UPDATE 17 Dec 2018:
Canonist Ed Peters has a post about the text of the sermon that Fr. LaCuesta gave at the funeral for the young man who committed suicide.
The family fueled the usual hyped-up MSM faux reporting. (NYT … can you believe it? NYT covered it? was shameless and ultra-lib bedmate La Croix was also dreadfully unfair) The priest’s reputation has been trashed and he was sidelined by the diocese.
Peters received a copy of the text of the sermon. I’ve read it too.
Note, first, how short this homily is. Perfectly in line with canonical and liturgical norms for such cases.
More importantly, and flatly contrary to how LaCuesta’s homily has been portrayed in the media, I don’t see Hell mentioned anywhere, anywhere, nor any language that relegates this poor young man thereto, and instead I see clarion reminders of the mercy of Christ recited at least half-a-dozen times. I see, too, the moral gravity of suicide—itself approaching epidemic proportions among Americans today—directly acknowledged and fears about its eternal consequences candidly admitted, but I also see consoling references to how much more God knows about one’s life than do those even closest to him and how much that deeper, likely mitigating, divine knowledge leaves the rest of us mortals, grieving a suicide, room for real hope. And I see real sympathy for the powerless, abject suffering visited on those left behind by a suicide, on people who would have moved heaven and earth to help a child seriously considering self-destruction, but who are now forever bereft of that chance (save for their prayers for the departed, of course).
And yet these few, balanced, honest, words were twice interrupted by family members for their failure ‘to celebrate the life of the deceased’, and the secular media, always ready to encourage a ‘Let’s you and him fight’ scenario [That’s a huge part of this.] when it comes to Catholics and the Church, fomented a picture of this priest as a heartless thug without citing so much as a single independently-reported word of his homily? Crimeny.
So here’s my suggestion: when the perfect homily for funeral Masses of those who kill themselves is composed we’ll send it right off to all priests ever called upon to deliver one. Till then, parish priests might want to look at Fr. LaCuesta’s homily for some good thoughts and ideas.
Want to read the text of the homily for yourselves? HERE
Originally Published on: Dec 15, 2018
I was sitting in the Delta lounge at LGA this morning waiting for my flight and, across the room, I saw on soundless CNN something about a priest who made a young person’s suicide “worse”.
It seems that, in Michigan, a priest gave a sermon at the funeral of a young man who committed suicide and that people didn’t like it. Dr. Peters also wrote about this and the canonical aspects of funeral sermons in relation to this incident. HERE
I haven’t heard a recording, but from what I can tell, the priest spoke about suicide, which caused pain to the loved ones of the young man. However, from news reports it also seems that they were upset that the priest didn’t treat the funeral as a “celebration of life”.
For example HERE:
A funeral should focus on the way an individual lived, rather than the way he died, Jeff and Linda Hullibarger said.
That’s why they’re upset at the way a local priest, the Rev. Don LaCuesta at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Mich., handled the service for their 18-year-old son, Maison, who died on Dec. 4. The couple said the priest disregarded their requests for an uplifting homily and instead chose to sermonize on the morality of suicide.
“He basically called our son a sinner, instead of rejoicing in his life,” Ms. Hullibarger said.
“We heard he was talking about suicide,” Mr. Hullibarger said. “We looked at each other, and said, ‘What is he doing? We didn’t ask for this.’”
Mr. Hullibarger approached the priest during the sermon to ask that he end it, but he said the priest did not acknowledge him. The couple said they had to again intervene in order to share their own reflection before the recessional hymn, which they had also previously discussed. They asked that Father LaCuesta not accompany them to the cemetery after the service.
No, a funeral is not a celebration of life. That doesn’t mean that the priest had to dwell on the issue of suicide.
Also, people don’t get to prescribe what priest’s preach about.
Then the father went up to the priest during the sermon… nope. You don’t get to do that either.
In another news account HERE,
“He basically called our son a sinner, instead of rejoicing in his life,” said Linda Hullibarger, Maison’s mother, the Toledo Blade reports. “It was what he wanted. He said nothing about what we asked him to say.”
Funerals are delicate and funerals of suicides even more so. However, I have a sense that, perhaps, there may have been a somewhat comprehensive lack of long term catechesis in the lives of the loved ones of that unfortunate young man.
Of course since this is now the Era of Outrage, some are baying for the priest’s head. And the diocese has not deemed to give the priest much support.
It is entirely possible that this priest went a bit overboard in what he said. Again, I have not heard or read that sermon.
However, I would not be surprised if some element in this sad story involves those involved having a presupposition that everyone, except perhaps Hitler, goes to heaven pretty much automatically and that’s why funerals are celebrations of life. No. Funerals are for praying for the mercy of God on the soul of the deceased, no matter how he dies.
Finally, I hope that family can find some peace without taking out the rage on that priest and trying to ruin his life – a funny way to “celebrate life”. I also will say a prayer for that young man who took his own life.