Here is more on the story...
Can you think of a situation more fraught with problems and potential issues? A priest, thinking this will be a somewhat routine funeral Mass, finds out that the grieving daughter has brought her politics into the Church to flaunt her dissent and disagreement. The priest certainly did not handle this gracefully but he did adhere to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (while others continue to ignore them for whatever reason). He was not the kindest or the most graceful under pressure but he was not completely wrong in the eyes of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice. The woman, Barbara Johnson, should have known better; she was the product of Catholic schools and a former teacher in a Catholic school. She should have known that if she dissented from Church teaching, she owed it to herself and to the Church either to refrain from communing or to find a church body in tune with her views (there is no shortage of them).
The problem here? First of all, the priest did not fully know the circumstances nor explore them. Did he admonish her and call her to repentance? Had she been so admonished or called to repentance by the priest in her home parish? Was she under Church discipline? It seems to me that we can complain that the priest at that moment was improperly rushing to judgment. He may have been well-meaning, but
he was wrong to assume instead of making sure he knew the full story. He was certainly zealous for the Lord and Holy Church’s doctrine, but acted in haste and without much discretion toward the woman or the circumstance. The woman was not a public figure, so far as has been told, and so, unlike other public dissenters (think Pelosi here) this woman's situation and circumstance deserved a deeper review. In addition, unlike public dissenters, communing her would not be the same kind of public offense to the faith as the communion of those public figures who flaunt their disagreement with Church teaching.
I find it hard to fully criticize the priest, however, since he took seriously his role at the rail, he sought to uphold the clear teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and, he was was concerned about the state of grace of this woman. His timing sucked. He was no wimp but his bullishness meant he "hit the wall running and left a priest shaped hole,
just like in the cartoons" (as one Catholic commenter put it).
Now the Archdiocese of Washington has issued an apology. While
Catholic teaching condemns homosexuality, and the church
considers homosexual acts to be sinful, questions about a person's right to receive communion
should be addressed privately and it was not policy to "publicly
reprimand" worshipers. So, even though there is some "right" in the Diocese' public statements, it still makes them look like whimps who say they believe one thing but who do something else.
So there you have it... a mess with enough mud for all faces. We have a woman who feels her mother's funeral was ruined (and it was) but she bears at least some of that responsibility. We have a priest who seems ill suited to the parish ministry simply by temperament (though he was not entirely wrong). We have a media circus which is pointing fingers at those terrible Christians who love to sit in judgment over others and who scandalize a grieving family to make a point. We have an issue on which there ought to be clarity now muddled by poor timing, poor execution, and public figures who flaunt the teaching of the Church and get away with it. Oh, well, now the woman's lifestyle is public and she should get a visit from her priest (and perhaps a letter from her bishop).
This story is so messed up I can hardly believe it did not happen in a Missouri Synod Church! My point? Close(d) communion is messy and it is best not handled off the cuff and with a great deal of pastoral wisdom, love, and, yes, some discretion. The point is not to circle the righteous around the altar but to make sure that those who commune can receive the fullness of the benefits offered to them there (possessing faith, believing the creed, having examined their lives and consciences, and desiring to repent of their sinful ways and walk in the commandments of the Lord).
Looking with hindsight, I don't think I could disagree with priest who suggested the best path might have been to stop the funeral to give you enough time to counsel with the daughter, and, unless she was under discipline and had received counsel from the Church, perhaps commune her with an admonition to her and a call to her parish priest after the service or to ask her to please not present herself for communion until this circumstance is addressed...