The Suicide, the Priest, and the People Who Prefer a Lie
When Maison Hullibarger, a freshman at the University of Toledo, committed suicide some years back, the family sought a Roman Catholic Mass, eulogy, and burial for their son. What they got was a priest who called suicide…”sin.” Linda Hullibarger told WXYZ Detroit, “He basically called our son a sinner in front of hundreds of people and judged him when he didn’t even know him.”
When the media was invited into the fracas, the Archdiocese of Detroit relieved Rev. Don La Cuesta of further funeral duties and made a request for a mentor review of his other homilies. Before I proceed further, I must state that I did not have access to the homily, and I am unsure of what type of relationship the priest had with this family before the funeral mass. They have requested he be defrocked for condemning their son as a sinner.
Someone they knew, quite intimately, murdered Jeff and Linda’s son, Maison. That grief and lament will haunt the Hullibarger family for the rest of their lives. They now have an irreplaceable loss of a beloved son. We grieve with them as they mourn.
When this story was posted on Facebook, I clicked on the comments under the article before I read the article. This is the type of news story that exposes peoples’ theology. I was reminded as I read comment after comment that people are lost in their own sins. They are utterly unfamiliar with the Scriptures, but they are full of theological opinions. Suicide is a formidable topic these days because so many people are doing it.
The Bible is clear that we are all condemned sinners (Rom 3:23). Thus, there is no need to judge the sinner who is already condemned. It is written, “He who believes in Him (Son of God) is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18).” The whole world is accountable to God (Rom 3:19), convicted of sin (Jn 16:8), and death has spread to all men because all sinned (Rom 3:23; 5:12; 6:23).
Suicide is the sin of self-murder, but it is wrong to claim it is an unforgivable sin because one cannot repent of it. There are multitudes of sins that are unrepented of on the day of any one person’s death. Even aborted babies have unrepented original sin (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12).
The most common statement at a funeral should be that the deceased, laid before the mournful gathering, is deceased because of sin. The reason all people die is because of sin. We are conceived in sin (Ps 51:5). We are born guilty sinners because we have inherited the sin of the first man, Adam (Rom 5:12). Our nature is sin, and the Bible calls us children of wrath (Eph 2:3).
The tragedy is not that the priest may have spoken of some of these concepts at a funeral; the tragedy is the outrage of ignorant people who prefer to be lied to, rather than to hear and know the truth. The Hullibargers wanted their son’s life to be honored, but what honor belongs to any of us as condemned sinners?
Funerals are an essential human event where the realities of sin could not be more apparent. They are always crucial moments, when people who live in the darkness of deception of this world are face to face with the truth of sin, death, and the need for a Savior.
It is true that no priest, nor pastor can judge the election or reprobation of any one person. What is permissible for presentation is the Gospel of Christian hope. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope for salvation. Those who request a Christian funeral must expect this message to be preached…the bad news and the good news.
God created all things very good. Adam sinned, and his sin is passed to all of the fallen world. Because all have sinned, all are guilty, being already condemned by God (Jn 3:18).
There is now no condemnation, however, for those in Christ Jesus because of His blood atonement on the cross (Rom 8:1). He has reconciled those who believe in Him (2 Cor 5:19), and the wrath of God is no longer directed against them (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). The Holy Spirit has caused them to be born of God (Jn 1:13; 1 Pet 1:3), adopted into God’s family, and His gracious work is to make them holy, even though they remain sinners in a sinful world (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).
Truth does have a place for mourners. It must include both the problem of sin and condemnation, along with the only hope we have…Jesus Christ, the one and only Savior of sinners (Acts 4:12; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:4–6).
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 25, 2022