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Catholic priest in Michigan delivers shocking homily after teenager commits suicide, parents devastated


Parents say priest was insensitive, should be removed

Carsten Koall/Getty Images

A Catholic priest is under fire for telling grieving parents in Temperance, Michigan, that their 18-year-old son who killed himself may not get into heaven because of the way he died, according to published reports.

When did this happen?

Rev. Don LaCuesta made the comment while presiding over the funeral for Maison Hullibarger, 18, a straight A-student who killed himself on Dec. 4.

During the teen's funeral, LaCuesta mentioned suicide six times, parents told media. The priest also wondered out loud if the teen would make it to heaven. He made his comments before "hundreds" of mourners and family members, KTVB-TV reported.

Jeff Hullibarger, the teen's father, at one point approached LaCuesta and whispered, "Father, please stop." But the priest continued.

Now the teen's parents want the priest removed because they say he condemned and disparaged their son during his service and added to their grief, according to published reports.

"We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died," Maison's mother told media.

Several boys who were Madison's age reportedly walked out of the church sobbing.

LaCuesta's words were so upsetting that Catholic officials in Detroit apologized in a statement published by the Detroit Free Press.

"Everybody seems to understand but the Catholic Church," the teen's father said.

The parents also claim that he denied them the opportunity to eulogize their son, which they planned for in advance.

"People told me there was almost a smirk on his face," Jeff Hullibarger said.

Was an apology made?

The Archdiocese of Detroit stated in the newspaper that its intent is to "always to bring comfort into situations of great pain, through funeral services centered on the love and healing power of Christ." The statement added: "Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case."

"After some reflection, the presider agrees that the family was not served as they should have been served. For the foreseeable future, he will not be preaching at funerals and he will have his other homilies reviewed by a priest mentor," the statement read.

But the Hullibargers are not satisfied. They want LaCuesta to be removed from his position in Monroe County, just south of Detroit.

"Really, the only way for that to happen is for this priest to be removed. We're afraid that, like the Catholic Church does, they'll send him off and he'll do it to somebody else," Jeff Hullibarger said.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with their son's funeral expenses. As of late Saturday afternoon, the page had raised $19,610.

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