Parents of a Michigan teenager who killed himself criticized the Catholic priest who led their son's funeral service, saying the priest repeatedly focused on their son's suicide and said he may not enter heaven because of the way he died.
Maison Hullibarger, 18, a student at University of Toledo, killed himself on Dec. 4.
During Hullibarger's funeral at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Michigan, on Dec. 8, the priest Don LaCuesta openly criticized his actions.
"He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner. He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said 'suicide' upwards of six times," his father, Jeff Hullibarger, said in an interview with Detroit Free Press.
At one point during the service, Jeff walked up to the priest and asked quietly, "Father, please stop." But the priest continued, according to an interview the parents gave to ABC 13.
"He basically called our son a sinner, instead of rejoicing in his life," Linda, his mother, told the Toledo Blade.
“We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died," Linda said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. "It was his time to tell everybody what he thought of suicide, [and] we couldn't believe what he was saying."
The priest's speech also upset friends of Maison.
“There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison's age who left the church sobbing,” said his father.
The Catholic Church has had a complicated history with suicide, with a papal decree in 1983 that reversed the Church's position on suicide so that people who kill themselves are allowed Catholic burial rites.
On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Detroit released a statement to the Detroit Free Press acknowledging that the priest's comments were inappropriate and stating that he would not oversee funerals for the foreseeable future.
"We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry," it read.
"After some reflection, the presider 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 his 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."
The Hullibargers could not be reached by BuzzFeed News for comment.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.