The family of a teenager who took his own life have expressed their outrage after the priest officiating his funeral suggested he might not get into heaven.
Maison Hullibarger, an 18-year-old athlete and honours student from Temperance, Michigan died on 4 December.
Speaking to Detroit Free Press, his grieving parents said that Reverend Don LaCuesta would not stop referring to his cause of death and “called him a sinner” during the service held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Temperance on 8 December.
Maison’s father Jeff Hullibarger said it was as if Mr LaCuesta had decided it was the perfect opportunity to make his stance on suicide known.
“We couldn’t believe what he was saying,” Mr Hullibarger said. “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...”
Mr Hullibarger said that even when he asked the priest to stop, he continued to deliver his critical sermon which caused some mourners to leave the church in tears.
“There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison’s age who left the church sobbing,” he said of the incident.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit says it regrets that an “unbearable situation was made even more difficult”.
“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 centred on the love and healing power of Christ,” the church said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry.”
The church added that LaCuesta would not be preaching at any funerals or the “foreseeable future”.
“He will have his other homilies reviewed by a priest mentor. In addition, he has agreed to pursue the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations,” the missive added.
“We have been in contact with the family since learning of this situation, and we will continue to offer our support going forward.”
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