You Are On Your Own Jack

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Ed Peters reminds us that any priest who stands up for traditional Catholic teaching, is completely on his own when the feathers hit the fan:

 

If the text recently sent to me really was the homily that Fr. Don LaCuesta preached at the funeral Mass of a young man who suddenly killed himself a few days ago, for which homily LaCuesta has been savaged in the print and electronic media and even (temporarily, I assume, while the facts are sorted) deprived of faculties for preaching, all I can say is, God bless Fr. LaCuesta.

Note, first, how short this homily is. Perfectly in line with canonical and liturgical norms for such cases.

More importantly, and flatly 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.

Go here to read the rest.  The archdiocese displayed the usual courage displayed by Church officials when priests act like priests:

The Archdiocese of Detroit regrets that one of its parish priests was unable to bring comfort to a grieving family at the recent funeral of their beloved son. Our hope is always to bring comfort to situations of great pain, through funeral services centered on the love and healing power of Christ.

Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry.

In light of recent reports, and in an effort to clarify misunderstanding, we are sharing a copy of the prepared homily Father LaCuesta read during the funeral. Names have been redacted to protect the family’s privacy.

In the homily, Father LaCuesta attempted to offer a message of confidence in salvation, affirming that “nothing – not even suicide – can separate us from the unconditional love of God.” Father LaCuesta also shared that because of God’s mercy, “he makes allowance for the spiritual, mental and emotional despair that leads to suicide.”

Referring to the individual for whom the funeral was offered, he affirmed: “We remind ourselves that he is not lost to God who seeks to save all of his children.”

We acknowledge, however, that the family expected a homily based on how their loved one lived, not one addressing how he passed away. 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.

Father LaCuesta agrees that the family was not served as they should have been served. For the foreseeable future, he will not be preaching at funerals and he will have all other homilies reviewed by a priest mentor. In addition, he has agreed to pursue the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations. This assistance will involve getting help from professionals – on human, spiritual and pastoral levels – to probe how and why he failed to effectively address the grief of the family in crisis.

Father LaCuesta also expressed his regret in a message to parishioners following Masses at Our Lady of Mount Carmel this weekend.

In a continuing effort to offer comfort, the family has received calls from our Vicar for Clergy and the Auxiliary Bishop for the downriver region. In addition, Archbishop Vigneron spoke with the family to apologize and to offer an in-person meeting in the near future. They have accepted his offer.

We ask all to please join in praying for the family.

So Father LaCuesta was thrown under the bus, a fate that is typical for any priest who acts like a priest instead of a social worker.  This debacle underlines the wisdom of the traditional teaching of the Church, not changed until Vatican II, of denying a funeral mass, or burial in consecrated ground, to a suicide.  A suicide dies committing a mortal sin.  The possibility of repentance, or lack of mental acuity necessary for the intent to commit a mortal sin, are always there, but there is no getting around the hard fact of self murder.  The grieving parents of the suicide in this case naturally wanted a feel good “celebration of life” ceremony for their dead son, and as a father who lost a son my heart goes out to them in their endless grief.  But to do so by the priest would have been a dereliction of his duty as a priest.  He is now being punished for his willingness to quite charitably, and with great compassion, point out that teaching.  Christ warned His followers that persecution would be their lot.  He did not say, however, what is common in our day:  that the persecution would sometimes come from within the Church.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Sad. for without God’s truth, grief is a waste. I grieve at every “regular” funeral I attend where a presiding confused priest distorts the teachings of the faith by implying the deceased’s soul is in heaven with God, most probably thus depriving them of the benefit of many of our prayers which may help modify their stay in purgatory..

  2. I find it detestable that many people have abused this priest’s reputation all over the internet without the benefit of actually reading the homily. One accusation and everyone is ready to string him up.

    When you see how the diocese has treated this priest need anyone wonder why we have so few men choosing the vocation?

  3. I’d say that, actually, the priest went so far as to say some borderline heterodox things to comfort the family: “Nothing -not even suicide- can separate us from the unconditional love of God”. The truth is, of course, that unrepented sin does separate us from the love of God.

    Hopefully that kid repented at the last minute. We do not know and should pray for him. But we do know that not even God can forgive a sin if we do not repent from it.

    It is ironic that the diocese is not throwing the priest under the bus for being orthodox, but rather for not being heterodox enough.

  4. Donald is correct about the abhorrence the Church had for suicide. This carried over even into secular society. In England, until 1820, under a law from Anglo-Saxon times, it was perfectly legal to drive a stake through the heart of a suicide , before his burial. It was commonly believed for many years that suicides would come back from the dead as a revanant, so to prevent this, this once of prevention was used.

  5. I suspected as much when I read about this yesterday. The mother and father wanted feelgood pap which might belong at wakes but certainly does not belong at a funeral. They were also incensed that any reference was made to spiritual realities. The family also told the young man’s one-time football coach to leave the funeral and tribunes of the family remonstrated with the school district to have the man fired from his job for remarking (to his social media circle) that some people look for scapegoats rather than looking in the mirror. (A true statement).

    Suffering a tragedy doesn’t give one a franchise to engage in graceless and vindictive behavior.

  6. I saw nothing wrong in this homily. Suicide is sin and God is the final judge. Period. Obviously the family isn’t Catholic. Let them go to the Episcopalians. Such heterodoxy will be more to their liking. PS, when I die, I hope at my funeral the priest speaks about death, judgment, heaven and hell, and about the need to repent.

  7. Taking a slightly different angle– did they want the priest do engage in activity that is known to be assoicated with copy-cat suicides?
    “Hey, nobody ever says anything good to me. But so and so killed himself, and suddenly everyone has nothing but good to say about him. That sounds… nice… and I wouldn’t hurt anymore….”

  8. No one knows what’s between God and a person in the last minutes of life. Suicide often engenders anger (and guilt) in family members and close associates of the deceased. This reaction against the officiating priest is in the extreme. Perhaps his comments should have been shorter, but the references to God’s mercy should have given some comfort. It is my understanding that a Catholic funeral includes a homily but not a eulogy or eulogies, e.g., the Episcopalian funeral of Pres. Bush.
    When an acquaintance/friend dies, I usually request a Mass said for the repose of his/her soul, and an intentions Mass said for the family of the deceased. God hears all prayers and we all can use the extra grace.
    Why wouldn’t there be an increase in suicides: when states have passed legislation for right to death and assisted suicide; when drug use and alcoholism is rampant; when mental illness and PTSD often go undiagnosed; and when abortion is okay in the minds of many.
    The negative press saw another gotcha against the Church with this story. How about stories on suicide prevention and the painful aftermath for those left behind? Probably not too many as it doesn’t fit the media’s agenda.

  9. I agree with Ken’s observation above– when we see how
    quick Fr. LaCuesta’s bishop was to throw him to the wolves,
    how can we wonder that so few men follow vocations to the
    priesthood?

  10. “he makes allowance for the spiritual, mental and emotional despair that leads to suicide.”
    Blaming the suicide is against Political Correctness. God is the newest scapegoat for man’s sins.

  11. Maybe it was a mistake to surrender (as did the Boy Scouts of America) authority over Faith and Morals to people that hate Church Teachings on Faith and Morals.

  12. Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit will have to answer to God for destroying a priest that is trying when the overwhelming majority cave to a “celebration of life” sermon.

  13. Allowing or not allowing a funeral mass for someone who commits suicide is not a matter of Church teaching, but one of Church law, which can be subject to change. That being said, I see the wisdom in previous Church law forbidding such masses.

    In any event, having read the transcript of the homily in question, I think the priest DID in fact try to bring comfort to the family while addressing the spiritual severity of the situation. For that, he should be commended, not trashed by his own bishop.

  14. The bishop should have communicated to his flock–first of all– that funeral homilies are not to be eulogies. He should counter the unholy expectations of the faithful. The life we celebrate is Jesus’, his death and resurrection which was his merciful response to our sins. (Fr. Scalia, in his homily for his father, Justice Scalia, masterly pointed this out right at the beginning of his homily.) Even practicing Catholics–including clergy–have lost the sense of getting to heaven as our most important goal in life. The purpose of a funeral mass is to pray for the happy repose of the deceased. The consolation we impart to the families of the deceased is not a sentimental confirmation of what we have accomplished here on earth. The consolation is the mercy of God when in fact we have not done what we were supposed to. To treat it in some other fashion is to communicate the message that heaven is an afterthought. The bishop caved into the “culture” of the “Celebration of Life” culture instead of promoting the message of the gospel. What kind of Catholic family would not be consoled by the mercy of God which Fr. LaCuesta preached so beautifully? The bishop should be thankful he has a priest who is willing to speak the truth of the gospel. He should have commended Fr. LaCuesta. The tactic of sending him to “counseling” is an insult. The bishop should go to counseling: spiritual counseling. The bishop should instruct all his priests once again that funeral homilies are not eulogies. The clergy is guilty of giving in to the jaded culture and is part of the problem. The bishop is part of the problem too: neglecting his duty by failing to reinforce the rue purpose of the celebration of a funeral. I also believe that Fr. LaCuesta should have stood his ground. It would help the rest of us.
    Rev. H. James Hutchins

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