Shock: Lawsuit filed over funeral homily

Shock: Lawsuit filed over funeral homily November 17, 2019

“No parent, no sibling, no family member should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through.”

You may remember this story from last year, about a family being upset at the homily preached at the funeral of a man who committed suicide.

Now, an update, with this press release from a law firm:

On November 14, 2019, the law firm of Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC announced that it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Linda Hullibarger against The Archdiocese of Detroit, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, and Father Don LaCuesta for injuries caused by Father LaCuesta’s conduct during the funeral services of her son Maison. The lawsuit is filed in the Wayne County Circuit Court of Michigan.

According to the Complaint, Mrs. Hullibarger and her husband met with Father LaCuesta to plan the funeral service for their son Maison. During this meeting, the Hullibargers made clear that they wanted Father LaCuesta to deliver a positive, uplifting and loving message that celebrated the life of their son. Mrs. Hullibarger says they asked “for it to be uplifting, to talk about show[ing] kindness to one another, to be there for one another, just to love one another, to lift people up—that’s what we asked for. That was so important to us, there’s so much sadness.” However, the lawsuit claims that is not the funeral service Father LaCuesta delivered on December 8, 2018.

Instead of adhering to the family’s wishes, the lawsuit alleges that Father LaCuesta turned the homily into a message regarding suicide, questioning whether the Hullibarger’s son would be admitted into heaven. What made this more shocking to the family was that the Hullibargers had not disclosed, revealed, or discussed the nature of Maison’s death to Father LaCuesta or the community.

As Mrs. Hullibarger explains, “[A]t our own child’s funeral, we were taken down yet again when it was a place that we were supposed to be lifted up. And we had no idea, no indication that was going to happen.” Mrs. Hullibarger says, “No parent, no sibling, no family member should ever, ever have to sit through what we sat through. And it’s happened before. When you’re already beyond devastation, why would you make it even worse? No words can describe that [be]cause you don’t think you could feel any worse.” “Father LaCuesta’s conduct at Maison’s funeral service was intentional,” noted Andrea Young, an attorney at Charles Boyk Law. “It was apparent to those in attendance that Father LaCuesta had a message he wanted to relay. That message was not previously disclosed to the Hullibarger family and it did not conform to homily that Father LaCuesta previously agreed to deliver. At a time of tragedy, the Hullibarger family turned to their church for peace and comfort but instead Father’s LaCuesta’s actions caused them irreparable harm and pain.”

Following Maison’s funeral service, Mrs. Hullibarger sought removal of Father LaCuesta. According to the Complaint, a call with Bishop Battersby confirmed the church believed what Father LaCuesta did was wrong but would not remove him. Further, Mrs. Hullibarger was told to “let it go and get some help”. Mrs. Hullibarger sought the assistance of Charles E. Boyk Law Offices and believes by bringing this action it will bring healing to the family, church and surrounding community.

For more information, read the official file-stamped complaint against the Archdiocese of Detroit, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish and Father Don LaCuesta. The lawsuit seeks to hold Father LaCuesta, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, and The Archdiocese of Detroit accountable for the actions of Father LaCuesta and to ensure no further harm to the parish and local community.

Ed Peters posted on this issue last year, including the text of the homily, and he wrote: 

Contrary to how LaCuesta’s homily has been portrayed in the media, I don’t see Hell mentioned anywhere, anywhere, nor any language that relegates this poor young man thereto, and instead I see clarion reminders of the mercy of Christ recited at least half-a-dozen times. I see, too, the moral gravity of suicide—itself approaching epidemic proportions among Americans today—directly acknowledged and fears about its eternal consequences candidly admitted, but I also see consoling references to how much more God knows about one’s life than do those even closest to him and how much that deeper, likely mitigating, divine knowledge leaves the rest of us mortals, grieving a suicide, room for real hope. And I see sincere sympathy for the powerless, abject suffering visited on those left behind by a suicide, on people who would have moved heaven and earth to help a child seriously considering self-destruction, but who are now forever bereft of that chance (save for their prayers for the departed, of course).

And yet these few, balanced, honest, words were twice interrupted by family members for their failure ‘to celebrate the life of the deceased’, and the secular media, always ready to encourage a ‘Let’s you and him fight’ scenario when it comes to Catholics and the Church, fomented a picture of this priest as a heartless thug without citing so much as a single independently-reported word of his homily? Crimeny.

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