Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest letter challenging Dr. Peters on canon 915, Communion, and "manifest" sin

As the whole situation regarding Fr. Guarnizo continues to develop, it may help to step back and consider the historical practice of the Church regarding the distribution of Communion.
The following article, from a pseudonymous guest-writer “Scriptor”, challenges the interpretation of this case given by Dr. Ed Peters. I present the article here not because I am in agreement – I am no canonist, so I am not capable of making a definitive claim one way or the other; however, I tend to agree with Dr. Peters’ position – but, rather, because it seems to be a thoughtful discussion of the question.
One thing I am certain of: A bishop has a great deal of authority in his diocese and a priest ought to follow not only the express command of his bishop, but also his implied preferences (though never in a manner contrary to the law of the Church or his conscience).
Thus, if Fr. Guarnizo has been placed on administrative leave – whatever the reason – it is for him a great opportunity to grow in holiness, if only he submits in humble obedience. In this regard, it is extremely harmful to the life of the Church that some have attempted to “rally” behind Fr. Guarnizo against Cardinal Wuerl (and I presume that the good Father does not even want this “support”, which will ultimately only contribute to his ruin).

The guest letter challenging the interpretation of Dr. Peters
Greetings in Christ,
I am writing you regarding the incident that happened recently towards the end of last month in the Archdiocese of Washington wherein Ms. Barbara Johnson was denied communion by the priest, Rev. Marcel Guarnizo.  I would like to break open, yet one more time, the whole issue of canon 915.  In particular, I would like to challenge the reading of this canon by Dr. Edward Peters.
My argument will be structured around two main points.  First, how do we read the word “obstinate” in canon 915?  Second, how do we read this canon’s use of the word “manifest”? 
The blogosphere is full of discussions that assume that for someone to be “obstinate” according to c. 915 he must have been first privately talked to and warned by a pastor about his sin.  On this reading, communion should be denied him only after he has been warned and then continues in his sin and publicly presents himself for communion.
The most recent Magisterial interpretation of canon 915 is the Declaration Concerning The Admission To Holy Communion Of Faithful Who Are Divorced And Remarried, put out by the Pontifical Council For Legislative Texts in the year 2000.  It defines “obstinate” as follows:
“obstinate persistence, which means 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.” 
For this PCILT document, “Obstinate”, as it appears in canon 915, is not necessarily only verifiable by a process of pastoral discussion and warning.  Rather, a person is considered to be “obstinate” in their sin if their sinful lifestyle has been lived in for some time and has not been abandoned by them.  So for example, cohabitating couples, simply by their lifestyle, are “obstinate” in their sin.  So also the sin of a practicing and open homosexual would be considered “obstinate”.  Of course, it makes good pastoral sense to avoid “making a scene” and embarrassing people by having to deny them communion in public.  If a pastor can speak beforehand to a person he has good reason to consider publically unworthy, he should do so.  But prior discussion and warning are not absolutes.  Even apart from them, the minister has an obligation to deny communion to the publically unworthy.  The PCILT document says,     
“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.” [Emphasis mine]
I think this idea of the necessary “prior warning” has accidentally gotten inserted into the discussion and raised confusion because of the issue of Catholic politicians who support political policies contrary to the faith.  The public unworthiness of such politicians is a bit more difficult an issue than the public unworthiness of cohabitating couples or practicing and open homosexual persons.  In the case of such politicians, it makes sense for a bishop to first talk with the politician, verify the objective gravity of his political stance (which by nature is going to be a more complex matter than fornication, adultery, or homosexual acts), warn him, and—if he persists in his stance—only then issue a diocesan-wide notice instructing ministers to refuse communion to him.
But this sort of mini-due process is not the inescapable paradigm for implementing canon 915 which has to do with the obligations of the minister in the given moment when he is distributing communion.  Moreover, this canon embodies divine law.  It is binding for even extraordinary ministers.  If he is to avoid the grave sin of scandal, every minister of communion must make a judgment call according to his own conscience, even if his judgment is at odds with that of his pastor or even that of his bishop.
What has happened is that over the past 50 years or so, for good or for bad, our bishops have stopped having recourse to the discipline of excommunication.  Canon 915 has of late come in to fill the vacuum.  We have been treating it as if it were a sort of low-level form of excommunication, requiring inquiry and due-process.  Yet canon 915 is no such thing.  It is not prescribing a punishment, even if, to our overly-touchy contemporary sensibilities, it seems like it is.   Rather canon 915 is rooted in the divine law that requires ministers to protect the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament, the right of the community not to be scandalized, and the integral good of the person being refused communion (who is thereby being spared from committing the unspeakably heinous sin of sacrilege).     
The second word in canon 915 that needs to be looked at afresh is “manifest”.  Here I differ with Dr. Peters who, as it appears from his recent blog posts, reduces the question of whether someone’s sin is “manifest” to the issue of whether it is manifest to the people who happen to be in the communion line or in the Church building when the person in question presents himself for communion.  I would argue against this reading of “manifest” on the basis of analogy with (1) the historical discipline of the Church and (2) the Church’s current magisterially mandated practice of refusing communion to the divorced and remarried.  
In regards to (1), it is helpful to read Cardinal Raymond Burke’s 2007 article, “The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin”.  In this article, Cardinal Burke has assembled a number of texts that show the historical continuity and consistency in the Church’s practice regarding the denial of communion to the publically unworthy.  After reviewing all these texts, it becomes clear that the “public” or “manifest” character of someone’s unworthiness to receive communion is based (among other things) on types of lifestyle or profession.  The publicly unworthy are those whose sin is public in principle.  The tradition of the Church regarding the practice of withholding communion from certain types of sinners does not look primarily to the accidental knowledge of the bystanders who happen to be present but rather is grounded in the nature or character of the sin the person has embraced.  Whether or not the person’s grave sin is “manifest” or “public” depends on the act itself—contextualized within some sort of populace, not necessarily within the populace that happens to be immediately present when the person in question presents himself for communion.  For example, a married man who has a secret mistress is an occult sinner, but as soon as he leaves his wife and moves into his mistress’s house, he has gone public with his sin.  He now shares an address with a woman who is not his wife.  His situation is intrinsically public or manifest.  The Church’s historical practice would be to refuse him communion, regardless of the knowledge or lack thereof of the bystanders.    
A specific case in point can be seen in a particular text that appears in Cardinal Burke’s essay.  As every canonist knows, canon 712 of the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches is the Eastern equivalent to our Latin rite canon 915.  One of the fonts of c. 712 is a very ancient text from the early centuries of the first millennium.  Burke writes about,
“a text of Saint Timothy of Alexandria, which underlines the responsibility of the minister of Holy Communion to refuse the Blessed Sacrament to a public sinner. The question is posed: Whether it is permitted to give Holy Communion to a heretic who presents himself to receive amidst a large crowd? Saint Timothy of Alexandria responds that it is not permitted to give Holy Communion to the heretic, even if he is not recognized in the huge crowd.” [Emphasis mine] 
Here we have someone whose sin is of a public nature.  The hypothetical person is a heretic (presumably he is in some sort of habit of associating with a heretical sect and doesn’t just hold his heretical opinions to himself quietly).  Even if, per accident, the people standing by him while he presents himself for communion do not know he is a heretic, if the minister knows him to be such, the minister cannot in good conscience give him communion.
In regards to (2), we need to note that, for the past 30 years, the Magisterium has been putting out interpretations of canon 915 that have been directly challenging the interpretation we American Catholics have been giving it (including the interpretations found in English language canon law commentaries).  Consult, for example, the CDF’s 1994 Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church Concerning The Reception Of Holy Communion By The Divorced And Remarried Members Of The Faithful, the 2000 PCILT document I have referenced above, and John Paul II’s 2003 Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia
A careful reading of these Magisterial texts necessitate an understanding of the term “manifest” in canon 915, that—however understood—by no means precludes the minister withholding communion if the bystanders in the communion line or those who happen to be present in the building are not aware of the cohabitator’s sin.  For these documents, if I as a minister of communion am aware that the person presenting themselves to me to receive communion is a Catholic that is cohabitating, I cannot in good conscience give them communion.  It doesn’t matter whether anyone else in the Church building at that present time knows this about the person.  I know it, and I know that their sin is per se public.  They are thus publicly unworthy.  Any other interpretation of “manifest” in the case of such people is against the whole tenor of what the Magisterium has been trying to get across to us for the past few decades.     
Now just as in the case of the cohabitator, the practicing and openly homosexual person has embraced a mode of life that is contrary to the moral law and is public in principle.  If an active homosexual has no problems with showing up with her partner to public functions and introducing her to others as such, this person’s sinful lifestyle is open and public.  She might not think her reputation has been publicly sullied, but she has brought upon herself the reputation of being a practicing homosexual, which objectively speaking is a sinful and disreputable lifestyle.  No minister can lawfully give her communion.  But this is precisely what obtains in the case of Ms. Barbara Johnson. 
In closing I am saying that the whole “prior warning” thing is misleading and that Dr. Peters’ interpretation of “manifest” in canon 915 is too narrowly construed.  Once canon 915 is interpreted in light of the historical practice of the Church and current Magisterial norms, it becomes clear that Fr. Guarnizo was properly implementing canon 915.  This priest has been getting a bad rap for doing the right thing.  Rather, I would think that when Fr. Guarnizo denied communion to Ms. Johnson, he was, to quote the above PCILT document, “conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.”  Are we?    


Alex said...

I am only somewhat familiar with the circumstances surrounding this priest's suspension. What are the grounds of the suspension?

Dan said...

I was upset at the bishop at first, but now I am thinking that this action might give Fr. Gaurnizo a much needed break from the public.

A Sinner said...

I think this distinction between public and private sin, and between "living in sin" vs. discreet instances...has led to a lot of pastoral problems in the Church.

On the one hand, unless they're having sex in public, two people living together aren't necessarily involved in any sort of sexual relationship. Maybe they're living as brother and sister. If people jump to scandalous conclusions, isn't that THEIR problem?

Likewise, acting as if the divorced and remarried who may occasionally fall into objectively adulterous sex (but, who knows, maybe they're TRYING to abstain) is somehow worse off than the guy who goes out and secretly hooks up every week but then repents before Sunday...seems a misplacing of priorities.

Both the idea of "obstinate" and "manifest" serve to create a separate class of sinners whom the self-righteous can then villify and go after, even while the log remains in their own eye. These distinctions should be gotten rid of, canonically, immediately.

De Liliis said...

It is good to read this.

Nevertheless even a small child could understand you don't give the Eucharist to someone like that.

That this has been lost shows how depraved matters have gotten.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
To deny the legitimacy of terms such as "obstinate" and "manifest" is absurd.

Further, co-habitation is per se scandalous ... it is a near occasion of sin.
This is what you fail to understand about a man who goes out and "hooks up", compared to public concubinage.

Thank goodness, Dr. Peters has done much to correct such views as yours.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Please note that purely anonymous comments will not be published.

You must at least use a pseudonym.

Andrew said...

I don't disagree with the application of 951 in the case of Ms. Johnson, however because almost no one is denied communion for cohabitating (or for other "per se" public sins that heterosexuals commit regularly), it seems like a selective application to LGBT Catholics. 951, in other words, is facially neutral but applied in a discriminatory way.

Also, the fact that unrepentant mass murderer Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has never been denied communion (even last year at the Vatican) is quite disturbing. Instead of passing judgments on ordinary individuals who may have confessed their sins, it would be far better if the church began denying communion to prominent figures who promote abortion etc.

A Sinner said...

Occasions of sin, are by nature subjective, depending on the calibre of the individual or individuals involved.

Obstinate and manifest may be "legitimate" in the sense of being definable categories, but they are not categories that should have a place in the pastoral practice of the Church, I don't think.

ellen said...

Thank you for this and thanks to "Scriptor". It seems Canon 915 needs some clarification from the Church together with uniform application. I think the people who seem ready to "disobey" Canon law in this instance are very disturbed by the possibility that there may be many people out there who will set out to commit sacrilege and there will be nothing we can do to prevent it. In the past, didn't people who were manifest sinners have to publically recant? Wouldn't something like that be necessary in some situations?

Gabby said...

@Alexander Weber, the bishop said he'd received complaints from office staff and others. You can read the letter that was read to the members of his parish here:

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
The practice of denying communion to manifest grave sinners goes back to St. Paul ... 1 Corinthians 5.

The Church does not have the authority to leave this practice behind ... it is a matter of divine Law.

Alessandro said...

I don't know how it works there in the US, but in Italy the problem doesn't exist - Communion is equally refused to the publicly divorced and homosexuals. To tell the truth, there is another error which I blame our Italian Church of - i.e. the fact that most priests wrongly deny Communion even to the divorced who never remarried or cohabited, but rather try to stay firm in the practice of the Church.

I personally am of the opinion of Fr. Gaurnizo. Holy Communion is the Body of Christ and must be preserved as much as possible from the sacrilege of people who publicly profess their immoral lifestyles - giving Communion to them would be like saying that homosexuality isn't sinful at all, while the public refusal of Communion to publicly proclaimed homosexuals might be a good occasion for Catechesis. But who knows, maybe the priest did something else wrong we are not aware of... God knows!

A Sinner said...

"The Church does not have the authority to leave this practice behind ... it is a matter of divine Law."

I've never said there wasn't a place for excommunication.

A public process whereby, after a sort of due process and chance to defend oneself, someone is specifically excluded from communion may be the tough medicine they need. This is especially true for publicly proclaimed heretics I would think, but it could extend to other sorts of immorality.

However, that's different than allowing bishops and priests to pick out the "public sinners" from among the private sinners of their congregations and decide to single them out based on assumptions about their "lifestyle"...well, I think we should all remember the day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA.

It starts to look bad for the Church when everyone winks at Joe who goes and visits his mistress on weekends, but brings Jack to the rug because he lives with his, or when the priest who has a "secret" gay sex at an anonymous club on weekends is denying communion to a lesbian whose made a committed life with her partner.

Alessandro said...

I need to clarify a point in my previews post: I didn't mean to say that Italian priests are better then US priests. There are indeed well-known cases of abuses such as famous divorced individuals who have received the Eucharist though explicitly being a public second marriage, as in the case of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
I sincerely hope there might be some enhancements and further restrictions in Canon Law to avoid these situations in the future..

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
And how exactly could there ever be excommunication if, as you suggest, the Church got rid of the idea of "obstinate" sinners and "manifest" sin?

Your idea of the Church winking at a private sinner (how exactly everyone knows he is a sinner when his sin is private is beyond me) and then deriding a public sinner ... well, it is hysterical ... but has no basis in reality.
Unless, of course, you are making a dangerously libelous accusation against Fr. Guarnizo ... in which case you are no longer welcome at this blog.

Anonymous said...

"how exactly everyone knows he is a sinner when his sin is private is beyond me"

Good observation!

Anonymous said...

I think that, in instances like this one, many of us don't see the wood for the trees. Let's just use common sense (which, unfortunately, is quite uncommon these days.) Is Barbara Johnson a practicing lesbian? Yes, by her own admission. Is Barbara Johnson a Buddhist? Yes, by her own admission. Is active homosexuality a sin, and can a Buddhist receive the Eucharist? I'll leave the last two questions to be answered by the others, to practice the application of common sense...

God Bless,


yan said...

Hi Fr.,

Scriptor quotes as follows:

“a text of Saint Timothy of Alexandria, which underlines the responsibility of the minister of Holy Communion to refuse the Blessed Sacrament to a public sinner. The question is posed: Whether it is permitted to give Holy Communion to a heretic who presents himself to receive amidst a large crowd? Saint Timothy of Alexandria responds that it is not permitted to give Holy Communion to the heretic, even if he is not recognized in the huge crowd.” [Emphasis mine]

Here we have someone whose sin is of a public nature."

I say, someone belonging to a heretical sect, is not necessarily a heretic, in which case, there is a perception that he has a sin of a public nature, but not necessarily the reality. He may have been born into that sect, and not willfully following teachings contrary to those revealed by the Roman Catholic Church. The same type of situation would exist in the case of a homosexual living in sin, who leaves his house, goes to church and makes a sincere confession, yet returns to his house after mass, and falls back into sin: he may be perceived to be a public sinner, but at the time of taking communion, he was not. As a pastor no doubt you are familiar with this type of weak soul.

Would a priest that gave absolution to the homosexual in my example be wrong to give him communion, because the homosexual seemed to be a public sinner? Would he be wrong to NOT give him communion? Is the priest free to decide what is best under the circumstances?

There still remains the danger of scandal in giving holy communion to a person who may be perceived to be a heretic or active homosexual [even if the priest knows otherwise]. In regard to the perceived heretic, there is also the fact that he has not been officially received into communion with the Catholic church. Are either of those reasons sufficient basis for denying communion? Is there a presumption in favor of receiving communion, or is the presumption against? I.e., are we assumed worthy to receive communion if we present ourselves, or is communion something that the church can rightfully hold back until its ministers are satisfied with the quota of evidence?

Scott said...

How is the relationship of a homosexual couple different from a co-habitating heterosexual couple who are not married? Or from a person who is taking birth control pills? I know many of these are presenting themselves for communion and receiving regularly. Do we know that Barbara Johnson is not living a celibate lifestyle? If we are going to deny Holy Communion to a lesbian, should we not also do so to those who persist in other matters of grave sin? He who is without sin may cast the first stone.

Ed Peters said...

Hi. You'll understand that I can't reply to every post about this topic, and anonymous posts get less attention from me than others. (Why on earth would an obviously intelligent writer going after a named individual post anonymously on this? Anyway.) I will say that my view has NEVER been that prior warning is required in all cases for c. 915. I don't appreciate being linked with that view.

Alessandro said...

@A Sinner
A person who happily declares to be a cohabiting lesbian is a person who is content with her sinful condition and even to proclaim before a priest that her condition isn't sinful enough to refuse her the Sacrament of Communion! That would make the priest guilty of sacrilege as he knows the sinful lifestyle of person but yet gives what is holy to the pigs. One thing is when a pig is masked as a credible sheep of your flock - in that case, you can't simply know and you are justified; but if the person comes to you in her true piggy dress, how can you give her what is holy? The Eucharist is the literal Body of Christ and giving it to self-proclaimed and happy public sinners as if they hadn't sinned is a sacrilege!

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father,

That famous quote of Blessed JPII: "It seems to me that an age of severity is followed by an age of laxity," sums up in my mind, much of the confusion around the correct application of the church law regarding the distribution of Holy Communion.

I'm old enough to remember when the pastor would come into our Catholic grade school to "make an example of" a misbehaving student. The pastor would rage at the child, and the child couldn't sit down until he or she wept. It was frightening and disgusting even for 3rd graders who had to witness such violence.

Most of my 60 classmates (in the same classroom) never continued in the faith after graduation because of the pastor's frightening meanness. And of course we could not trust the nuns who just stood by and let him do this.

To make an analogy, the "crisis" in the Irish church, which suffered from the severity of centuries of English occupation in which the English would "make an example of" Irishmen who disobeyed the rules, often killing them. Well, the Irish having been oppressed by such severe punishment for hundreds of years, sometimes used this tactic of "making an example of" someone after liberation from the English, and it came to this country too.

Now, over the past 4 decades, in righteous disgust of the uncharitable severity practiced widely by priests, many have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and will not even consider applying necessary disciplinary practices. Of course, as you emphasize, the clergy and the people need to value good discipline which is exercised in charity because Our Lord calls us to loving obedience to ALL of His Commandments. Ireland needs to have a discussion of the effects of centuries of English tyrannical domination, and until she does, the Irish won't get to the root of the problem. Same with the Church in America, which is largely Irish.

This is the issue which gives the now-aged "feminist nuns" the dynamism for their ongoing fury: they can't forgive themselves for standing by while the pastor verbally abused those little children. They need to ask for forgiveness, and forgive themselves, and get back to the normal practice of the Catholic religious life.

There is a danger now for any priest who correctly and charitably applies the disciplinary rules: that his actions will be twisted even by bystanders into an act of "making an example of" an unsuspecting person. It is a complicated issue, since there are now many people who appear to be plotting to bait good and holy priests.

So I hope and pray that this conversation about the age of severity and the age of laxity is undertaken by the Bishops and the people, in order to resolve this underlying problem. God bless you for having the courage to address this question.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Dr. Peters, regarding pseudonymous blogging,

An explanation of why we allow pseudonymous and anonymous posts can be found at the link below ... if you are truly interested.

Thank you for clarifying your view further regarding "obstinate".

As I say in the introductory comments, I tend to agree with your articles on this subject ... though I believe that this anonymous letter makes a good case regarding what counts as "manifest sin".

Peace to you always! +

Marko Ivančičević said...

Please all...the circumstances are well explained on

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

How is the relationship of a homosexual couple different from a co-habitating heterosexual couple who are not married.

The 1st relationship is an unnatural abomination that can never be made licit and moral or normal no matter what the men or women in that relationship do.

They must cease their lust and repudiate and Confess it or they will remain on the path to perdition.

A normal couple that is shacking-up can quit the fornicating and receive the Sacraments of Confession and Marriage and then everything is jake.

N.D. said...

"You cannot be my disciples if you do not abide in my Word." - Christ

Since it is true that communion is not a matter of degree, ( Catholic Canon 750) a heretic must not receive communion, for to deny The Word of God, is to be against Christ.

The bishop must be disciplined and the priest restored to ministry for the sake of Christ, His Church, and all who will come to believe in The Word of God as He Has revealed Himself to His Church in the trinitarian relationship of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and The Teaching of The Magisterium.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Purely anonymous comments (lacking even a pseudonym) will not be posted.
This is why the anonymous comment of 10:21am has been deleted.

As I request in the comment policy and also in the comment pop-up box, use a pseudonym at least at the end of the comment ... like so ...

- Fr. Ryan

yan said...

Hi Fr,

I am no canonist, I am only trying to reason as best I know. I appreciate any correction.

It is my understanding that to be a heretic a person must obstinately hold to a false teaching. My assertion is simply that not every person that belongs to a heretical sect is necessarily a heretic by that standard. Quite a few are not. Babies for instance. Those not well-catechized in their faith would be another example. Those that through no fault of their own believe something in error would be another example. In this last category we would even have to include Catholics who in the past believed something different than what the Church taught before the Church taught that thing clearly. E.g. St Thomas and other saints in regard to the Immaculate Conception.
Certainly they could not have been saints and heretics at the same time. Yet they held to a belief that was objectively false, but not willfully in contradiction to the teaching of the Church.

Thus, subjective mental states, not just status, is relevant for determining whether an individual is a heretic.

I don't think I am making this up. I recall once reading at the Catholic Answers website that St Augustine didn't regard those Christians who were children of schismatics to be schismatics themselves.


Irenaeus of New York said...

I think the one thing that disturbs me is that it obviously takes a canonist to understand the intricacies of canon law. And even finding consensus on any given subject among canon lawyers is not assured. But the priest tread over this invisible line which is subject to interpretation. The priest does not get a consultation or warning from his bishop, he gets the hammer. Given the nature of this particular incident, I don't see why this required disciplinary action, not to mention a public flogging of him with their press release. "Punish one teach one hundred" is not a Father and Son relationship.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Ienaeus of NY,
My understanding is that Father has not received any punishment and that no "disciplinary action" has been taken against him.

As far I as I have heard, he has only been placed on "administrative leave" - which is not a canonical penalty.
And this leave was brought on not by the incident itself, but by other accusations of "intimidation" (some of which are circumstantial to the incident).

One thing I know for sure ... when Fr. Guarnizo goes to great lengths to point out that Cardinal Wuerl is not his bishop (and tries to claim that the Cardinal therefore does not have canonical authority to discipline him through a possible future suspension), it is pretty hard for me to criticize the Cardinal for not acting "fatherly".

Just my own thoughts ... irrespective of the canonical question of 915.

francis said...


I don't think Fr. Marcel went "to great lengths" to point out he is not incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington - he simply mentioned it with his understanding that he cannot be canonically suspended by Cardinal Wuerl. I do not know if that is accurate or not, but nothing in his statement suggests he desires to be disobedient or a "free-agent" in this situation. In fact, he makes clear that he desires to be obedient.

And as someone who personally knows Fr. Marcel, I am confident that he wants nothing other than to be an obedient son of the Church.

Cheryl said...

Here's a new canonical defense posted today on pewsitter...

"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."

Read the rest here at

Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.