Mar 152012

The case of  Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s continues to provide interesting fodder for the Catholic blogosphere, especially since he released a statement  yesterday.  Unfortunately many of the discussions try to force a narrative where the facts are not fully present.  I pretty much concur with what Fr. Longenecker wrote:

I don’t know Fr Guarnizo and I don’t have enough facts either way to make the judgment in this case, and anyway it’s not my job. It’s easy to jump to Fr Guarnizo’s defense and view the Archdiocese as the Big Bad Wolf (in sheep’s clothing) when the fact is, we really don’t know all the facts and so we can’t make a judgment one way or the other. We have to give both Fr Guranizo and the Archdiocese the benefit of the doubt.

So I will try to stick with what I do know (yes an odd decision for a blogger). Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s arguments in his statement that what he did was what any faithful priest would do are incorrect as he tries to justify them outside of Canon 915 which he seems to see as not applying in this circumstance. For those who like to try to understand Canon law better from an expert opinion, Canonist Ed Peters again comes to service with a detailed post on the subject. When I read Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s statement yesterday I was hoping that Ed Peters would follow up on the subject before I posted myself.

So I would see that it is rather apparent that Fr. Marcel Guarnizo has made a mistake and that he has so far refused to admit any error in what he had done.  More than likely he is indeed a faithful priest who did what he thought right, but that faithfulness should also be obedient.  The Archdiocese as I wrote the other day has added to the confusion and from just a PR perspective this was handled rather badly.  The Archdiocese has also framed this discipline as being done for actions other than the withholding of Communion, but they have not specified what this is.  Returning to Fr. Longenecker again, he writes about “intimidating behavior” and what exactly does this mean.  The phrase seems to have been used by the pastor of the Church and not the Archdiocese.

If this is true, is justice being done? Can an Archdiocese withdraw faculties from a priest simply for ‘intimidating behavior’? What on earth does that mean? Any kind of conflict in a parish in which a priest asserts himself might be construed as “intimidating behavior”. For goodness sake, I can name half a dozen priests off the top of my head about whom reports of “intimidating behavior” are reported weekly.

Even if Fr Guarnizo is guilty of “intimidating behavior” what did he actually do? Did he hit someone? Did he threaten them with violence? Did he threaten to blackmail them? What did the “intimidating behavior” consist of? Were there witnesses? What actually happened?

Will “intimidating behavior” become the new “abuse”. Increasingly we hear charges against people of “abuse”. “Abuse” used to mean that a man came home, kicked his kids down the stairs, punched his wife and raped his daughter. “Abuse” used to mean a woman got drunk, burned her kids with cigarettes, tortured the dog and locked her son in a cupboard. “Abuse” used to mean a priest was a drunkard, raped little boys and stole the collection money.

Now the term “abuse” is thrown at people, damning them with a vague and unproved accusation. “My husband was abusive!” I hear a woman complain, and it turns out he didn’t listen to her enough and forgot to take out the trash on a Tuesday. “My mom is abusive!” a high school kid wails, and it turns out she yelled at him to clean up his room and grounded him because his grades were lousy.

This is the heresy of sentimentalism turned violent. The play is on a supposed victim’s feelings. So-and-so was “abusive” or “intimidating” and I’m feeling wounded so the accusation is made, the “abusive” or “intimidating” person is accused, assumed guilty and executed without trial.

The lack of clarity on the story just goes to provide more muddle.  As Ed Peters writes:

I have long believed that the express terms of Canon 915 support its much wider application against certain prominent scandal-giving Catholics, and I have labored to advance the application of Canon 915 ad bonum Ecclesiae et salutem animarum. Serious misapplications of the values underlying Canon 915, however, undertaken by ill-informed ministers and touted by grossly ill-formed partisans, only set back the cause of seeing Canon 915 applied correctly today.

  17 Responses to “On Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s statement”

  1. Thursday, March 15, 2012
    Eucharist is not to be given to the Quaker, Lutheran, and Buddhist since they are outside the Church
    If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either. If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.- Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, Archdiocese of Washington D.C

    The Eucharist is not to be given to the Quaker, Lutheran or Buddhist. Since outside the Church there is no salvation. They are outside the Church. They are not saved.

    Fr. Marcel Guarnizo could have been endorsing the rigorist interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. The same interpretation of Fr. Leonard Feeney, the Church Fathers, popes, Councils, Catechisms, Vatican Council I and II and Michael Voris at Real Catholic

    Ad Gentes 7 Vatican Council II says all need to enter the Cburch for salvation. All includes the Quaker,Lutheran and Buddhist. (1).

    Lumen Gentium 14 says faith and baptism are necessary for salvation. The Buddhist does not have faith or baptism. The Lutheran does not have Catholic Faith.(2)

    Dominus Iesus says though Christ died for all, for salvation all need to enter the Church with faith and baptism. Non Catholics do not have faith and baptism. They need to respond and enter the Church to saved.(3)

    The dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus, the infallible teaching mentioned by Pope Pius XII in the Letter of the Holy Office says all need to convert into the Church to avoid Hell. (4)

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats the teaching of Vatican Council II and other magisterial texts. All need to enter the Church with Catholic Faith and the baptism of water, one needs to enter the Church as through a door.(5)

    Note: There are no known cases on earth of a non Catholic saved in invincible ignorance, the baptism of desie, a good conscience, the seeds of the Word etc. We can only accept in principle that these are possibilities known only to God. So they do not contradict any of the magisterial texts mentioned above.
    -Lionel Andrades

    Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church’s preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself “by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door.-Ad Gentes 7

    This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church.-Lumen Gentium 14

    Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.-Dominus Iesus 20

    Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.

    However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church.-Letter of the Holy Office 1949


    “Outside the Church there is no salvation”
    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.-Catechism of the Catholic Church 846 (See also 845)
    Note: All salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body refers to those who are saved 1) with the baptism of desire, invincible ignorance etc and those who are saved 2) with Catholic Faith and the baptism of water. N.1 is not in conflict with N.2. They are not explicit exceptions.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012
    Fr. Marcel Guarnizo Defends Himself :If a Quaker, Lutheran or Buddhist, desiring communion introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion



    Just as Fr. Marcel Guarnizo is put on administrative leave for political reasons the Archbishop of Washington gives the Eucharist to pro abortion politicians for political reasons.Also for political reasons Catholics do not want to discuss the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    When Fr. Marcel said ‘If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion.’ he was using the ecclesiology (understanding of Church) of outside the church no salvation. This was the ecclesiology which Pope John Paul II used in Ecclesia di Eucarestia.

    Those who are not baptized, or are baptized but are not living the Gospel according to the Catholic Church are in grave sin. They are not to receive the Eucharist. St. Paul tells us that those who receive the Eucharist in this unworthy state bring damnation upon them self.

    No non Catholic has the ‘right’ to receive the Eucharist .Not because he is condemned already but because he has the opportunity to convert into the Catholic Church and receive the Sacraments which save. Jesus saves through the Sacraments.

    Outside the Sacraments there is no known salvation in the present time.

    For political reasons the Archdiocese of Washington has not announced that the Buddhist lesbian woman will not be able to receive the Eucharist. If she does come to receive the Eucharist during Mass in Washington a priest or Eucharistic Minister will give her the Eucharist. She will receive the Eucharist even though she has not rectified the scandal in public i.e. she has not denied that she is a Buddhist and is a practising, active lesbian living in sin. She needs to make the public clarification and go also for Confession, before receiving the Eucharist.

    The Archdiocese of Washington is not likely to make this announcement. Senator Kennedy never made any such clarification. Neither did the Archdiocese clarify any change in his position on abortion. Neither did the Archdiocese of Boston mention that the Senator received absolution before his death. He was given the Eucharist in Washington and a funeral in Boston. According to the teachings of the Church and the public scandal of which he was a part of, he was oriented to Hell at the time of death.

    The priority is politics and then the Eucharist.The Archdiocese of Boston like Washington would welcome lesbians and homosexuals receiving the Eucharist at Mass. The Vatican cannot apply Canon 915 against the cardinals. Would there be a schism if this done even in the interest of the Eucharist? The Vatican has not issued a clarification on this issue of the Eucharist in Washington.A Deacon of the Archdiocese of Washington will not discuss the issue of extra ecclesiam nulla salus with reference to the Eucharist. Probably if he does, they’ll suspend him too.

    In the media, Catholic and secular, we are getting a canned, politically safe version of the Catholic Faith and sadly it is being extended to the Eucharist.

    According to Vatican Council II (AG 7, LG 14) non Catholics are oriented to Hell and if they are all oriented to Hell then they are not to receive the Eucharist.

    Jesus watches from the tabernacle. At night he is alone in most churches in Washington, if not all the churches. He watches and he knows. He feels.He is left there abandoned and now they are abandoning church teachings. They are allowing sacrilege and sin for the sake of convenience, expedience and politics.The Mass is not just a sacrifice for Jesus, an unbloody Sacrifice, it is a source of pain in so many ways.
    -Lionel Andrades

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Eucharist is not to be given to the Quaker, Lutheran, and Buddhist since they are outside the Church

  3. […] On Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s statement – Jeffrey Miller, The Curt Jester […]

  4. I think you have missed hearing a first hand account of a person who was present at the funeral. Canon 915 seems very much applicable in this situation. That may be the only statement or deed of misunderstanding that Fr. Guarnizo has committed. The Washington Archdiocese rushed to judgment against this priest and apologized far too quickly assuming that Father was in the wrong. From what I’ve seen over the net Father Marcel was justified in his response and actions to refuse Holy Communion to Barbara Johnson once she in a dramatic performance made it known to him that she is in a openly homosexual relationship and when her partner in this drama blocked the priest from being able to talk further to Barbara Johnson, this gave him further justification for his actions.

  5. Mr Miller:

    Now, I am going to ask you to stop and think for a moment. It will be necessary for us to put aside all side issues, legal niceties, convoluted thinking, sentimentality and emotionalism. So, let us together think about this one, simple, glaring point, and let us ponder it: a high offcical of the Catholic Church has publicly apologized to a lesbian.

    Let us stop here and think about this.

    Forget giving the benefit of the doubt to all concerned for just one moment and ponder the seriousness of what I have just written. I repeat: a high official of the Church has publicly apologized to a woman engaged in unnatural vice, one of the four sins that cries to Heaven for vengeance.

    That is the crux of the matter and if you forget that you will never get a true handle on the story. Zero in, Mr Miller, on the key aspect of the story, and nothing else. Posturing, or self-righteous pontificating will not be helpful now. The only thing that is of crucial importance, is the scandal caused by the Archdiocese.

    Ponder that before pronouncing. Thank you.

  6. I see this as a case where both sides are a little at fault and a little “right.” Fr. Guzman was right to deny the woman communion, even though this apparently violated the Archdiocese’s policy established by Cardinal McCarrick of not “denying” Communion but merely admonishing people not to receive in private.
    However, I do know a person who used to work for Fr. Guzman and complained that he was quite a jerk–and this has nothing to do with conservatism or orthodoxy.
    How he handled his demeanor during the funeral Mass depends upon whose version you read, but he refused to attend the graveside service because he claimed he came down with a migraine–this is what angered not just the lesbian but the entire family and elicited the Archdiocese’s apology. It is easy to see how this might have raised a red flag if there are standing complaints about his ill temper.

  7. A priest has defended the Eucharist against a cynical and premeditated desecration.

    Let us never forget how quickly the legal eagles line up against him.

    May God deliver us from the Pharisees and give us holy priests who will defend the Faith and the Blessed Sacrament.

    And may God make them bishops.

    We need them.

  8. Dear Jeff,
    Interesting point made here: we cannot make a judgement based on partial facts.

    As one who was involved in pastoral ministry in a rather diverse and complicated environment, I would say that there are more Church documents that deal with this “pastoral” situation and “raw” reference to canon 915 may be insufficient. Here is what one document says:
    “The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations.”
    Based on this document, which is then applied not just to the pastoral instance in the document, but as can be properly applied in other pastoral circumstances – and the understanding canon 915 in the document, I do not thin Fr Marcel was wrong. I actually think he “lived” his responsibility – if this document has any force at all.

  9. Amen, Mr DeLano.

    And this:

  10. Below is a detailed critique of Dr. Peters’ recent offering concerning his view of Canon 915, and how he believes it must be interpreted and applied in the Fr. Guarnizo/B. Johnson case.

    The actual critiques are set forth as parenthentical comments throughout Dr. Peters’ assessment, and proceeded by C:
    From Ed Peters’ Blog (3/17/12)
    A brief thought on the phrase ‘manifest sin’ in Canon 915
    “As I look through the continuing blogosphere commentary on the lesbian/Communion case, I see many people confusing the concept of “manifest sin” in Canon 915 with the notion of, I dunno, something like “manifestly sinful”. Those two phrases mean different things*, I suggest, and Canon 915 speaks only in terms of the former, not the latter.”

    (C: Here we go again. Dr. Peters claiming his interpretation of the canon is the only one possible, so others must be using terms incorrectly, and/or they are confused. But are they?)

    “In 2008 I published a CLSA advisory opinion on Canon 915 and two years later posted it on my Canon 915 resource page. I paraphrase part of that opinion for use today:
    Manifest. The additional requirement that gravely sinful behavior be manifest prior to withholding the Eucharist helps distinguish Canon 915, which operates in realm of public order, from Canon 916, which informs one’s personal responsibility to receive the Eucharist worthily. Reception of Communion at Mass is a public action in service to rendering liturgical worship to God; it is not the place for the proclamation of another’s private behavior.”

    (C: It is B. Johnson who publicly proclaimed her manifest grave sin.)

    “However sinful it might be, conduct that is not already widely known in the community”

    (C: What constitutes “widely known,” and where is that set forth in Canon 915? Dr. Peters is adding terms that are not found in the canon. I thought this was taboo, but perhaps not for Dr. Peters. Even so, “widely known” also needs to be defined if and only if it must be included in the interpretation of Canon 915, but this is not established even if Dr. Peters and pals think of it this way. Also, nowhere does Canon 915 mention “widely known in the community.”)

    “is not manifest as canon law understands that term in this context.”

    (C: …“not manifest as canon law understands that term in this context”…or as canon lawyer Peters understands that term in this context,…whatever “this context” may be? This is very telling, because it suggests that Dr. Peters and canon law are one and the same. Wow!)

    “In something of a parallel to Canon 1340 § 2 (which prohibits imposing public penances for occult transgressions)”

    (C: What constitutes “occult transgressions”? Does not a public announcement, even to one party make the transgression no longer occult? Do we need 5 people present, 25 people, etc? Dr. Peters never suggests any specifics, but always claims/suggests that some greater number of people is needed to satisfy the “public” requirement. Or perhaps he means “canonically public”? 🙂 )

    “and Canon 1330 (which prohibits any penalties in cases where no one has perceived the offense)”

    (C: Oops. “[W]here no one has perceived the offense.” We know in the Johnson case that at least one person perceived the offense, and one more or a few others as well. This is a faulty reference in support of Dr. Peters’ overall approach to this case, because this canon can now support Fr. Guarnizo.)

    “the public withholding of the Eucharist for little-known sins, even though they might well be grave, is not permitted under canon law.”

    (C: Where does “little-known sins” come into play? This looks like another extra addition thrown in to aid Dr. Peters’ interpretation, but he wouldn’t do that while accusing others of similar actions, would he? Say it ain’t so, Joe,…or Ed.)

    “Some folks seem to get the canonical distinction between public and private conduct but think the Church is being too lenient in dealing with grave-but-as-yet-private sin.”

    (C: There he goes again. Declaring something to be the case when it is not the case. The announcement takes the situation away from being private. If no such announcement was made, it would be private for obvious reasons, and this would even be so under a new and superfluous concept called “canonically private.”)

    “They’re free to make that case, though I think the Church’s wisdom is more than canon-law deep here.”

    (C: Wow! Thanks, Dr. Peters. But didn’t Dr. Peters jump all over Fr. Guarnizo and others for appealing to Church wisdom that is also “more than canon-law deep here”? This now seems a bit odd that Dr. Peters would make such an appeal to defend his own interpretations.)

    “Anyway, though they disagree with the law, they understand it, so my job is done in their regard.” + + +”

    (C: They understand Dr. Peters’ interpretation, which may indeed be the prominent one, but is it the only possible one? Another possible interpretation is what Dr. Peters can barely conceive despite the flaws in some of his own statements and applications, and the fact that this particular case brings in some new elements that precedents do not necessarily apply to as he believes they must and do, though others with good reason do not so believe.)

    “* Example: I keep saying that a would-be Communion recipient’s brief disclosure to a minister a few minutes before Mass that she has a female “lover” does not suffice to verify, among other things, that the sin apparently being admitted to is canonically manifest in the community;”

    (C: Again, what is “canonically manifest”? Where is there a requirement in the canon itself that requires such a thing as “canonically manifest”? This intriguing terminology (and other such statements) reminds me of some Protestant biblical interpretations, especially those that criticize Catholic doctrine that permits for more common sense applications and hermeneutics that may not be “biblically manifest” as a Protestant understands the term.)

    “others say, c’mon, lesbian sexual activity is manifestly sinful. See? I’m talking about what Canon 915 actually says, while they are talking about what they think Canon 915 says.”

    (C: As unequivocally pointed out and illustrated above, Dr. Peters doesn’t always talk about what the canon actually says, but what he believe it says or infers, and again, he also adds to it to support his interpretation that he presents as the only possible one it could have in respect to the Fr. Guarnizo/B. Johnson case, and so those who disagree are simply wrong and “need correction.”)


  11. Very much appreciated, DB.

    It seems that Dr. Peters has, somehow, been assigned (or else has assumed) the mantle of Virtual Vicar, pronouncing regular and frankly, disturbing public judgements against laymen such as Michael Voris and priests such as Fr. Guarnizo.

    Nice to see that at least some of us are not unduly impressed.

  12. AS I see it, this priest did right to tell the woman not to receive unworthily, did right to refuse her when she came up but it should have stopped there. Free will and all that, she had the right to exercise her free will and receive unworthily from the extraordinary minster of Holy Communion and thus accept the curse scripture speaks about. Her choice after being instructed and warned.

  13. I am frankly amazed that not a single poster seems to understand (or perhaps have bothered to read) Dr. Peter’s opinion. You would all be cheering him as genius if this were merely a reprinting of his opinion that Pelosi should be denied communion under Canon 915. AND YOU WOULD DO SO NOT GIVING A LICK ABOUT DUE PROCESS AND THE LAW. Now when he rightly explains that announcements in the sacristy do not fulfill the requirement of making a sin publicly “manifest” (a requirement that was true before Vatican II and back to the middle ages–go read all the citations on Dr. Peter’s blog), you are all screaming for his head and declaring him an “outlaw.” AND YOU WOULD DO SO NOT GIVING A LICK ABOUT DUE PROCESS AND THE LAW. Funny that hypocrites never seem to recognize what they are.

  14. Raymond: “I am frankly amazed that not a single poster seems to understand (or perhaps have bothered to read) Dr. Peter’s opinion.”

    >> Strike One. I have read it. Strike Two. DB not only read it, but responded to it point by point, above. Strike Three. It appears you managed to miss this, Raymond.

    R: “You would all be cheering him as genius if this were merely a reprinting of his opinion that Pelosi should be denied communion under Canon 915.”

    >> We are all cheering the priest, Raymond, who acted under not only Canon 915, hut under other appropriate ecclesiastical guidance on the matter (see DB above) and who, most importantly of all, stood for the sanctity and integrity of the Eucharist and the Faith in the face of a cynical, premeditated assault on same by a committed, public enemy of the Eucharist and the Faith.

    Now your problem seems to be that we don’t buy Dr. Peters’ hairsplitting “arguments”.

    Well, we don’t, so I guess if that’s your problem, it’s at least a real one 🙂

    I fail to see any semblance of hypocrisy involved here, Raymond…at least not on the part of the heroic Fr. Guarzino and his defenders on the web.

  15. There’s a new post about Fr. Guanizo at pewsitter by a priest and canon laywer…

    “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

  16. Many thanks for the kind comments, Rick D.

    To Debbie, Rick D., and others:

    A superb reference, Debbie. I came across the good Father’s commentary last evening, and I have begun the process of spreading it around as much as I can to help give it as wide a readership as possible. I hope others will do the same.

    Father “Anonymous” certainly demonstrates what I and others have maintained was at least possible, …which is the providing of a legitimate defense of Fr. Guarnizo’s actions in accordance with canon law.

    Unfortunately, too many people who don’t know better, and many people who should have known better simply buy into the narrative that Dr. Peters is the last word in canon law interpretation. Perhaps buoyed by such blind loyalty, Dr. Peters’ has arrogantly dismissed opposing views regarding this matter with the exceedingly obnoxious “I’m the expert and others either agree with me or they need correction” approach.

    Well, the canonical defense now provided by Fr. “Anonymous” illustrates once again how foolish such misplaced pride is in one’s own limited expertise, because the good Father’s analysis provides greater authoritative references than those presented by Dr. Peters and fellow travelers. Moreover, Father “Anonymous” directly addresses some of the unique aspects of this case instead of trying to claim that it is substantially like others that Dr. Peters uses to support his interpretation and application of Canon 915 and other canons in opposition to Fr. Guarnizo’s actions. This alone illustrates greater depth of thought and analysis than that exercised by Dr. Peters and his fellow travelers.

    This is indeed a serious matter, but I have to admit to a major belly laugh after reading through the superb analysis by Father “Anonymous,” because a vision of many people with eggs covering their faces danced through my mind.

    Of course, if the past is prologue as it often is, we can suspect that Dr. Peters will feign some respect for Fr. “Anonymous” and his opposing interpretation BASED ON CANON LAW, but the proof will be in the pudding in the manner in which Dr. Peters attempts a rebuttal. I hope that Dr. Peters will attempt a legitimate rebuttal (unless he really surprises and accepts the interpretation of Fr. “Anonymous”), but I would not be surprised to see the use of the red herrings, mischaracterizations, and so on that have frequented some of Dr. Peters’ past work. We shall see.

    God Bless!


  17. Well, Dr. Peters may or may not have attempted a rebuttal of Fr. Anonoymous’ commentary, but his fellow traveler Fr. MacDonald did. So one more time in the ongoing battle against intellectualoid bullies, and in defense of the Truth, I offer the following, which is quite detailed. The length and details are necessary because of the content of Fr. MacDonald’s critique. Enjoy! 🙂
    Who Are the Good Canonists?

    A Detailed Rebuttal of Father Stuart MacDonald’s March 29, 2012 Critique of the Recent Commentary by Father Anonymous Concerning the B. Johnson/Fr. Guarnizo Case.
    As I did a few times in the recent past responding to a couple of commentaries provided by Dr. Ed Peters in opposition to Fr. Guarnizo’s denying Communion to B. Johnson, I now offer a detailed rebuttal of Father Stuart MacDonald’s critique of Father Anonymous’ Commentary that supports Fr. Guarnizo’s actions.

    Father MacDonald’s statements from his critique (unless quoted in my comments) will be preceded by FSM: My specific comments will be preceded by DB:
    FSM: Not every canonist is a good canonist

    March 29, 2012

    A few people have written asking me to comment on a post which appeared on pewsitter as well as on rorate-caeli I am going to respond, but only briefly because this is now beyond flogging a dead horse. I respond for two reasons

    First, and foremost, the writer has made a fatal error in his argument, hence demonstrating that he does not understand well the laws about which he is writing. That explains why his argument fails to consider the nuances of Dr. Peter’s and my arguments. I do not fault him for that. We all make errors. And one of the best ways to learn is to be bold enough to make a mistake. I don’t profess to be an authority on all things canonical, and no canonist is an expert on the whole code. But when a serious error has been made, in charity, someone must point it out and correct it.

    DB: Very disappointing, and so much Petersesque in the condemnation. I was hoping that Fr. MacDonald would avoid such unwarranted disparaging comments in his efforts to provide a valuable service, but ‘tis not the case here. Even if Fr. Anonymous is incorrect in his particular interpretation and application (which has not been definitively demonstrated by Dr. Peters nor Fr. MacDonald), how can that lead to the conclusion that “he does not understand well the laws about which he is writing”?

    FSM: “That explains why his argument fails to consider the nuances of Dr. Peter’s [Sic] and my arguments.”

    DB: …“nuances”? Really? I thought the case and the arguments opposed to Fr. Guarnizo’s actions were pretty clear based on what Dr. Peters and Fr. MacDonald concluded about it. So there are nuances of argument to consider? Fascinating.

    In any case, Fr. MacDonald’s bragging about self-proclaimed nuances is tantamount to declaring that Fr. Anonymous doesn’t possess his and Dr. Peters’ depth of thought regarding this case, and perhaps Fr. Anonymous can’t read or think very well at all if he is also judged to have not considered the “nuances” of the arguments presented by Dr. Peters and Fr. MacDonald.

    Still, why the unnecessary attack on Fr. Anonymous’ intellect that cannot be known based upon one commentary that may still end up being stronger and/or more correct than those offered by Dr. Peters and Fr. MacDonald,…even if unlikely. In addition, Fr. Anonymous’ commentary may be even more nuanced than what Dr. Peters and Fr. MacDonald can understand. 🙂

    FSM: “I do not fault him for that.”

    On the surface this contains some kind charity, but it also says that Fr. MacDonald does not fault Fr. Anonymous for being ignorant and not understanding “well the laws about which he is writing.” By stating that he does not fault him, Fr. MacDonald reinforces the unproven proposition that Fr. Anonymous is definitely in the wrong. Why is it necessary to go with the Dr. Peters’ ad hominem personal attack approach, even by suggestion? Why not simply address the arguments without the pointed attack on the intellectual capacity, etc., of Fr. Anonymous?

    So even before getting into the arguments, Fr. MacDonald has cast Fr. Anonymous into a most negative light, and this is unjust and unfair, especially given the style used by Fr. Anonymous in his commentary that is much more respectful toward Dr. Ed Peters and others who read his commentary.

    FSM: Second, I respond because those who wrote to me (as well as others, I assume) seem to be swayed by its arguments, and might not be able to see where the argumentation fails.

    DB: Has it been definitively established that the argument does in fact fail? Note the presumption and finality in the declarative statement. A more measured and appropriate statement would be something like “…and might not consider aspects of Fr. Anonymous’ argumentation that I believe are incorrect and do not support his overall argument.

    FSM: I will not comment on each particular piece of the post because it is so long. You can go re-read the post after considering my comments. But I have three observations.

    First observation:

    It seems to me that part of what has caused such a commotion over this incident is the fact that it involves a lesbian coupled with the complicating issue that not all the facts are known in great detail. But let’s remember that this is a commentary on the facts as they are reported. It’s an outsider looking in and trying to add some commentary and analysis. So don’t fault the commentators for not having access to the sacristy that morning.”

    DB: The commentators are indeed not to be faulted for not having access, but a bit more humility and respectful caution in their assumptions based on unknown facts should also be exercised.

    FSM: The commentary is based on the ‘hypothetical’ situation created in the news. When the facts change, perhaps the commentary does as well. But the commentary stands on the facts as they are known. So preface everything by, “IF” this is what happened, and “IF” Fr. Guarnizo did this, “THEN” this is the canonical commentary.

    DB: Kudos to Fr. MacDonald here. This is much better than the approach provided by Dr. Peters who offers “correction” to Fr. Guarnizo based on the facts as presented, and Dr. Peters’ interpretation of those facts alone. Such a presumptuous offer is not made if one properly prefaces such commentary as Fr. MacDonald at least suggests, and also recognizes that his interpretation may not be the final word on the matter even if the facts don’t change.

    FSM: Secondly, remove homosexuality from the argument and substitute some other objectively grave matter –

    DB: Uh-oh. This is precisely what cannot be done, and what is causing part of the problem here. The facts of this particular case must be kept in mind at all times. Now, both Dr. Peters and Fr. MacDonald are trying to make applications based on other cases that are not the same as or significantly parallel to the present one, and so such an approach is wide open to misapplications of the relevant laws.

    FSM:…like habitual non-attendance and Mass or a baptised Catholic professing to be a Buddhist. I find it hard to believe that Fr. Anonymous, and many others, would be making the same conclusions about denying Communion.

    DB: So? Since none of the examples pertain to the known facts of the present case, making reference to them is at best an error in analysis and at worst a red herring. It certainly does not add to the proper analysis of this case. Moreover, even if Fr. MacDonald finds it hard to believe…, what if Fr. Anonymous and others did come to the same conclusions? If the faulty examples want to be played with some more, let’s consider that all of these people marched into a sacristy just prior to Mass to publicly and proudly proclaim their status in direct opposition to Church teaching, and then they had some others in place to prevent the Priest Celebrant from engaging in any discussions. Should the Priest Celebrant yell out a “thanks for the declarations!”, and “see ya at Communion!”? 🙂

    FSM: Should we deny Communion to all the high school students, at a school Mass, because we know the vast majority of them don’t go to Mass (at least that is true here in southern Ontario)?

    DB: What? If they don’t go to Mass, what are they doing at Mass? Okay, a slight misstatement in making his point, so here’s the real rub: How can Fr. MacDonald know that they do not go to Mass at some other Church? Did they pronounce their lack of Mass attendance in the sacristy just prior to Mass? This irrelevant example is another one that is not parallel to the B. Johnson scenario, so it cannot be used to apply to the B. Johnson/Fr. Guarnizo case.

    FSM: Objectively that’s a mortal sin. All the other students know they don’t go to Mass. It’s obstinate and manifest.

    DB: Oh No! Now Fr. MacDonald is doubling down on using the same analytical approach to another aspect of his irrelevant example.

    How does Fr. MacDonald know that “All the other students know they don’t go to Mass”? Did they tell Fr. MacDonald this? Obstinate and manifest cannot be determined here based on what Fr. MacDonald has presented. Again, this is an extremely weak attempt at a would-be applicable analogy. It’s not even close, but it does serve to illustrate why using such analogies can cause a faulty interpretation of the law that Fr. MacDonald and Dr. Peters don’t acknowledge is at least possible in their interpretations of this case based on the facts as known. They use inapplicable analogies, and then boldly declare that the conclusions to such analogies lead to the same conclusion regarding the B. Johnson/Fr. Guarnizo case. It’s kinda like saying “here’s what happened in a basketball game, and here’s what happened in a football game. Since they are both sports that make use of running and a ball, we conclude that the rules of the basketball game also apply to the football game,…so case closed.”

    FSM: What about the lady who comes into the sacristy before her mother’s funeral Mass and admits in conversation that she doesn’t go to Mass anymore, even though she was baptised in that very same church, because she is now a Buddhist? She may indeed be labouring under a latae sententiae excommunication. But all those official documents that everyone is quoting, say that only a declared excommunicate is to be refused Communion.

    DB: Oops. This is a serious misstatement by Fr. MacDonald…. “all those official documents that everyone is quoting, say that only a declared excommunicate is to be refused Communion.”

    Notice once again the use of hyperbole in declaring that “everyone is quoting.” This is similar to claiming that “All the other students know they don’t go to Mass,” and not only is it hyperbolic, it’s simply wrong. In fact, the primary arguments that even Dr. Peters recognizes are based on the second part of Canon 915 which pertains to people who are not officially excommunicated. This is a complete non sequitur by Fr. MacDonald, especially in light of Fr. Anonymous’ commentary that also focuses primarily on the second part of Canon 915.

    FSM: I am not going to re-visit Dr. Peters’ already well-reasoned arguments about the interpretation of c. 915. Others need to do their homework and study it carefully. Perhaps other great canonists will disagree.

    “…other great canonists.” Really? 🙂

    FSM: Who knows, maybe even the eminent Cardinal Burke might disagree. But it doesn’t matter.

    DB: It does matter, especially when certain canonists proclaim that there’s is the only possible interpretation.

    FSM: That’s why there is the academic discipline of canon law, so that issues can be studied, deepened and explained. People are free to have differing opinions, but they must be able to argue them well.

    DB: Indeed, so Fr. MacDonald’s and Dr. Peters’ use of faulty analogies and making hyperbolic/incorrect statements does not qualify as arguing well.

    FSM: Few in the blogosphere, if any, have argued as well as Dr. Peters.

    Perhaps not in this case, but Dr. Peters will enjoy the fanfare. So be it.

    FSM: That brings me to the next observation.

    Second observation

    FSM: Fr. Anonymous does not reference his argument well.

    DB: Here we go again. Did Fr. Anonymous use comic books in his references? Look at the use of such superb references like The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Burke (more below), the Summa Theologiae, Professor John Huels, Blessed John Paul II, and others.

    FSM: It is one thing to use Cardinal Burke as an authority, [Cardinal Burke states that Canon 915 exists primarily to prevent sacrilege while at the same time preventing our Greatest Good from being violated.] but be careful that you are not taking him out of context. Am I supposed to take Father’s word that he has read and understood the Cardinal’s essay? That his summary is correct?

    DB: Okay, it’s not really the references per se, but how they are used, and the bold conclusion of Fr. MacDonald is that Fr. Anonymous “does not reference his argument well.” Now, is there any evidence that Fr. Anonymous has taken Cardinal Burke out of context? If so, why doesn’t Fr. MacDonald present it? False charge? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it’s below the belt punching time again by the following rhetorical questions provided by Fr. MacDonald: “Am I supposed to take Father’s word that he has read and understood the Cardinal’s essay? That his summary is correct?”

    Very, very sad. Now the integrity of Fr. Anonymous is being called into question, along with his intelligence (once again) without any evidence to support such a charge. To answer Fr. MacDonald’s question, I believe it can be safely assumed that he (Fr. MacDonald) would want people and a fellow priest to accept his basic honesty, so he should extend the same courtesy to Fr. Anonymous unless he has and sets forth the evidence that supports not respecting Fr. Anonymous’ integrity in this regard.

    FSM: Do not cite a document of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, with the parenthetical observation that it is,”the department of the Vatican whose job it is to interpret authentically both universal and particular laws in the Church,” when the document you are citing is not an authentic interpretation.

    DB: Holey, Moley! A threatening, bully-type statement talking down to Fr. Anonymous by telling him what he cannot do. By what authority does Fr. MacDonald presume to scold Fr. Anonymous this way? After issuing the command, Fr. MacDonald follows with the claim that the document that Fr. Anonymous cites “is not an authentic interpretation.” Okay. So citing the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts is not to be done unless a document from that council is an “authentic interpretation.” Hold the phone, here. First, how does Fr. MacDonald know it is not an authentic interpretation, and second, does it have to be “authentic” in order for it to be of probative value in this case? Aren’t such documents still valuable in providing insights, or are only certain “authentic” documents to be used?

    FSM: (If Father doesn’t know why it’s not an authentic interpretation, then he needs to look up the canons on decrees and authentic interpretations.)

    DB: This does not provide any support to Fr. MacDonald’s suggestion, and it is more of an underhanded blow at Fr. Anonymous’ abilities. The burden here is on Fr. MacDonald to support/back up his claim; not suggest the possibility that Fr. Anonymous might be ignorant in yet another capacity as well.

    FSM: If Father is not trying to claim that his citation is an authentic interpretation, then his syntax certainly leads the novice reader to that conclusion, and that’s not a good thing.

    DB: Another assumption instead of facts or evidence. Moreover, as set forth above, is such an “authentic interpretation” as envisioned by Fr. MacDonald (since he won’t explain what it is, it can only be understood as envisioned by him) even necessary, and if so,…WHY? This entire part of Fr. MacDonald’s critique smacks of the following style: “You know what you did wrong, so don’t expect me to explain it to you. I’ll just judge or presume you guilty of an unexplained violation, and let the readers make their own conclusions based upon my judgment.”

    FSM: Dr. Huels is certainly an excellent canonist. But are we really going to rely on an argument he made for a commentary published in 1985 (merely two years after the promulgation of the Code, and before so many other magisterial teachings like Familiaris consortio etc.)?

    DB: If a commentary published in 1985 is more helpful than one published in 2005, what difference does the year make? This is the modernistic prejudice of the “more modern something is, the more correct, valuable, or useful it is” mentality, and this is just silly in light of many Church teachings that span some 2,000 years. By the bye, Familiaris Consortio was published in 1982, so Fr. MacDonald’s own scholarship is now seriously in question since his claim is that the commentary of Dr. Huels was “before so many other magisterial teachings like Familiaris consortio etc.” The gist of the claim may apply to the unnamed etc., but not to Familiaris Consortio, the one that Fr. MacDonald specifically cites in order to criticize Fr. Anonymous’ use of the document.

    Also note that Fr. Anonymous does indeed cite Familiaris Consortio in his commentary, and he also correctly dates it. Now, what does Fr. MacDonald write about understanding things, looking things up, and so on? The glass house in which Fr. MacDonald has written his critique of Fr. Anonymous’ commentary is growing into a glass mansion. 🙂

    FSM: Has he said anything else since?

    DB: Completely irrelevant unless he has changed his position, and the burden here is on Fr. MacDonald to provide it if it exists instead of setting forth yet another open-ended suggestion to cast Fr. Anonymous’ scholarship and analysis in a darker light without any supporting evidence to back up the suggestion. And of course, more modernistic “reasoning” on the part of Fr. MacDonald in appealing to the mere possibility of later writings that may or may not be applicable.

    FSM: It’s fine to cite another excellent canonist, Fr. Woestman, “the public reception of Communion by a public sinner implies that the Church and her ministers somehow condone the public serious sin,” But how does that quotation contribute to the argument which is precisely about what constitutes a “public” sinner. I agree with Fr. Woestman’s statement, but not with Fr. Anonymous’ conclusions.

    DB: These comments are incredibly misleading. Fr. Anonymous cites Fr. Woestman and others in section 2 concerning the meaning, interpretation, and application of “Manifest.” The entire section 2 is devoted to an analysis of “manifest” and “public,” and he stays superbly focused on connecting these things to the case of B. Johnson as a good analyst does. Section 3 adds even more to the argument that Fr. MacDonald has apparently missed, and this is also where Fr. Anonymous references Familiaris Consortio (with the correct publication year of 1982), and he also references the Pontifical Commission for Legislative texts (also sets forth the date of 2000).

    To be sure, there are most certainly good canonists and bad canonists.

    FSM: It’s also fine to cite papal documents etc. but we need to understand that those very documents are dealing with cases of de iure objective sin: the divorced and remarried, the voting records of politicians. By public declaration of law, those situations become manifest and obstinate. The question we are dealing with is how to apply those arguments to the similar case of objective sin which is not de iure public.

    DB: Clever by about 1/3, but erroneous and misleading nevertheless. The cited papal documents, etc., do indeed pertain to cases involving the divorced and remarried, but Fr. Anonymous also goes on to cite Fr. William Woestman (The canonist that Fr. MacDonald claims is “excellent”. See above.) in properly extrapolating from those texts to make applications to the cases like the Fr. Guarnizo/B. Johnson case. This is in section 3 regarding grave sin and who should be denied Communion, and it reads as follows from Fr. Anonymous’ commentary:

    “Father William Woestman logically concludes that

    “the same principles apply to everyone whose habitual lifestyle is manifestly gravely sinful,
    e.g., the unmarried “living together,” homosexuals or lesbians in a public relationship, those actively participating in the performance of abortions, drug traffickers, gang members.” ”

    FSM: Fr. Anonymous has missed that main point. He can’t argue from the authority of those documents, because they don’t apply stricte dictu to the facts of this case.

    DB: Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha! As pointed out above and in more of what Fr. Anonymous writes in his commentary that is glossed over or simply ignored by Fr. MacDonald, it is Fr. MacDonald who has missed the point. At the very least, the principles derived from the documents do apply as opined by Fr MacDonald’s “excellent canonist” Fr. Woestman, and other things stated by Fr. Anonymous in sections 2 and 3 of his commentary.
    DB: I will leave it to others to comment on Fr. MacDonald’s critique involving the administrative leave situation if they care to, because my primary concern is not this particular injustice toward Fr. Guarnizo.

    Fr. MacDonald’s overall summation will now be taken up for a few concluding comments.
    FSM: Therefore, while Fr. Anonymous is brave, and certainly competent to some extent, he has made serious, serious errors in his post. Anyone who wants to study this ‘hypothetical’ case and argue it has to have a better grasp of the issues involved.

    DB: It is now most readily apparent that Fr. MacDonald’s grasp is very much in question, but leave it to him to write in the manner of his fellow traveler Ed Peters and suggest that Fr. Anonymous does not have a better grasp of the issues involved.

    FSM: It’s not enough to express moral outrage.

    DB: Who ever said that it is? Once again, Fr. MacDonald suggests faulty and inadequate reasoning, but it is his suggestion that is faulty and another low blow at others.

    FSM: There should be moral outrage, but why? Remove the hot issue of homosexuality and study this case a little more calmly and rationally.

    DB: As pointed out above, you can’t remove homosexuality from making a proper analysis. Although the reference to calmness and rationality looks to be directed toward many, just between Fr. Anonymous and Fr. MacDonald, who now appears to be the more calm and rational?

    FSM: And good minds might, in the end, disagree. But let’s make sure that the reasoning is good. (And once again, I have been anything but brief.)

    DB: Yes, let’s make sure. Let’s also hope that Fr. MacDonald and Dr. Ed Peters stop assuming that their reasoning is good when they contain so many, many flaws as illustrated here and elsewhere. Way too much pride in their own limited abilities, and not nearly enough respect for Fr. Anonymous and his abilities that are summarily characterized by Fr. MacDonald as “competent to some extent.” Would Fr. MacDonald and Dr. Ed Peters be willing to sincerely say the same thing about themselves and their abilities?


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