The Buddhism Red Herring

My colleague J Christian Adams posted about the controversy over the priest in Washington DC who is said to have denied an area woman, Barbara Johnson, communion because she is a Buddhist.


The actual facts of the matter are rather different.

Barbara Johnson wasn’t denied Communion because she “was a Buddhist” but because she was an open and out lesbian. The story about her being a Buddhist and that being part of the issue came up days later, after Rod Dreher publicized a LifeSiteNews story on an academic paper in which she said she was a Buddhist. Even those stories, in their very first paragraphs, say:

(Dreher)The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has suspended the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who declined to give an open lesbian communion at her mother’s funeral. In a letter read to parishioners yesterday, an archdiocesan official said that the suspension has nothing to do with the lesbian communion incident, but rather for “engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.” The church’s pastor added that it had to do with unspecified things Fr. Guarnizo is supposed to have done over the last couple of weeks.


(LSN)Barbara Johnson created a national feeding frenzy after alerting the media that Fr. Marcel Guarnizo had refused to give her the Eucharist because she is a sexually active homosexual.


Emphasis mine, in both. Now, look back at the emphasized phrases: “declined to give an open lesbian communion”; “because she is a sexually active homosexual.”

See where it says “because she is a Buddhist”? No? That’s because it wasn’t about her being a Buddhist.

Now look: I am a Buddhist. I’ve never been a Catholic so my knowledge of these things largely comes from reading The Shoes of the Fisherman when I was about 14, and for that reason I haven’t the veriest clue about when it is or is not appropriate to deny Communion to anyone. (Frankly, to me it all seems like a lot of fuss over a piece of matzoh.)  I suspect, however, that the Buddhist thing got picked up because the Legacy Media realizes that an awful lot of people would answer the statement “DC area lesbian denied Communion” with “Uh, yeah? And?”

I mean, my understanding is that het couples who are “living in sin” can be denied Communion too.  Is it a surprise that a lesbian in an open partnership without marriage would be?


Does the name “Sandra Fluke” ring a bell?  You know, the “Georgetown co-ed” who was “denied birth control by her Catholic university” and who turned out to be a thirty year old activist who was telling a fairly implausible and unsourced story about someone she knows who was denied a particular formulation of hormone pills to treat her ovarian cysts — but who turned a religious freedom question into a controversy over contraception?

The whole Buddhist thing is a media red herring, no doubt because it’s more sympathetic somehow to deny her Communion over her Buddhism than over her lesbianism.

Unfortunately, the conservative blogosphere has run baying after the red herring, not the hare.


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