The mother of a teen who died by suicide is suing the Archdiocese of Detroit over his funeral, claiming a Catholic priest chose that moment to debate whether or not 18-year-old Maison Hullibarger would get into heaven. "We couldn't believe what he was saying," the teen's father, Jeff Hullibarger told the Detroit Free Press of Rev. Don LaCuesta following the funeral last December. "He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner. He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said 'suicide' upwards of six times." Hullibarger and his wife, Linda, say they requested a positive and uplifting sermon, but LaCuesta ignored their wishes, per USA Today. Indeed, Jeff claims LaCuesta continued with his remarks at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance even as he walked up and asked the priest to stop.
"No parent, no sibling, no family member, should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through," says Linda Hullibarger, who's been pushing for LaCuesta's ouster on the basis that he exacerbated the family's pain. "We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry," read a December 2018 statement from the archdiocese, which noted LaCuesta, "for the foreseeable future," would no longer preach at funerals and would have his homilies reviewed. The archdiocese also shared LaCuesta's sermon in full. "Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth—that taking your own life is against God," but "because of his mercy, God can forgive suicide and heal what has been broken," it reads in part. A rep for the archdiocese says it does not comment on pending litigation, per the Toledo Blade. (Study finds alarming changes in suicide rates.)