The Mitigating Circumstances Gamble

My primary job as a parent is to help my children get to Heaven.  Their spiritual being comes even before their physical well-being (not that we don’t strive for both).  Our priests also share in this duty. It’s why Christ gave them to us.  If my child were to take his/her life by suicide, heaven forbid, I would want everyone who comes to their funeral to know of the tragedy and pray for their eternal soul to be at rest in Heaven.  So, when I see tweets like this, I get furious.


Unlike Fr. Martin, I actually waited for the homily to be posted before diving into it, because there’s always another side to a story. Fr. Martin could have chosen the high-road in this case, but he does what he always does, he pits people against our faithful priests. Let’s look at what Fr. Martin calls a “pastoral disaster.”

Before I do, I do not blame Maison’s parents for any of this. Clearly, many priests and religious teachers along the way failed them. Their understanding of death, everlasting life, funerals, etc., are contrary to the reality that the Church teaches. While it may seem life Fr. Martin is my favorite whipping boy, I only use him since he’s the biggest mouthpiece for misguiding the faithful and attacking priests who do not. He can’t help but comment on everything. He’s constantly putting people’s spiritual AND physical well-being at risk, and here he’s doing it once again.

This is Fr. LaCuesta’s homily from young Maison’s funeral.

My heart goes out to you, Mr. & Mrs. [REDACTED], and to you [REDACTED]’s siblings: [REDACTED], to Grandma [REDACTED], to [REDCATED]’s many aunts & uncles & cousins. It is with great difficulty that I stand before you knowing the pain and anguish you are going through. But I am aware, as well, that I am only a humble, unworthy mouthpiece. I ask God to use my words to bring the light, comfort and healing you need.

Is there any hope to offer in this moment? Must we only speak of our profound grief, our indescribable sorrow, even our anger and confusion at how such a thing could have happened? Is there any word from God that might break into our darkness like a ray of light?

Yes, yes, a thousand times. If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us–and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives.”

Uh, what part of this doesn’t express hope and mercy???

Having said that, I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right. Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth – that taking your own life is against God who made us and against everyone who loves us. Our lives are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please. God gave us life, and we are to be good stewards of that gift for as long as God permits.

The finality of suicide makes this all the worse. You cannot make things right again. Neither can [REDACTED]. And this is much of the pain of it all. Things are left unresolved, even if it felt to [REDACTED] like this was the only way to resolve things. You want to turn the clock back and say, “Please don’t give up. We can work through this pain together. ” But now you will have to work through this pain by yourselves, or with those close to you now who will need to lean on you even as you lean on them.

Is any of this not true??? If you know ANYTHING about suicide, especially the suicide of teens, you can see that it can often be infectious.  You’d also know if you pay attention to pop culture that it’s being glamorized in shows like “13 Reasons”, which I find demonic.  This is EXACTLY the homily I’d want my surviving children to hear. First, they need to understand that suicide doesn’t make the pain stop. It results from the lack of belief and understanding that God can help us. Yes, there can be mitigating circumstances, BUT Fr. Martin goes down a dangerous road to suggest that one is off the hook from culpability because they are depressed, mentally ill, suffered some trauma, or really any other thing. We simply don’t know, and to say that is a fact is claiming to know the mind of God.  We have the Ten Commandments. We don’t have the Thousands of Mitigating Circumstances. We only know what we know, and we have to beg for God’s mercy on the rest. Fr. Martin’s comment just makes it all the easier to embrace suicide.

How do I know this? I’ve had friends who have been suicidal. THE ONE THING that kept them from going through with it, despite bi-polar disorder, depression, trauma, etc., was their desire to go to Heaven and not hell. If they had thought for a moment, “Oh, I’ve been through x,y,z in my life, God will forgive me”, they very likely would have gone through with it. Despite all their perceived insurmountable odds, they didn’t want to gamble away eternal life with God by killing themselves. They didn’t thwart all of their hope like Judas. How many times have theologians stated that the ultimate condemnation of Judas wasn’t from handing Jesus over, it was because he refused to believe he could be forgiven and saved? This knowledge helped them continue bearing their many crosses. Thankfully, some have gotten through their “dark night.” I wish Maison understood that. I’m just guessing he didn’t, because his parents don’t seem like they understood, either.

On most people’s mind, however, especially of us who call ourselves Christians, on our minds as we sit in this place is: Can God forgive and heal this? Yes, God CAN forgive even the taking of one’s own life. In fact, God awaits us with his mercy, with ever open arms. Sacred Scripture says clearly: God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God’s abiding mercy is what sets us to ask for it. Although God doesn’t dangle his mercy like a carrot, waiting for us to ask for it in order to receive it, we do have to believe in our hearts, express with our words, and show in our actions – that it is always there. God wants nothing but our salvation but he will never force himself on us, he will not save us without us. That’s how much he loves us. Because of the all-embracing sacrifice of Christ on the cross God can have mercy on any sin. Yes, because of his mercy, God can forgive suicide and heal what has been broken.

Again, if I were a parent at this funeral, this is EXACTLY what I’d want my kids to hear.  We need to avail ourselves of God’s mercy, and we need to pray for those who are having or who have had trouble doing so themselves. This is the Body of Christ, people! When people are weak and screw up even unto death, we pray for them and we learn from it.

Because God is merciful he makes allowance for the spiritual, mental, and emotional despair that leads to suicide. God is able to read the heart, to know the whole truth of a person’s life, and thereby to pass sentence with mercy. God knows something we must discipline ourselves to do in these moments – he knows not to judge a person’s entire life on the basis of the worst and last choice the person made. God can look at the totality of a human being’s life and celebrate all the good that came from it, even while taking seriously the tragic choice that ended everything. And then he shows his mercy and love in ways beyond our limited understanding.

FR. MARTIN! Why is it OK for you to say this but not Fr. LaCuesta??? This isn’t something new to priests who actually follow the teachings of the Church. Like I said, maybe you should check your tongue. The difference is Fr. LaCuesta tells us why we don’t give up hope and we don’t stop praying for young Maison. We must avail ourselves of God’s endless mercy, but Fr. Martin insinuates that all is good and that all we need to do is comfort those grieving. How does that motivate anyone to pray regularly for this boy? How does this keep anyone from thinking of doing the same thing?

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, the great St. Paul assures us (in that Reading we just listened to). Nothing – including suicide.

Who will bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? St. Paul asks. It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? Christ Jesus sits at the right hand of God even now, interceding for this one who could not stand before God on his/her own. Truly, none of us can stand before God on our own. We all need Christ to intercede for us, to plead our case. And here’s the good news: Christ has never lost a case!

What will separate us from the love of Christ? St. Paul answers that question with a display of words that cover everything he can think of in so little space. Not death or life, not angels or principalities, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth or any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What did St. Paul leave out of that list? Nothing. He did not list suicide, but he did not list murder or gossip or greed either. He covered all of those things in the final flurry of words that includes anything else in all creation. No deed is too evil to be beyond the forgiveness of Christ. No tragedy is too great to separate us from the love of God.

So Maison is not out of God’s saving grace. What parent could have a problem with this message? It’s quite clear that Mr. and Mrs. Hullibarger have been taught so little about the Faith that they didn’t understand what a funeral is for. In fact, the Hillibargers didn’t even tell Fr. LaCuesta that Maison had committed suicide! Again, I don’t blame them, but to tear down Fr. LaCuesta isn’t right. He’s clearly the one who is putting the spiritual health and well-being of Maison’s friends and family first. This isn’t done by simply going over all the highs in Maison’s life. This is about getting people to pray for his eternal soul, to keep further people from following down his path of despair (maybe his family and friends), and to get people to avail themselves of God’s mercy.

If that is so, if the Scriptures can be believed, if God can be trusted even in this, then it gives us hope and guidance for how to manage our sorrow and anger and loss. We give it all to God. We hope…we can only hope. We do not carry it ourselves. We try to give thanks for the blessings of life we knew and shared with [REDACTED], with this child of God. And we remind ourselves that he is not lost to God who seeks to save all of his children.

And we see the good father offers more words of wisdom and comfort.

And so, we take great comfort and consolation in all this. Nothing-not even suicide-can separate us from the unconditional love of God. It is to this all- merciful love that we, through our prayers, entrust and continue to entrust the soul of [REDACTED]. Let us not deny him now of the help he needs most-our love expressed through our trusting prayers.

My dear friends, today, and in the difficult days to come, when darkness threatens to envelop and darken our hearts, let us raise high the bright light of our Redeemer and proclaim his saving mercy: Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever!

And more words of hope!

So, again, I ask Fr. Martin where this priest went wrong? This homily is precisely what it should be. I know priests who have given just about the exact same homily in the same circumstances! Parishioners should be lucky to have this priest do their funerals. People might actually avail themselves of God’s mercy! Sad the diocese pulled him from funeral services simply because of years of poor catechesis, and let’s just ignore people like me who would want a similar homily, too, since I’m quite convinced I’m not going straight to Heaven if I make it at all. I want lots of prayers. Sounds like the diocese goes along with this Fr. Martin comment:

“The purpose of the homily in the funeral rite is to speak about not only the person’s life but the resurrection and the promise of new life of that person,” he said. “It’s to offer consolation and hope to the family of the deceased.”

Actually, Fr. Martin, wrong! The entire funeral is to intercede for the dead (no matter how they died) as the Body of Christ and to comfort the grieving. Homilies are always supposed to be used to catechize and, in case of funerals, to teach people that as the Body of Christ we believe in hope and redemption and we can pray for this as the Body of Christ. What in the world could offer more comfort that??? Heaven is not promised to us unconditionally, and Fr. Martin acting as if this is so doesn’t help us to avail ourselves of God’s mercy. To do this, we need to understand that we NEED God’s mercy.

One last thing I’d like to touch on again is Fr. Martin and friends’ attempts to get the faithful to rely on mitigating circumstances in all facets of sin, not just suicide. It’s a toe–the-line way of living out the Faith and it’s incredibly dangerous to souls. We’re supposed to stay as far away from the line of sin as possible, yet Fr. Martin encourages people to dangle their toes over the line and, if they should lose their balance and cross it, well, mitigating circumstances, you know. It’s terrifying to see people encouraged to live the Faith this way.

Please join me in praying for young Maison’s soul and for the comfort and hope of his family and friends as well as the rest of the Body of Christ. And, if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please read Fr. LaCuesta’s homily and contact your local priest or National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  





19 thoughts on “The Mitigating Circumstances Gamble

  1. As a grandmother who recently experienced the suicide of my 18-year-old beloved grandson, Brendan, I agree with everything you’ve written. I just wrote my annual Christmas letter begging for prayers for our darling boy. I am confident in God’s mercy, but the pain of loss is overwhelming, especially realizing how desperate and unhappy Brendan must have been. And you are right about the diabolical 13 Reasons Why. Brendan’s parents discovered after his suicide that he binge-watched the show in the weeks before he took his life. The culture of death targets the lambs: the babies in the womb waiting to be born, our teens on the cusp of adulthood, little ones exposed to gender insanity from the playpen. How much we need to pray and bring our little ones to Jesus. The need to be anchored to the rock in the flood of evil of our time.

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  2. Clearly the parents are in a state of grieving and the stage that is the most obvious is anger. I’m so sorry for their loss. The priest spoke truth. Unfortunately when I heard the mom speak I felt as though she was unchurched and living in a clueless situation regarding salvation, the love of God and what all that means. I’m sorry for them,truly sorry . I only hope they come back to church and come to know the faith and all it’s beauty. May her son Rest In Peace

    Sent from my iPhone


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  3. First of all, it’s “died by suicide”. We don’t say that people committed death by overeating causing heart disease, diabetes, etc. Many of the choices that we make lead to our lives being ended early. Drinking, drug use, not exercising, etc. Does this mean that those people should be shamed for having diseases that they could have prevented. Fortunately, there is no stigma about getting treatment for those diseases. There remains a huge stigma around mental health disease and it’s articles and beliefs like these that propagate the stigma. Over 90% of those that die by suicide have a mental health disease. MOST DON’T ASK FOR HELP BECAUSE OF BELIEFS LIKE THESE. I read the priest’s homily. His thinking is harmful and old fashioned just as much of the church’s thinking has not changed over time. No one wants to die. They want the pain to end.


    1. Nobody “shamed” Maison. You’re buying the media line. There’s no point where the priest seeks anything but the Body of Christ to rise up and pray for him and Fr. LaCuesta gives us hope that it isn’t for nothing. I totally agree with you that the suicidal want the pain to end. In fact, I said that’s what they are seeking but ending a life doesn’t fix the pain. Only God can do that and if we don’t start saying that suicide isn’t a good thing for anyone, it’s going to keep happening at a greater rate because people aren’t given hope.

      What Fr. LaCuesta didn’t do was to put a happy face on this tragedy by ignoring it was even suicide to begin with. I would think you would agree that you can’t fix a problem if you don’t admit there is one in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. For.many yrs. suicides did NOT get any. R. C. funerals at all… Priests WAS correct Suicide is sinful and All souls at death are in the hands of God..


    3. Unfortunately for those who end their lives believing they will end their suffering the law and justice of God still stands. The suffering endured in life will be as nothing compared with the eternal suffering awaiting those who kill themselves. The primary mitigating factor is not one of psychology or physiology. It is ignorance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel sorry for you if you truly believe that, and certainly sorry for anyone you know who dies by suicide. I hope you don’t share your belief with their family members. Depression kills, just as does heart disease and cancer, just in a different way.


        1. Read comments here, twitter and facebook. Many have list people to suicide and are comforted by homilies like Fr. LaCuesta’s. For some reason you seem to think ignoring God’s mercy, the Body of Christ and the reality of suicide is the way to go. We do not.

          Sent from my iPhone



          1. I just don’t believe that they won’t be accepted by God in heaven. Many are not comforted and are hurt and shamed. Stigma. You should be working to stop it, not promote it.


          2. Well that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? We’re Catholics. We believe what the Church teaches and that is that a good majority of us are going to purgatory and, as members of the Body of Christ, we do our part to make sure the stay is as short as possible. I get that you don’t believe that but, what’s the saying, facts don’t care about your feelings. And, here’s the thing, nobody is forced to be Catholic but you can’t expect the Church to change truth for you. And the best part? God is indeed merciful if we avail ourselves of His mercy!


    4. Science cannot change God’s law. Our Lord through His Church had taught that suicide is a mortal sin. The 9nly way to have your mortal sins forgiven is by a Catholic priest.


  4. When the priests and sisters do not teach and the laity do not know, things like this hap[pen. It happened to a priest in the Washington DC diocese that refused to give Holy Communion to a lesbian Buddhist at a funeral. He was promptly sent back to Russia. It happened to a teaching nun in Charlotte NC when she gave a lecture at a so-called Catholic HS. She was banned from further lectures and ordered to go on sabbatical by her order. Anywhere, anytime heterodoxy clashes with the true Faith, it seems that the true Faith loses. Those that teach and practice the true Faith are silenced while those that engage in grave sinful acts are transferred from one parish to another. What is happening to our Church? It is truly evil IMO. .

    Liked by 4 people

  5. “Facts don’t care about your feelings”. You are not talking about facts, you are talking about beliefs. There is no way to establish your belief as fact.


    1. You are using the secular term of doctrine which is that it’s simply a belief. That is not the Catholic understanding. So, yeah, it is a fact. Now, can people reject fact? Sure, they do it ALL THE TIME. The perfect example is secular gender theory.

      Doctrine is revealed truth. And then there’s the 2,000+ years of writings of Church Fathers, testimonies of saints, etc. that simply back it up. But, hey, we’ll just forget about those because you say so. LOL! Now, can you question someone’s vision of a person in purgatory? Sure. It’s private revelation. You cannot, however, question the doctrine. Well, one can but then one would probably be stupid.

      So,yes, purgatory in fact exists. You can continue to question it but then you are taking a HUGE gamble. Regardless, this is what the Catholic Church teaches and what the Catholic Church must uphold and it would be most uncharitable to leave someone in purgatory a second longer than necessary to make the living feel better. And, as I’ve said, if people don’t want to live by the teachings of the Church, they totally and completely have options. One of them, however, is not to take a priest to task for helping people get to heaven quicker or at all.

      One thing people never take into account is that our prayer this second could have influenced the final state of Maison’s soul when he died because God is not on our timeline. He sees all time at the same time but if you can’t grasp doctrine, that is probably a bit harder to grasp.


    2. Why bring up the Doubting Thomas argument? As most if not all Catholics would never question the burial or cremation of a secular humanist, why would someone outside the Church feel compelled to argue a non-Catholic notion re Catholic practices or lack thereof on a Catholic site? Doesn’t sound like you are teaching acceptance. Sounds more like intolerance of different beliefs that cause you no harm….


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