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.