Family members of a Monroe County teen have filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Detroit after a priest allegedly made a “heartless condemnation” of suicide at the 18-year-old’s funeral last year.
The lawsuit states that Rev. Don LaCuesta mentioned Maison Hullibarger’s cause of death soon after starting his homily, which “sent the family and many of those in attendance into shock.”
“Father LaCuesta repeatedly discussed suicide and how it is condemned by the church, how it is a secular crime, and … a sin against God with dire eternal consequences.”
A copy of the sermon the archdiocese posted on its website shows that LaCuesta said, “…There is hope in eternity, even for those who take their own lives. … 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 … .”
When Maison’s father, Jeff, told the priest to stop, he allegedly ignored his plea and continued his message.
“No parent, no sibling, no family member should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through,” Maison’s mother, Linda Hullibarger, said. “…When you’re already beyond devastation, why would you make it even worse?”
After the funeral, Maison’s parents requested a meeting with Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron. However, once Linda started talking about LaCuesta, the archbishop reportedly ended the meeting and told her he wasn’t there to talk about him.
The lawsuit accuses LaCuesta of outrageous conduct and argue that the Archdiocese of Detroit supported it by not removing him.
Andrea Young, the family’s lawyer, said, “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.”
The archdiocese eventually apologized for the incident and announced that LaCuesta wouldn’t be preaching at funerals for the foreseeable future and has, “- agreed to pursue the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations.”
The lawsuit seeks at least $25,000 in damages.