Check out the video below from Detroit:
It’s highly unusual for a local media outlet to give this kind of attention to a family funeral. But it appears to have done some good. The archdiocesan response was compassionate and constructive.
Pray for the healing of all concerned. It may be that there are other issues involved here that compel the priest to get the “assistance he needs.”
Far too often, it is experiences like this that drive people away from the Church. I’ve often told homiletics students that funerals, wakes, baptisms and weddings can be important moments of evangelization. They can help attract people to the faith.
Unfortunately, they can also have the opposite effect.
Also worth noting is what the Church teaches about suicide. From the catechism:
2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
UPDATE: The story is generating reaction around the interwebs.
First, canon lawyer Ed Peters has this takeaway:
Without specific knowledge of what LaCuesta actually said, my citing to canons on homilies in general (including those norms that call for the doctrine of the Church to be preached therein, such as Canons 769-769) and to rubrics that call for funeral homilies to be brief and phrased so as to avoid “offending those who mourn”, per the Rite), would be of little avail. The Archdiocese of Detroit has restricted LaCuesta’s faculties for preaching at funerals (I imagine, per Canon 764) and one trusts that, in taking such actionagainst LaCuesta, they had access to more specific information about his homily than was available in main stream media reports. If LaCuesta said the right thing the right way, he should be defended; if he said the right thing the wrong way, he should be corrected; if he said the wrong thing the wrong way, he should be chastised.
Then Fr. Z has this:
Funerals are delicate and funerals of suicides even more so. However, I have a sense that, perhaps, there may have been a somewhat comprehensive lack of long term catechesis in the lives of the loved ones of that unfortunate young man.
Of course since this is now the Era of Outrage, some are baying for the priest’s head. And the diocese has not deemed to give the priest much support.
It is entirely possible that this priest went a bit overboard in what he said. Again, I have not heard or read that sermon.
However, I would not be surprised if some element in this sad story involves those involved having a presupposition that everyone, except perhaps Hitler, goes to heaven pretty much automatically and that’s why funerals are celebrations of life. No. Funerals are for praying for the mercy of God on the soul of the deceased, no matter how he dies.
Finally, I hope that family can find some peace without taking out the rage on that priest and trying to ruin his life – a funny way to “celebrate life”. I also will say a prayer for that young man who took his own life.
Stay tuned. We may not have heard the end of this.