I got played. Badly.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece for The Daily Caller about a lesbian named Barbara Johnson. Johnson was recently denied communion at the funeral Mass for her mother. The priest who denied her is Father Marcel Guarnizo, a priest at the St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I was appalled at Fr. Guarnizo, whom I thought showed no mercy or prudence to Johnson, who was attending her mother’s funeral. The story blew up in the media and Fr. Guarnizo was put on administrative leave.
Fr. Guarnizo has just issued a statement about what actually happened, and I believe him. In the original version of the story in The Washington Post, written by Michelle Boorstein — a reporter whose problems I will address shortly — it appeared as if Barbara Johnson had arrived at her mother’s funeral, and in a casual chat with Fr. Guarnizo before Mass had introduced her girlfriend. Then she was denied communion.
Why didn’t I listen to my instincts, and the wisdom I have acquired about the left over the years?
The left lies.
And they lie in particularly slippery ways. I have written several articles over the last couple years about one of my favorite films, “The Exorcist,” and one of the deepest observations of the book and film is that the demonic does not necessarily come storming down the street on horses with flaming swords held high. It plays word games. It shames and bullies. It attacks the soul through sexual dehumanization. When Christ was in the desert fasting, Satan did not arrive in a thunderous chimera of lightning. He attempted to fool Jesus by quoting scripture. As Pope Benedict noted in his book about Jesus, “It turns out that the devil is a theologian!” Indeed.
Fr. Guarnizo has now issued his own account of what happened. According to him, Barbara Johnson met with Fr. Guarnizo before Mass and intentionally introduced her girlfriend as her “lover.” Johnson then left, and when Fr. Guarnizo attempted to follow her, Johnson’s lover blocked his way. When Johnson presented herself for communion, Fr. Guarnizo quietly whispered to her that he could not give her the Eucharist. She then went to a Eucharistic minister a few feet away, who gave her communion.
It has also come out that Johnson is not even Catholic anymore — she’s a liberal Buddhist and an art teacher.
Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Think of every priest you’ve ever met. How many of them can you imagine arbitrarily and with malice denying someone communion at a Mass, much less a funeral Mass?
Now think of the far-left liberals you know. The resentful lesbians, the Andrew Sullivans, the hissy-fit Occupiers. Can you imagine one of them trying to score a political point by pulling a stunt at a funeral, even a funeral for their own parent?
Now for Michelle Boorstein. When I saw that the original Post piece had been written by Boorstein, I should have known to disregard it. A few years ago, news broke that there had been sexual abuse at the hands of a priest at Georgetown Prep, my alma mater. At the time I told Boorstein that the sexual trouble at Prep went back to the early 1980s when I was there. I pointed to Bernie Ward, who was a sex-ed teacher at Prep, then became a left-wing radio host, and is now in prison for sending kiddie porn. As I wrote in this Daily Caller piece, Boorstein simply accepted the school’s contention that Ward had never been a teacher there.
I couldn’t believe it. Well, I said to Boorstein, this is not hard to check. Ward was there for two years and I sat in his classroom.
Boorstein then said I had a problem with gay people, and hung up.
As more information has come out about Fr. Guarnizo, we can focus in on what actually happened — or at least what I think happened. Barbara Johnson, in the tradition of the Wellstone funeral, decided to politicize a funeral because, like all liberals, politics is her god. She walked into St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg with the intention of causing trouble. When Fr. Guarnizo tried to explain to her that he could not give her communion unless she went to confession, Johnson’s lover checked the priest. The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality is a sin, only homosexual acts. Johnson did not introduce her companion as a friend, or even as a girlfriend — she specifically called her a “lover” (the devil is a theologian). She referred to the act itself, probably knowing that it would put Fr. Guarnizo in a difficult position. When he tried to talk to her, his way was blocked.
Of course, none of this was reported by Michelle Boorstein. Probably my favorite passage of hers was in a follow-up piece (there have been several since she got the original story wrong). Here Boorstein writes about Catholics who are nonplussed with what they have found out about Johnson:
“She is not even a Roman Catholic any longer, yet she presented herself for Communion,” wrote blogger Rod Dreher on The American Conservative.
“Aside from her homosexuality, the woman is a non-Catholic, literally an apostate, and she complains about being denied Holy Communion and wants to get the priest fired,” writes Catholicism.org.
Johnson’s depiction of her own blending of the faiths, while infuriating to purists, appears to put her in the mainstream of American religion.
Beautiful! See, anyone Catholic who believes that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who is Lord and creator of all that is seen and unseen, and that one who receives Him should be free of sin, is a purist. Because, you see, we have this survey here that shows that Americans are becoming more polyglot in their religions. In case you still missed it: The masses have moral authority over the Catholic Church. Unless a majority has trouble with the government forcing the Church to buy contraception. In that case you need to listen to your conscience — and the ladies at NOW.
The devil is a theologian. He loves to play little word games, turn God’s laws upside down, and offer us the world. The fact that St. John Neumann parish has reprimanded Fr. Guarnizo indicates that a few are ready to take the offer.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.