GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJZ) -- A Maryland woman says a priest refused her communion during her mother's funeral. She alleges the priest had an issue with her sexual orientation.
Mary Bubala has more.
"I was stunned," said Barbara Johnson.
It's been an extremely difficult week for Barbara Johnson, perhaps the most difficult week of her life.
"I feel very sad," Johnson said.
It all started on Saturday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, where friends and family had gathered to say goodbye to Johnson's mother, who died last week after a brief illness.
"I was in the first pew, in the first seat next to my mother's coffin," Johnson said.
Just a few minutes before the funeral began, Father Marcel Guarzino, who was presiding over the service, apparently learned that Johnson was involved in a romantic relationship with another woman.
"I am a lesbian," she said.
A lifelong Catholic and former Catholic school teacher, she says she hadn't even considered that her sexual orientation would be a problem with Father Marcel until she stepped forward to take communion.
"He said, `I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman,'" she said.
Though shaken by Father Marcel's actions, Johnson says she tried to compose herself to give her mother the dignified funeral she deserved. A few minutes later, she began her eulogy.
"At which time, Father Marcel left the altar and didn't return until I finished my eulogy," Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the story gets even worse. After first refusing to give her communion and then walking off the altar when she was giving her eulogy, Father Marcel refused to accompany Johnson and her mother's body to the cemetery in Aspen Hill. Instead, she was told that Father Marcel had suddenly become ill.
"No other family should have to suffer what we did from this man," Johnson said.
In a written statement, the Archdiocese of Washington conceded that Father Marcel acted improperly, saying, "Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting."
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