Parents Accuse Priest of Condemnation at Teen Suicide Victim’s Funeral

Parents of a teen suicide victim claimed the priest questioned whether their son would go to heaven; but the priest’s homily seems to suggest otherwise.

Imagine for a moment that your child were to take his or her own life. What’s the worst thing you can imagine happening at the teen suicide victim’s funeral?

One possibility that comes to mind is that the pastor or priest would preach that your child would be kept out of heaven.

That’s what parents of an 18-year-old who took his own life claim happened at their son’s funeral. They claimed that despite their request that the priest focus on their son’s life, not his death, he mentioned the suicide repeatedly.

“He was calling our son a sinner,” the child’s father told WDIV-TV. “He wondered if there was enough repentance on our son’s part so that he would make it into heaven.”

I remember hearing a pastor — I wish I could remember who it was — who talked about being confronted after a funeral. That funeral was also for a teen suicide victim. The parents and immediate family, of course, were deep in grief. He tried to preach a positive message of redemption and hope. But an angry couple approached him after the service (and hopefully out of the earshot of the teen’s loved ones). They were angry that he didn’t preach that, because of the suicide, the teen must now be burning in eternal damnation.

The pastor remembered being dumbfounded by the confrontation. If I remember the story correctly, he asked the couple how they’d feel if it had been their child and he preached that kind of message to them.

I don’t know anyone who’d want to hear such a story.

When the parents complained, the church, to its credit, took action.

The Archdiocese of Detroit apologized, saying it understands the family’s concerns and promised the priest would not preach at funerals for the foreseeable future. He would also undergo training on how to become a “more effective minister.”

It’s nice to see the church would respond to such a situation.

But did the priest really say what’s accused of saying?

A copy of the priest’s homily has turned up, and what it says tells a different story than what the parents described.

The priest, according to the text of the homily, raised an often-heard message about calling a sin a sin:

“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.”

He used the word suicide six times in that text.

But according to the papers obtained by CNN, he said this:

“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. Yes, because of his mercy, God can forgive suicide and heal what has been broken.”

This I definitely agree with.

Those who are on the side of eternal damnation, I’m afraid, seem to elevate the Bible to a state of being more powerful than God.

No matter what God’s Word says, I think God has to be more powerful than that text. If the Bible tells us something is wrong, God still has the choice to make the final judgment.

And once someone has passed away, that person is in God’s hands, not ours. We have no say in whether that person makes it to Heaven or Hell.

It’s not any of our business. It’s God’s.

A funeral, lest we forget, is for the family of the dear departed. I hope every clergyman who preaches at a funeral always remembers that.

And if this priest followed the text, he might just be deserving of an apology.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.