TEMPERANCE, Mich. (WXYZ/CNN) – The parents of an 18-year-old are calling for the priest who presided over their son’s funeral to be fired over what they say were inappropriate remarks about suicide.
Linda and Jeff Hullibarger remember their son Maison Hullibarger, 18, as a young man with dreams and potential. He was studying criminal justice at the University of Toledo and loved his family, football and camping.
It is hard for his parents to talk about even the good times following Maison’s suicide on Dec. 4. The pain of losing him is unbearable.
When the Hullibargers met with Rev. Don LaCuesta at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Michigan, to plan their son’s funeral, he asked what they wanted him to speak about.
But at the service itself, they say LaCuesta instead gave a lecture on why suicide is a sin that can condemn you because you don’t have time alive to repent.
“He basically called our son a sinner in front of hundreds of people and judged him when he didn’t even know him,” Linda Hullibarger said.
Jeff Hullibarger says he went up to the pulpit and respectfully asked the priest to stop twice.
“He didn’t stop. He didn’t miss a beat,” Linda Hullibarger said. “If you can’t count on a priest to have compassion in such a situation, who can you count on? He doesn’t have the right to be a priest anymore.”
Maison Hullibarger’s former high school football coach, Jeff Wood, also came under fire for events at the funeral. The coach was asked to leave because relatives say he had been “unkind” to Maison in the past.
Wood responded on Facebook, criticizing anyone who may have blamed him for the young man’s death, and he was subsequently fired from his position as football coach.
The Hullibarger family says they don’t blame Wood for their son’s death but did not want him at the funeral. They say they are more upset by LaCuesta’s remarks.
“I don’t want to see him do that to anybody else, what he did to us,” Jeff Hullibarger said.
The Archdiocese of Detroit apologized, saying it understands the family’s concerns and LaCuesta will not be preaching at funerals for the foreseeable future. He will also undergo training on how to become a more effective minister.
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