The mother of an 18-year-old college student who died by suicide last December, has filed a lawsuit against the Rev. Don LaCuesta, a priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Michigan, for suggesting at her son’s funeral that he might not go to Heaven.
Linda Hullibarger and her husband, Jeff, whose son, Maison Hullibarger, died by suicide on Dec. 4, 2018, had previously called for LaCuesta to be fired for traumatizing grieving friends and family at his funeral on Dec. 8, 2018.
In a statement shortly after the backlash over LaCuesta’s comments, the Archdiocese of Detroit apologized and admitted that LaCuesta failed to bring comfort to the family. It was also noted that the priest would be suspended from funeral duties and undergo additional training and review.
On Thursday, The law firm of Charles E. Boyk said the family was taking things further and had filed in a lawsuit against The Archdiocese of Detroit, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, and Father LaCuesta for injuries the Hullibargers allege were caused by the pastor’s conduct during Maison’s funeral, The Monroe News reported.
The mother of six, who is seeking restitution in excess of $25,000, alleges that LaCuesta deliberately ignored the wishes of her and her husband regarding their son’s funeral. She said that her family had not shared the cause of her son’s death with the pastor or the wider community which made the pastor’s comments all the more shocking.
″[A]t our own child’s funeral, we were taken down yet again when it was a place that we were supposed to be lifted up,” Linda Hullibarger said. “And we had no idea, no indication that was going to happen. ... No parent, no sibling, no family member should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through.”
Andrea Young, an attorney at Charles Boyk Law, further noted that they believe the pastor planned to condemn suicide at the funeral.
“It was apparent to those in attendance that Father LaCuesta had a message he wanted to relay,” Young said. “That message was not previously disclosed to the Hullibarger family and it did not conform to homily that Father LaCuesta previously agreed to deliver. At a time of tragedy, the Hullibarger family turned to their church for peace and comfort but instead Father LaCuesta’s actions caused them irreparable harm and pain.”
A copy of LaCuesta’s sermon the archdiocese posted on its website shows the pastor warning Christians against taking their own lives.
“If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us — and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives,” he said.
“Having said that, I think that 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,” he continued.
“The finality of suicide makes this all the worse. You cannot make things right again. Neither can [REDACTED]. And this is much of the pain of it all. Things are left unresolved, even if it felt to [REDACTED] like this was the only way to resolve things. You want to turn the clock back and say, ‘Please don't give up. We can work through this pain together.’ But now you will have to work through this pain by yourselves, or with those close to you now who will need to lean on you even as you lean on them,” he added.