Parents Want Priest Fired Over Suicide Sermon

The Hullibargers couldn't believe what they heard
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2018 11:30 AM CST
Parents 'Sick' Over Priest's Suicide Sermon
A Bible on display in a church.   (Getty Images)

Maison Hullibarger's suicide was painful enough—then his parents heard the priest's homily. "We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died," his mother Linda tells the Detroit Free Press. Hullibarger, who had five siblings and studied criminal justice at the University of Toledo, was 18 when he killed himself on Dec. 4. His parents, both Catholic, talked to their parish priest ahead of time to discuss his sermon, and were stunned when he focused on suicide during the service. Father Don LaCuesta mentioned it six times: "He was calling our son a sinner," father Jeffrey tells ClickonDetroit. "He wondered if there was enough repentance on our son's part so that he would make it into heaven." Jeffrey even told the priest to stop, but LaCuesta continued and was banned by family from the gravesite burial.

Now the Hullibargers want LaCuesta booted from his post in Monroe County, near Detroit—but the Archdiocese of Detroit is only banning him from funeral sermons "for the foreseeable future." An archdiocese spokeswoman says LaCuesta is "willing to accept the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations." But the family fears he will hurt other families in the future: "It's not OK," Jeffrey tells the Toledo Blade. "He needs to be held accountable." The conflict highlights the Catholic Church's long struggle with suicide; only after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s did the Church go easier on suicide victims, notes the Washington Post. Yet "there are still some priests who view suicide as a mortal sin," says a reverend. "That has been categorically denied by church leadership." (More suicide stories.)

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