Mom Sues Catholic Archdiocese After Priest Criticized Son's Suicide At Funeral
“I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right,” the priest said during the funeral, according to a copy of the sermon posted online by the archdiocese. “Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth ― that taking your own life is against God who made us and against everyone who loves us.”
LaCuesta tried to assure the Hullibargers during the sermon that God can have mercy on “any sin,” including suicide.
Linda Hullibarger said the priest’s comments exacerbated her feelings of devastation about her son’s death.
“No parent, no sibling, no family member should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through,” the mother said in the statement.
Catholic doctrine historically treated suicide as a mortal sin that could exempt someone from eternal salvation. But the church’s approach has changed in recent decades. In 1992, the church officially acknowledged that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide” and that God can offer those who die by suicide a chance to repent.
After the funeral, the Archdiocese of Detroit issued an apology acknowledging that the family was hurt by LaCuesta’s choice to share Catholic teachings about suicide during the sermon. LaCuesta also apologized and admitted that he had added to the family’s pain.
The archdiocese banned LaCuesta from speaking at funerals and announced that all of the priest’s future sermons would be reviewed by a mentor. The archdiocese declined to give HuffPost an update on the status of the disciplinary measures enacted against LaCuesta. LaCuesta is still listed as pastor on Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s website.
Wesley Merillat, an attorney for Linda Hullibarger, told HuffPost that his client is not satisfied with the steps the archdiocese has taken to address the situation.
Since her son’s funeral, the mom has experienced “severe and permanent emotional distress,” for which she is still seeking psychological treatment, the complaint says. Formerly a devout Catholic, the mom has also allegedly lost her faith.
She is seeking at least $25,000 in damages.
Merillat said that Linda Hullibarger was broken by her son’s death, but “destroyed” by LaCuesta’s “guerrilla sermon.”
“She has lived this past year alienated from her Church, lost in her faith, and in complete torment over her son’s funeral service,” Merillat said.
“When this family was in deep mourning, when they were at their most vulnerable, Father LaCuesta intentionally destroyed them,” he added.