Parents Say Priest Emphasized ‘Suicide Is A Sin’ At Their Son’s Funeral
Some of the most un-empathetic people on the face of the planet are people who say they believe in and follow Jesus of Nazareth.
They often will prioritize cramming what they believe to be their correct doctrine down people’s throats over showing consideration of people’s feelings.
They will choose the wrong place and wrong time to lecture others on what they feel to be correct biblical belief, even if doing so causes additional emotional pain to the people within earshot. Even if doing so may push people farther away from Jesus of Nazareth.
And of course, a lot of Christians continue to hold negative, false views about mental health disorders and how they should be treated.
Responding to the question of whether or not Christians who commit suicide go to Heaven, ethicist Russell Moore said that because the blood of Christ covers sins past, present and future, the “last thing we do” does not determine where we will spend eternity.
On Dec. 4, 18-year-old University of Toledo student Maison Hullibarger died by suicide. Maison was a passionate, straight-A student and stand-out athlete adored by friends and family. Instead of celebrating his life, Don LaCuesta, the priest presiding over Hullibarger’s funeral, questioned suicide in the eyes of God. LaCuesta’s actions highlight the need for a better understanding of mental health and suicide in some Christian communities.
…According to Hullibarger’s parents, Linda and Jeff Hullibarger, they met with LaCuesta in advance and asked that he focus on Maison’s life, not his death. The Hullibarger’s told the Detroit Free Press they discussed their wishes in detail and LaCuesta took notes. During the service, however, LaCuesta focused his homily on suicide, even after Jeff walked up to the pulpit and asked him to stop.
“He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner. He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said ‘suicide’ upwards of six times,” Jeff told the Detroit Free Press. “There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison’s age who left the church sobbing.”
…“The stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in Christian communities, keeps people locked in prisons of shame, refusing to admit that they need help,” Steve Austin, a pastor and mental health advocate, told The Mighty. “Yes, Christians can and do struggle with mental illness. People need to know that they are not alone, and you can still be a Christian and have a mental illness…. I’m a pastor and I once attempted suicidebecause my brain has an illness, no different from heart disease or cancer.”
Maison Hullibarger’s parents describe the 18-year-old college freshman as “passionate and opinionated,” a strong student and a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
So when Maison killed himself on Dec. 4, his parents wanted to plan a funeral service that would capture the way he lived, not the way he died. Jeff and Linda Hullibarger met with the priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Temperance, Michigan, and requested an uplifting message.
To their horror, however, the Rev. Don LaCuesta delivered a homily that acknowledged Maison’s suicide explicitly and contemplated the fate of his eternal soul.
Jeff Hullibarger was so disturbed that he says he approached the priest in the pulpit as he spoke, and whispered: “Father, please stop.”
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