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Religious Tolerance logo


2018-DEC: Conflict during a
Catholic funeral of a teen
who had committed suicide.

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Sadly, Maison Hullibarger. 18, a male student at the University of Toledo, OH, committed suicide on 2018-DEC-04.

His parents, Linda and Jeff Hullibarger, later planned the content of their son's funeral with their priest, Father Don LaCuesta at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, OH. They agreed that Jeff would be given a chance to eulogize his son during the service.

Linda Hullibarger later told their local paper that they wanted the priest's homily:

"... to be about family. We wanted him to talk about loving one another, lifting one another up and being kind to one another."

Jeff Hullibarger said that, instead, Father LaCuesta used the homily:

"... to tell everybody what he thought of suicide. We couldn't believe what he was saying. 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."

"Not one word out of his mouth was about what we asked and what we talked about. It was unprofessional and unacceptable."

During the homily, Jeff had asked Father LaCuesta to stop talking, but the priest continued.

Father LaCuesta allegedly said:

"God can forgive even the taking of one's own life. In fact, God awaits us with his mercy, with ever open arms. ... Yes, because of his mercy, God can forgive suicide and heal what has been broken. ... we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right. 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. Our lives are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please. God gave us life, and we are to be good stewards of that gift for as long as God permits."

Linda Hullibarger commented afterwards:

"He basically called our son a sinner in front of everyone. ... We had no idea that he was going to do this. ... He proceeded to end the funeral, and the music started. We had to stop the funeral director because everyone just stood up."

After the funeral director stopped the music, Jeff Hullibarger had a chance to say:

"We would like to celebrate the life of Maison today. He has had a great impact on the lives of many people. Passionate and opinionated, that's what we loved about him.

Our family's message for you today: Please be kind to one another. Reach out to those you care about. Show sincerity in your actions. And love forever, unconditionally."

The parents later complained to the Archdiocese, which released a statement saying:

"We share the family's grief at such a profound loss. Our hope is always to bring comfort into situations of great pain, through funeral services centered on the love and healing power of Christ. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry.

The Archdiocese also said the Father LaCuesta will not preach at funerals:

"... for the foreseeable future. ... He will have all other homilies reviewed by a priest mentor. ... he has agreed to pursue the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations. This assistance will involve getting help from professionals -- on human, spiritual and pastoral levels -- to probe how and why he failed to effectively address the grief of the family in crisis."

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The parents organized a GoFundMe page before the funeral, attempting to raise $10,000 to pay for part of Maison's funeral and burial costs. By 2018-DEC-16, they had raised more than $20,000.

Jeff Hullibarger said:

"We're supposed to have a meeting with the archbishop. We're trying to set that up now. It may be difficult but I think it's something my wife and I have to do. We just don't feel that the consequences are where they need to be right now. We asked him [the archbishop] to remove the priest from the priesthood. We're wondering how they think that sending him to the classroom -- how that's going to teach him empathy and to have some discretion. How do you teach somebody that?"

Linda Hullibarger said:

"Maison is a great person. He's a very caring person. We had numerous students come up to us and tell us how in their time of need he was there for them. ... He was just an unbelievable son."

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Statement by CERC, the Catholic Education Research Centre:

Fr. William Saunders wrote for CERC:

"... objectively, suicide is a mortal sin. ... Here though we must remember that for a sin to be mortal and cost someone salvation, the objective action (in this case the taking of one's own life) must be grave or serious matter; the person must have an informed intellect (know that this is wrong); and the person must give full consent of the will (intend to commit this action).

In the case of suicide, a person may not have given full consent of the will. Fear, force, ignorance, habit, passion, and psychological problems can impede the exercise of the will so that a person may not be fully responsible or even responsible at all for an action. Here again the Catechism states,

'Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide' (#2282).

This qualification does not make suicide a right action in any circumstance; however, it does make us realize that the person may not be totally culpable for the action because of various circumstances or personal conditions." 2

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Webmaster's statement:

I am an Agnostic, and therefore have concluded that one cannot prove either the existence or non-existence of God. Even if I believed firmly that God exists, there are many thousands of beliefs about the nature of God expressed by the thousands of religions -- and faith groups within those religons -- both ancient and modern. Christianity, for example, is composed of tens of thousands of faith groups which interpret the Bible differently, and teach different beliefs.

My belief is that some suicides are rational, because they are based on knowledge by the individual that they have a physical illness that is making their life intolerable and that it will worsen over time. I feel that M.A.I.D. (Medical Aid In Dying) should be available to them. However, most suicides are implemented by profoundly depressed individuals who have a chance of reducing or eliminating their suicidal thoughts through counselling by a mental health professional, or even a volunteer at a distress center. I feel that such suicidal persons should seek help to remove or reduce their suicidal thoughts.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Holly Yan & Artemis Moshtaghian,"At a teen's funeral, a priest condemned suicide and 'basically called our son a sinner,' mother says," CNN, 2018-DEC-17, at:
  2. Father William Saunders, "The Sin of Suicide," CERC, 2003, at: The Sin of Suicide

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How you may have arrived here:

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Suicide > here


Copyright © Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2018-DEC-19
Most recent update: 2020-NOV-24
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