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.