"I'm her partner."
Those are the only words Fr. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., needed to hear. Those are the only words he used to inform his conscience, to base his decision to deny Communion to a grieving woman at her mother's funeral.
By now, the story has been widely reported. Barbara Johnson, a Washington, D.C.-area Catholic, had come to St. John Neumann's on Saturday for the funeral Mass. After learning that morning that Johnson lived with her female partner of 20 years, Guarnizo put his hands over the communion platter and did not let Johnson partake.
But, in a compelling phone interview Wednesday, Johnson said the denial was just the climax of a series of unfortunate and uncompassionate events surrounding her mother's funeral.
In the weeks and months leading up to her mother's death, Johnson, who was raised Catholic and has attended and taught at Catholic schools, said she was virtually unaware of the fight for same-sex marriage in her home state of Maryland, which is set to legalize the practice this week following the state senate's Feb. 23 approval.