|Maison Hullibarger |
On an average, there are 128 suicides in the U.S every day.
Maison Hullibarger took his own life, and his parents say their grief was made worse by a homily at his funeral that repeatedly addressed the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on suicide.CreditCreditvia Jeffrey Hullibarger
By Mihir Zaveri and Jacey Fortin/ Adam Gonzalez Introduction
I know the feeling when you give a religious leader the responsibility to say some words or to give a eulogy on the loved that's passed away. My mom's kids (old people but I'll just be nice and called them kids) took care of the eulogy at the funeral home. We all said something about mom and celebrated her life and how she was. I did not want it to be a religious funeral and even though I had three religious sisters they went along with my feelings. After all, I was the only that never got married, the youngest, so the care of my mom as she got older fell on my hands. The pastor of someone in the family was there and I assumed he was there like everybody else to say goodbye.
He was not invited to say anything at the funeral home but at the cemetery, I and my sisters were too distraught that we did not want to say anything else being so close to the internment time. It was a military burial because we were a national cemetery since my dad was a veteran and had already passed on but the wife has the right to be buried with him or where ever she lives. My mom loved New York and was a lot closer to New York city than where my dad was buried in Puerto Rico.
Besides the last thing, I would do to my mom was to bury her with the man she fought so much for 3 or 4 decades. In the end, they gave us 5 or 10 minutes in which we had nothing prepared so I asked someone if the pastor wanted to say something as long as it was about my mom and not to have a Billy Graham moment inviting those presents to repent. It was awful. It was just what he did but his words were all about sins and redemption. I did not stop this preacher because I did not want to make it about me but I was offended that he went on with his call to repent and invite any sinner to come to the front so he could pray for them.
I know this behavior because I'm a seminarian who does not believe in religions. I've studied enough to know how they started and their dogma and the add-on rules which are just that is just their words obviously not God's words. I understand their religion call for us to go by faith and I agree But faith is supposed to be built on a strong foundation. Jesus in the bible compared to building on a rock instead of the sand which when the wind comes it blows it down and is washed away by the waters.
Faith needs to be built on something solid not word of mouth from people who have not experienced things that happened thousands of years ago. The Catholic Church has their dogma about suicide that goes beyond anything that the bible mentions. They treat the family of the person who has killed themselves as the family of someone who cannot be buried in a church cemetery (unless the family is wealthy and powerful) or any blessed soil. The bible does mention that god can be made to change his mind and it says no man knows the mind of God. Who is the pastor on my mom's funeral or this Catholic Priest on Maison Hullibarger funeral who knows the mind of Maison and knows the mind of God? How does God feel for the reasons Maison felt that suicide was the only road. This is a teaching moment but it has nothing to do with heaven or hell. or a Church's own rules.
For some of us, 100 years is not enough for others 10 years is too much. Life is something given without the ask and no one is gone to the other side to study and talk to god to clarify about rules and regulations every religion is added on whatever is written like any social club, which to me that is just what they are.
I'm glad the family decided to come out with this experience. There is much to learn about suicide. But one thing I wish we knew is not to judge others by their experience because everyone roads are different from each other.
Days before the funeral for their son, who at the age of 18 took his own life, Jeff and Linda Hullibarger met with their parish priest to discuss the homily to be given.
The Hullibargers wanted it to be about the life of their son, Maison, not the manner of his death. They wanted to focus on a teenager who was opinionated and passionate and who they knew was a source of comfort to friends dealing with their own adversity.
They recalled the priest, the Rev. Don LaCuesta, taking notes. They anticipated uplifting words for the friends and relatives attending the funeral at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, where all six of their children were baptized and confirmed.
The homily that Father LaCuesta delivered at the church in Temperance, Mich., about 10 miles north of Toledo, Ohio, on Dec. 8, four days after Maison died, did not resemble that conversation, the Hullibargers said on Sunday. Instead, the priest spoke about how suicide was “against God who made us and everyone who loves us” but how Maison would still have a chance of salvation. A copy of the remarks he prepared show the word “suicide” appeared six times.
The family’s grief already seemed unbearable, but the homily’s focus on how he died made it worse. The episode, which gained widespread attention, prompted the Archdiocese of Detroit to say in a statement on Saturday that Father LaCuesta would not preside over funeral services for the foreseeable future and would get help to become a better minister in difficult situations.
The news of what happened also put a spotlight on the tensions between traditionalist stances in the Roman Catholic Church about suicides and more nuanced thinking that has evolved over time about the issue, experts said.
“Maison didn’t deserve this. He basically called him a sinner in front of everybody,” Ms. Hullibarger said. “We were just blindsided.”
The archdiocese apologized and said in its statement that the priest was trying to “offer a message of confidence in salvation.”
“The family wanted a homily based on how their loved one lived, not one addressing how he passed away,” the archdiocese said. “We also know the family was hurt further by Father’s choice to share Church teaching on suicide when the emphasis should have been placed more on God’s closeness to those who mourn.”
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, and editor-at-large at America magazine, which covers news relevant to Catholics, said the homily for Maison was a “pastoral disaster.”
“The purpose of the homily in the funeral rite is to speak about not only the person’s life but the resurrection and the promise of the new life of that person,” he said. “It’s to offer consolation and hope to the family of the deceased.”
Father LaCuesta, who was ordained in 2006 and who joined the parish in 2013, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. The archdiocese shared the remarks he had prepared.
“If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us — and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives,” the homily reads. “Having said that, 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.”
The homily would go on to say, “Nothing — not even suicide — can separate us from the unconditional love of God.”
For the Roman Catholic Church and other religious institutions in the United States, self-harm is an increasingly pertinent issue. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a steady rise in the national suicide rate, up 25 percent from 1999 to 2016. It is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the country.
Under historical Catholic doctrine, suicide was generally considered a mortal sin and those who took their own lives were denied salvation, experts said.
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But interpretations have changed with time. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a doctrinal text approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992, suicide is an affront to God’s love.
But the document adds that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide,” and “we should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives” because God may grant them the opportunity to repent.
The Rev. Ronald Rolheiser, president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, said the 1992 catechism essentially formalized changes in the Catholic Church’s thinking that had been occurring for 50 years.
Mathew Schmalz, professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., said that there is still a divide within the Catholic Church between traditionalists who take a hard line on suicide, and those with a more nuanced understanding. He said the traditionalist view is more common internationally, and that for example, in India, people have been denied Christian burials if they committed suicide.
“There are all these kinds of clashes that you have in Catholicism now because it’s so ideologically divided,” he said.
The Hullibargers said they had not discussed with Father LaCuesta how Maison had died, and they do not know how he found out. Mr. Hullibarger said at one point he got up and futilely asked Father LaCuesta to stop partway through the homily.
The Hullibargers declined to discuss how Maison died. They said it was not necessarily the content of the Catholic teachings that offended them, but the priest’s actions.
“Our purpose is to know that no other family, no other parent, nobody ever has to go through this again,” Ms. Hullibarger said.
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.]