A Michigan mother is suing the Archdiocese of Detroit and a priest after he suggested during her son's funeral that the teenager may not get into heaven because he took his own life.
Linda Hullibarger filed the suit Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court, naming the archdiocese, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, and the Rev. Don LaCuesta as defendants.
Hullibarger and her husband, of Monroe County, met with the priest before the Dec. 8, 2018, funeral, to make "very clear" that they wanted him "to deliver a positive, uplifting, and loving message" about their 18-year-old son, according to the lawsuit. Maison Hullibarger was a bright student, good athlete, and loving brother to five siblings.
“They expressly stated they wanted the service to be a celebration of how their son lived," the lawsuit, filed by Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC, states.
Instead of a positive homily, the priest delivered a lecture on suicide and suggested Maison may not get into heaven because he took his own life, according to the suit.
"Many in attendance, including very close friends of their son, immediately became upset and burst out crying," the lawsuit states. "Despite the Hullibargers and others being visibly upset and vocally distraught, Father LaCuesta continued to hammer out his message on suicide. Father LaCuesta repeatedly discussed suicide and how it is condemned by the Church, how it is a secular crime, and how it is a sin against God with dire consequences."
Linda Hullibarger said she was shocked.
“We had no idea, no indication that was going to happen,” she said in a news release provided by Charles E. Boyk Law. “No parent, no sibling, no family member, should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through. ... When you’re already beyond devastation, why would you make it even worse? No words can describe that [be]cause you don't think you could feel any worse."
Hullibarger's attorney, Andrea Young, said the lecture caused the family "irreparable harm and pain."
"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," Young says in a news release.
Shortly after the funeral, the Archdiocese of Detroit barred LaCuesta from preaching at funerals but took no further action against the priest.
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