*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
Maison Hullibarger, 18, committed suicide on December 4, 2018.
His parents arranged for a Catholic funeral but were shocked when, instead of bringing hope and comfort to the family, their priest instead questioned where their son would spend the afterlife, considering suicide is a mortal sin in the Catholic faith.
Now, Maison's mom, Linda Hullibarger, is suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit for irreparable emotional distress.
Teen's family says priest 'stole son's funeral' after he delivered lecture on suicide as a sin youtu.be
In a recently filed Michigan lawsuit, Hullibarger names the Rev. Don LaCuesta as a defendant, saying he ignored their needs and left the family in even more distress than they already were.
"At our own child's funeral, we were taken down yet again when it was a place that we were supposed to be lifted up."
Both LaCuesta and his church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Michigan were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Hullibarger is seeking $25,000 in damages.
According to the lawsuit, Maison's parents both met with LaCuesta before the service and said they were hoping the ceremony could be an uplifting, cathartic event. He allegedly agreed to their requests.
"[The parents] requested that the homily be uplifting and focus on the importance of kindness — an attribute their son was well known for."
Yet, during the sermon, a copy of which was posted online by the diocese, LaCuesta repeatedly mentioned the fact that, according to the Catholic church, suicide is a sin.
"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."
LaCuesta would go on to try and smooth things over by claiming God could forgive "any sin," but the damage had already been done.
Many of the guests became "became visibly and vocally distraught," and some young people even "burst out crying."
"No parent, no sibling, no family member should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through."
Following the funeral, the diocese issued an apologetic statement and claimed LaCuesta would no longer be allowed to speak at funerals.
Moving forward, all of his sermons will now also be vetted by a mentor.
But that's not enough for Hullibarger, who claims through her attorney Wesley Merillat that she has been dealing with the emotional distress caused by the sermon for the past year.
"She has lived this past year alienated from her Church, lost in her faith, and in complete torment over her son's funeral service."
Merillat also stated:
"When this family was in deep mourning, when they were at their most vulnerable, Father LaCuesta intentionally destroyed them."
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/