclamation rejecting her Catholicism and her faith in Christ, she isn't an apostate. Using the strictest interpretation of the law, this is no grounds for denying her communion, especially since her alleged Buddhism was hardly ‘manifest’ in the situation.

Back to Peters, who wailed:

I, for one, am tired of activists such as Barbara Johnson. A woman who used the very death of her mother for a political, anti-Catholic purpose. A woman who ran to the media with her story and an agenda while failing, for instance, to reveal that she no longer considers herself Catholic and evidently knows that this could pose a problem for her.

And I’m sick and tired of the media playing along with these agenda-driven personal stories while exercising zero vetting because they coincide with the media’s agenda.

Apparently, if a story paints the Catholic Church or a Catholic priest in a bad light, it gets green-lighted for publication with almost no due diligence. We Catholics deserve better.

Meanwhile, Guarnizo has been suspended – but not for the humiliation he dished out to Johnson. Instead he has been placed on administrative leave from ministry for:

Engaging in intimidating behaviour toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.

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