The priest gave a "heartless" homily, the family claims in a new lawsuit

By Sean Neumann
November 22, 2019 11:09 PM
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Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish
Credit: Google Maps. Inset: Legacy.com

A Michigan mother is suing the Archdiocese of Detroit, a priest and his parish after what she called a “heartless” condemnation of suicide at her son’s funeral last year.

During a homily at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in southeastern Michigan on Dec. 8, Rev. Don LaCuesta revealed Linda Hullibarger’s son Maison’s previously unknown cause of death in front of family and friends, according to a lawsuit the mother filed earlier this month.

Hullibarger claims Rev. LaCuesta “repeatedly discussed suicide and how it was condemned by the Church, how it is a secular crime, and how it is a sin against God with dire eternal consequences.”

Hullibarger and her husband Jeffrey asked for Rev. LaCuesta to give a positive homily that spoke to the importance of kindness, and the couple wasn’t aware that Rev. LaCuesta would bring up the manner in which their 18-year-old son Maison died on Dec. 4, according to the suit.

“The mere mention of the word sent the family and many of those in attendance into shock, as the Hullibargers never disclosed the cause of death to Father LaCuesta or the community,” the civil complaint reads. “Nor did they have any understanding Father LaCuesta knew or would discuss and disclose their son’s cause of death.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel tells PEOPLE they are not allowed to comment on the lawsuit. The Archdiocese of Detroit did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

maison hullibarger
Maison Hullibarger
| Credit: Legacy.com

However, the archdiocese offered an apology days after the funeral last December. “We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry,” the archdiocese said in a statement to CNN, which published a copy of the homily. “In addition, 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.”

The funeral became so unbearable for the late teenager’s father Jeffrey that he approached the pulpit mid-homily and asked Rev. LaCuesta to “please stop” talking about suicide, but the priest ignored his request and continued to condemn suicide and question the “eternal fate of their son,” the lawsuit says.

Jeffrey intervened the mass again near the end once he realized Rev. LaCuesta was wrapping up the procession without allowing Maison’s siblings a chance to say their final words, something the lawsuit alleges the family and church had agreed upon ahead of time.

Linda’s civil suit is asking for $25,000 for causing “severe emotional distress,” including the loss of religious faith.

“Maison is a great person. He’s a very caring person,” she said around the time of her son’s death, CNN reported. “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.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.