By Michelle Bauman
Information published online by a Maryland woman who was recently denied Communion because of her lesbian relationship suggests that she is actually a Buddhist and an active “gay rights” supporter.
Barbara Johnson, 51, has become the subject of recent media attention after claiming that she had been denied Communion at her mother’s funeral, where she introduced her lesbian partner to the priest, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, before Mass.
However, the website for Art Works Studio School in Mt. Rainier, Md., which Johnson founded, states that she “considers herself a student” of “Buddhist philosophy.” The school’s Twitter page also contains recent posts criticizing the Maryland Catholic Conference for its hostility to “gay rights.”
Since the incident, Fr. Marcel Guarnizo has been “placed on administrative leave with his priestly faculties removed” amid investigations of “intimidating behavior.” A March 9 letter to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. said that the decision was the result of “credible allegations” that Father Marcel Guarnizo had “engaged in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.”
The letter did not mention Fr. Guarnizo’s Feb. 25 denial of Communion to Johnson at her mother’s funeral.
Johnson complained after she was denied Communion on Feb. 25 at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., which is part of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. She said that Fr. Guarnizo told her she could not receive the sacrament because her homosexual relationship was a sin in the eyes of the Church.
The issue of “gay rights” has become a heated topic in Maryland recently, as lawmakers approved a bill in late February to legalize “gay marriage” in the state. The law will not take effect until 2013, allowing time for the Maryland Catholic Conference and other pro-marriage groups to work to overturn the legislation with a referendum in November.
In addition to the description on her art school’s website, Johnson also identified herself as a Buddhist in a recent paper posted online for a master’s degree program at Kutztown University.
In the paper, Johnson discussed working at a local Catholic school, saying, “in my interview with the principal we talked openly about my being a lesbian and a Buddhist.”
She explained that she decided to take the job, despite the difficulties posed by the “homophobic world of education,” because she is a “naturally born agitator” who “enjoys challenging the status quo.”
After being denied Communion last month, Johnson wrote a letter to Fr. Guarnizo, warning him that he would “pay dearly” for what he had done. She has said that she will not be satisfied until he is removed from parish ministry.
In a March 1 statement, Fr. William Byrne, secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, responded to the incident by explaining that priests have “an obligation to make sure that the sacraments are respected.”
“No one is entitled to the Eucharist,” Fr. Byrne said, explaining that the reception of the sacrament is “a blessing and a grace.”
Johnson did not respond to CNA’s attempts to contact her.