Kindness Tops Rightness Again

“The first question is not of kindness or cruelty, but of rightness or wrongness.  Kindness in a doctor treating the human body is no substitute for rightness, nor in anyone else doing anything else, above all not in the social order.”  Frank Sheed

Some of you may be aware of the story of Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, who in an ironic twist, was sacrificed on the altar of homosexual faux kindness while administering the true sacrifice of the altar.  His faculties were removed by the Archdiocese of Washington after he refused communion to a lesbian who had intentionally introduced her gay lover to him right before Mass.  After the predictable liberal hue and cry, he was punished for following canon law.  For the first time, he has publicly explained what really happened.  Please pray for him and for his archbishop.  It is sad when a priest is martyred for his faith, sadder still when it is an inside job.  Unfortunately for the priests in his archdiocese the message is that identity politics trumps the integrity of the Eucharist, and that the sanctity of the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Lord is not worth any bad press.

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  1. Spaniard says:

    This is tough stuff to read about. I hope that this is only a mistaken outcome in which kindness (or political correctness or even outright cowardice) really trumps orthodoxy; but I fear it is more nefarious than that, and we haven’t seen the last example of this kind of thing.

    There is a fine line that all priests must walk, regarding justice and obedience to Magisterial superiors. I would hate to think the Church will begin (or continue??) to solve problems in the media rather than through established channels. But I understand Fr. Guarnizo’s desire to correct the public record.

    Yes, we will pray for this priest, the Archbishop, and the Church herself.

  2. Timshel says:

    I’m playing catch-up on these recent posts, and I’m officially without words.

  3. Jim Englert says:

    Shouldn’t you at least mention that it was at her own mother’s funeral. Perhaps it would make no difference to you, nor to those who attend to your opinion. But you begin by quoting Frank Sheed, and I’m pretty sure it would have mattered to Frank Sheed.

    • Timshel says:

      I agree with you, Mr. Englert, that the fact this incident occurred at her mother’s funeral is significant, but not, perhaps, for the same reason as you. If Ms. Johnson entered the sacristy to introduce her lesbian lover—as her lover—to a Roman Catholic priest prior to her own mother’s funeral, one has to ask the question why. And if said lover prevented any further conversation on the topic, the exchange seems rather pointed, doesn’t it?

      This appears to me to have been a calculated act of defiance. If so, then the fact that it was staged at Ms. Johnson’s mother’s funeral appears to be a further calculation—designed to force Fr. Guarnizo into a corner and to garner media attention and misguided sympathy. If her mother was a devout Catholic, turning her funeral into an act of anti-Catholic defiance seems disgraceful to me. On the other hand, if her mother would have supported such an act at her funeral in a Catholic Church, then the event itself was not disrupted by Fr. Guarnizo at all—everything went according to plan, with everyone playing the expected role.

      Jesus was not subtle or gentle in his response to the money-changers occupying the house of God with impious intentions and unrepentant hearts. No whips were involved here; no tables were overturned. A priest did his duty as best he could in an untenable situation he did not create and was rewarded with disciplinary action and a migraine. Hopefully his reward will be greater in heaven.

    • Didymus says:

      Thanks for your comment. As Timshel rightly points out, not mentioning that was a kindness to her, as the saddest aspect of this taking place at her mother’s funeral is not the priest’s actions but hers – she deliberately set up this outcome when she confronted him before her own mother’s the funeral so that she could have her platform with a sympathetic media. Don’t cry for her; she got exactly what she wanted. As for receiving the very body, blood, soul and divinity of the creator of the universe worthily, is it your claim that someone’s interior disposition is not important but that worthiness is based on the exterior circumstance of where, when and why the Mass is offered?
      It is false charity to allow someone to commit sacrilege; true charity, however criticized by some, involves stopping people from further harming themselves spiritually. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:27). So yes, if you are not in communion with the Church you should not take communion, even at your mother’s funeral and even if you are not planning to make a political point with it (itself a disqualifier from receiving worthily). It is not judging her, but a recognition of an objective reality of her relationship to the Church and its teachings that she herself expressed.
      As for Frank Sheed, perhaps you know a different one than I have read. Are you talking about the Frank Sheed who wrote that a theologian’s “conclusions cannot be certain – until the Church has spoken. That is why theologians can accept, once it is infallibly defined, a doctrine that they may have spent their lives contesting….It is the theologians who have forgotten the limitation of their vision of reality whose bones lie whitening where the track ends.” Sounds like he supports Church teaching to me. Or perhaps when he said “The worst horror in evil is the nobility that has been degraded – in the sinner as well as in the victim; but to our realist there is no nobility: nothing being sacred, nothing is desecrated.” Do you believe the Eucharist is sacred? If not, you may certainly have your opinion, but you have no standing to criticize a faith that does. Or was it “Thinking about sex will follow the same lines as thinking about any other thing – what does the law of God tell us, what does the nature of the thing itself tell us….The fact that man can use sex for other, sterile purposes of his own choosing does not alter the certainty that child-bearing is sex’ own purpose. The animals, not having reason, cannot misuse it. Man has it, can misuse it, does misuse it. Misusing it, he falls, not to the animal level, but below it.” I am quite sure that Mr. Sheed would have been distressed that this woman did what she did (though he would not have been surprised; he was too astute an observer of fallen human nature for that). After all, he also wrote that “there is not an accusation hurled at Him that has not been hurled at His Church….she is hated as He was for both of her teachings on the body – that it is subordinate to the spirit and that it is capable of sanctification; for her assertion that divine truth and divine law are absolute, not to be modified by human circumstances; for her assertion of infallibility; for her claim to judge the world. She is hated for her claim to be unique; she is hated for being in fact unique.”

  4. Jim Englert says:

    I intended, and attempted, to make a quite simple point. The responses have introduced considerable complexity. I fear that in attempting both to maintain the simplicity and to address the complexity, I will fail at both. But fear avails nothing.
    Since Frank Sheed figures prominently here, let me begin there. I wasn’t hazarding a guess as to what Mr. Sheed would have been likely to think about what Fr. Guarizno did. I was suggesting what I suspect he would have been likely to think about what Didymus did.
    There are many choices involved in framing one’s presentation of a controversial situation. I contend that one is faced with two major choices, and possibly one minor; my concern here is major. The first major choice is whether one is going to stick to undisputed facts, or venture into those that are disputed. The second major choice is whether to be thorough, or partial. Only if one chooses partiality does the minor choice arise, whether to lean right or left.
    You made a very brief post, and very reasonably stuck mainly to undisputed facts. My initial comment was intended simply to point out that you were also being partial, in both senses of that term. Your response to my comment ventured into the realm of the disputed, but failure to acknowledge – or perhaps even recognize – that you were doing so, rendered this venture also highly partial. The minor choice, which way to lean, is not my concern here. I’m not concerned with whether you are right or left, nor with whether you are Right or Wrong, but with whether you are right or wrong.
    It would have been kindness on my part to have refrained from saying that you are wrong. But it wouldn’t have been right.
    You hasten to the realm of Truth, without sufficient concern as to whether your assertions of fact are true. Mr. Sheed was concerning himself, “above all,” with “the social order” here. More with economics than the Economy of Salvation. To be sure, he spent much of his life addressing the latter, but did so with scrupulous concern for getting more mundane facts right. And that is what I think you not to have done.
    I have already suggested how I think you got the undisputed facts wrong. Others might quibble about whether this or that detail belongs here. My sense is that if you add the funereal fact, you’ve got it about right.
    Venture further, though, and even the detective skills of Father Brown would find themselves taxed. Is it “The Mysterious Case of the Grieving Lesbian Communicant”? Or “The Mysterious Case of the Wanderings of Father G.”? The one thing certain here, I think, is that it is both. And telling just one of the stories is not right, but wrong.
    I intend not a treatise here, and so pretend no exhaustive consideration of what remain disputed questions here, attempting only an indication of the kinds of questions that a reasonable person would need to consider prior to drawing even tentative conclusions. Yet, without such consideration, you proceeded to draw conclusions that were far from tentative. That’s not right.
    Essentially, you simply state that we now know what happened, because Fr. Guarizno has ”publicly explained what really happened.” You further conclude that he “was punished for following canon law.” Well.
    Let last be first here, punishment and the why thereof.
    Fr. LaHood and Bishop Knestout, authorized by Cardinal Wuerl, insist that the withdrawal of faculties was proximately due to subsequent events, without which that withdrawal would not have been ordered. By insisting otherwise, and without even acknowledging their counter-insistence, you are implying that they are liars. I am surely not so possessed of ecclesiastical innocence as to discount the possibility of a Pastor, Vicar General, and Cardinal Archbishop lying. But such a thing should not be implied. State it, or don’t. Man up, or shut up. Even the slightest doubt as to what Mr. Sheed would judge right here, and what wrong?
    You presume knowledge of what you cannot know. It would be different if you had acknowledged the disputed nature of facts, indicated that you believe Fr. Guarizno, and expressed at least some basis for that judgment of credibility.
    I further suggest that there are significant grounds for questioning that judgment.
    The first such ground is Fr. Guarizno’s irregular priestly status. There is no “punishment” in the withdrawal of faculties, because there is no right to such faculties. He is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, incardinated there; there he has such rights. For 17 years now, he has been an extern, not in the diocese of his original incardination, nor incardinated elsewhere, a highly irregular situation. The Catholic Church tends not to do free-lance, and Fr. Marcel Guarizno is a free-lance priest. Had these events occurred in Moscow, there may or may not be grounds for outrage at some supposed punishment. But these events didn’t occur there, they occurred here. I have not put great energy into attempting to understand this case, attending to it a bit last year, and only briefly revisiting it now. Nowhere, though, did I run across anything that provided even a sketch of a convincing narrative of the reason for his being outside his diocese, and for such an extended period of time. To conclude that he moved from Moscow to Washington because he’s a firm believer in recapitalization would be as convincing as anything I’ve seen! The Archdiocese of Washington extended faculties ad experimentum. It’s sort of like letting someone into training camp as a walk-on, except that this is someone who gave no indication whatsoever that he wanted to make the team (i.e., incardination). There is no “punishment” involved in the termination of an ad experimentum agreement. The only real surprising thing here is that the Archdiocese entered into such an agreement in the first place.
    Perhaps you needn’t have gone into comparable depth, but the absence of any acknowledgment of these factors renders your judgment of credibility highly suspect. Free-lance blogging is one thing, free-lance priesting quite another. But to speak of “punishment” here, even for a free-lance blogger, is wrong, not right.
    Stating that Ms. Johnson entered the sanctuary intentionally to provoke a conflict also raises questions. Such a statement may be true. The question is, how do you know? It’s problematic if your answer is ‘because Fr. Guarizno said so,’ because that in itself raises two questions. First, is he credible? And second, how does he know her intention. Why else would she enter the sacristy, you might ask. And this raises another question, at least in my mind, that renders dubious your judgment of credibility. Fr. Guarizno had never met any members of the deceased woman’s family prior to the funeral. Further, in his statement he indicates that there was nothing unusual about this, that it was quite typical of his pastoral practice. I’ve never heard of such a thing. We aren’t dealing with another Cure d’Ars here, nor another priest whose diary Bernanos would bother to write. It’s not inconceivable that the decedent’s daughter simply took the initiative of meeting the priest who was going to be presiding at her mother’s funeral, nor that her lover would accompany her.
    I have no way of knowing whether that scenario is true, as I have no way of knowing whether the scenario you posit is true. You have no way of knowing, either. But the pastoral insensitivity I detect in what is an acknowledged pattern of behavior further strains credibility.
    I’ll give the migraine short shrift, but I cannot not mention it, as you mentioned it, in passing. I have known priests who suffer from migraines. I have never known a priest who left Mass early because of one. Indeed, I have never known a priest who would leave Mass early, short of being carried out on a stretcher, and then only if that stretcher was directly bound for a hospital. Back to training camp, good luck making the cut if you won’t play hurt. Here, I have no idea what Frank Sheed would have said, but Wilfrid would have been merciless.
    And as for the non-existent “punishment” as having been suffered “for following canon law.” I presume you mean Canon 915, as it’s pretty hard to follow canon law in general. And I must grant that there is no absolute unanimity among canonists, but surely moral unanimity exists. It would be a pretty small minority that agrees with you in interpreting Canon 915 as being consistent with Fr. Guarizno’s course of action. But certainly you knew that, because certainly you have at least some claim to canonical expertise, or certainly you would not have made such a bold assertion. And of that small minority, I can’t be certain, surely, but I’d be surprised if their number included virtually any high ranking Roman canonists, as they tend to be quite respectful of customary law and there is simply no basis for what Fr. Guarizno did in customary law.
    To specify the canonical conundrum, what do you think the odds are that Fr. Guarizno asked Ms. Johnson whether she and her partner were obdurately engaged in genital contact? I suspect we would concur in our judgment as to whether such a question would have been appropriate in the sacristy. But without that question having been explicitly asked and answered, there would simply have been no grounds for refusing communion. Ah, but such could be inferred, you might demur. But one does not refuse the sacraments on inference, especially inference quickly gathered. Perhaps you can find a canonist who would disagree with me here. If so, a piece of advice: if you ever find yourself in trouble and summoned before an ecclesiastical tribunal, don’t hire that canonist to defend you.
    I could continue, as I have progressed through only about a third of my notes. But I tire of it, as you might very rightly do as well. You might object that I have not engaged the insistences that you offered most passionately, those having to do with Salvation and Truth. Didymus, I learned long ago to pass on conversations regarding Truth with persons who were sloppy regarding truths.
    I trust you can take it from my tone that I’m not big on putting kindness first! It’s just that you got so much wrong here, and that’s not right.
    Garrison Keillor once called pumpkin pie nothing but a delivery vehicle for nutmeg. For you, this incident has been but a vehicle for generalized indignation and outrage.

  5. Didymus says:

    Perhaps your first post was not in fact so clear, or I would not have addressed your misunderstood point so poorly in your opinion. I have no wish to write a tome to respond to your tome, but there is one important question in my last comment which you did not mention, and about which I am curious to know the answer, if you would be willing to give it (in one sentence or less, ideally with just a yes or a no). Do you believe that the Eucharist is sacred in the traditional meaning of that word?

    • Jim Englert says:

      An unqualified yes.

      I suspect you have a tendency to conflate (a) “the traditional meaning(s)” of both words, “Eucharist” and “Sacred” with (b) your understanding of the meaning of those words. Because in our brief exchange I’ve witnessed a quite remarkable tendency on your part to presume that you know things that you do not know. Really, though, what ought I, indeed what do I, care of the opinion of one so squishy in his grasp of the distinction between what he happens to think and what is in fact the case.

      But, an unqualified yes.

      • Didymus says:

        It is ironic (and I suspect telling) that your affirmations of the Most Holy Eucharist were used as bookends to a paragraph that was intended simply to demean. Actions have consequences, and since your attempted insults have now moved beyond those casually embedded in your comments to being the point of your comments, you have forfeited the privilege to make additional ones. I am exercising my technological right to the last word. Go in peace.

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