Priest Barred from Speaking at Funerals After Condemning Teen Who Died by Suicide During Memorial
A Michigan priest who faced criticism for allegedly shaming a teen at his own memorial service has been temporarily barred from speaking at funerals as a result of the incident.
On Dec. 8, Linda and Jeff Hullibarger, of Temperance, held a funeral for their 18-year-old son Maison Hullibarger, who died by suicide four days earlier. There, they said, Father Don LaCuesta delivered a homily condemning Maison for the death.
“He was calling our son a sinner,” Jeff told WDIV. “He wondered if there was enough repentance on our son’s part so that he would make it into heaven.”
The couple said a relative approached the priest, begging him to stop — but he didn’t, according to the station.
“I was in disbelief,” Linda said. “I even felt more sick to my stomach because it’s like he was crucifying my son.”
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In the homily, obtained by PEOPLE, LaCuesta spoke of God’s unconditional love and mercy, noting that “there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives.”
“Having said that, I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right,” he continued. “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.”
Jeff told WDIV that the family asked LaCuesta not to accompany them to the cemetery. He and Linda noted to the Detroit Free Press that they met with LaCuesta before the service and instructed him to focus on Maison’s life in his address, rather than the teen’s death.
The Archdiocese of Detroit apologized to the family for the incident and, in a statement to PEOPLE, revealed that “for the foreseeable future, Father LaCuesta will not be preaching at funerals.”
“We acknowledge that the family expected a homily based on how their loved one lived, not one addressing how he passed away,” officials said in the statement. “Father LaCuesta, too, is sorry that he was unable to serve this family as they should have been served.”
Along with LaCuesta display, the family said they were additionally insulted by the presence of former Bedford High School football coach Jeff Wood, who they said Maison would not have wanted at his funeral, according to the Free Press.
However, the coach showed up anyway. After he was asked to leave, Wood reportedly wrote about the experience on Facebook, according to the Free Press. School officials announced last week that Wood “is no longer affiliated in any way with the Bedford football program.”
Neither Wood or Hullibargers immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.