TEMPERANCE, Mich. (AP) — A Catholic priest has been removed from funeral work and a high school football coach has lost his job following a young man’s bizarre funeral.
Maison Hullibarger, 18, died Dec. 4. He was an athlete and honors student in high school, and a freshman at the University of Toledo.
Jeff and Linda Hullibarger met with Rev. Don LaCuesta to make funeral arrangements. The reverend asked what they wanted him to speak about, and they told him.
However, during the Dec. 8 funeral Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Temperance, the reverend became critical of their son’s suicide.
“He basically called my son a sinner, in front of hundreds of people,” Linda Hullibarger told ABC affiliate WXYZ. “And judged him when he didn’t even know him.”
They described it as a lecture on why suicide is a sin that can condemn one’s soul since that person no longer has time alive to repent for the taking of a life.
“Jeff went up to the pulpit,” Linda Hullibarger said of her husband.
“I asked him to stop,” Jeff Hullibarger added, “I didn’t make a scene. I did it respectfully.”
But the reverend continued.
“He didn’t stop,” Linda said. “He didn’t miss a beat.”
Jeff Hullibarger told the Detroit Free Press that mourners ” told me there was almost a smirk on his face.”
As it ended, Jeff Hullibarger tried to steer the service back the message they had originally intended.
“And we said we had a message for everyone — to be kind to each other, to reach out to those you care about, and to be sincere in your actions and to show love unconditionally” — exactly the behavior the couple needed but didn’t get from their pastor, they said.
“There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison’s age who left the church sobbing,” Jeff Hullibarger said.
When the casket was wheeled out, the couple told the priest he was not welcome at their son’s burial.
The Catholic Archdioces of Detroit later released a statement:
We share the family’s grief at such a profound loss. Our hope is always to bring comfort into 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. 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.
We have been in contact with the family since learning of this situation, and we will continue to offer our support going forward.
“He doesn’t have the right to be a priest anymore,” Linda Hullibarger said.
“I don’t want to see him do that to anyone else, what he did to us,” Jeff Hullibarger said.
To make matters worse, Bedford High School football coach Jeff Wood attended Maison’s against the family’s wishes. Wood coached Masion when the youth was a linebacker on the team.
Linda Hullibarger had asked a friend to pass along the request to the coach.
“We knew Maison would not want him at his funeral,” she said. “He did not treat Maison kindly. So it was our wish that he would not be there.”
When the coach strode in, he was approached by one of the Hullibarger’s other sons and asked to leave.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the coach soon posted a rebuke on social media: “I was just asked to leave a funeral by a family member of a deceased football player. If you need someone to blame, I’m your man, I’m your fall guy. This is how society is when things go not as planned. We blame others for our own shortcomings. This tragedy is not about me or you. It’s about looking in the mirror as a human being and being real and honest with yourself.”
Bedford High School responded with a statement that said Wood is “no longer affiliated in any way with the Bedford football program.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)