The Archdiocese of Seattle recently came under fire after the Associated Press featured a Catholic elderly gay man’s assisted suicide story.
The story depicted a priest at St. Therese Parish in Seattle blessing parishioner Robert Fuller a few days before his planned death. Fuller suffered from cancer and HIV.
According to the AP story, Fuller’s suicide plans were “widely known and accepted among the parishioners.” The story also insinuates that Jesuit priest Rev. Quentin Dupont approves, given the blessing featured in the article.
The Archdiocese issued an initial statement on Aug. 27 addressing the Archbishops’ “great concern” regarding the matter, because it could “cause confusion among Catholics and others who share our reverence for human life.”
They explained the Church’s teaching on assisted suicide:
“Catholics believe that all life is a gift from God. Every person has inherent and inalienable dignity because we are made in God’s image and likeness.
“This is why we protect and promote the sanctity of life in all of its stages. Based on this teaching and concern for human life and the common good, the Catholic Church does not support suicide in any form, including medically assisted suicide.”
The Archdiocese of Seattle then released an updated statement on Aug. 28 regarding the incident, saying they “can
confirm that the priest who did the blessing did not know about Mr. Fuller’s intentions.”
The statement adds that Rev. Dupont was a “visiting priest who happened to be at St. Therese that particular Sunday.” The statement said he blessed Fuller after the May 5 Mass “to bring comfort to someone he learned was dying.” The bishops said the priest did not know news photographers were present.
The statement also says that when St. Therese Parish pastor Rev. Maurice Mamba discovered Fuller’s plans, he tried convincing him otherwise, informing Fuller of the Church’s teachings regarding the sacredness of human life and God’s call “to respect and revere that gift as disciples of Jesus.”
The Archdiocese’s second statement reveals that Rev. Mamba “made it clear that neither he nor the parish could support his plan to take his own life.” Upon realizing he could not change Fuller’s mind, “the pastor reached out to his leadership to discuss the situation.”
Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain granted the pastor permission to hold Fuller’s funeral, stating that “it is the church’s responsibility to pastorally care for those who mourn.”
He provided “certain conditions to ensure there was no endorsement or other perceived support for the way in which Mr. Fuller ended his life. The purpose of the funeral was to pray for his soul and bring comfort and consolation to those who mourned.”
Catholic News Agency: “Facebook posts contradict Seattle archdiocese claims on parishioner’s planned suicide”
Seattle bishops claim Rev. Dupont had no knowledge of Fuller’s plans. However, Fuller’s Facebook page says a Jesuit pastor/sponsor gave him “his blessings.”
Fuller says in this March 16 Facebook post, “My death will be as natural as my birth was. I have absolutely no reservations about what I am doing. And my pastor/sponsor has given me his blessings. And he is a Jesuit!!!”
Here’s the screenshot below:
CNA reported that “several Jesuits assist with Sunday Masses at the parish.” However, Fuller did not mention the priest’s name in his post, and pastor Rev. Mamba is not a Jesuit.
In a recent Twitter post, CNA Editor-in-Chief JD Flynn said “between Advent Sunday 1 and May 5, Fr. Dupont celebrated the Mass 8 times” at St. Therese parish.
He added that “the pastor celebrated it 10 times. A different Jesuit celebrated it 2 times,” and “One other priest celebrated it 2 times, and still another celebrated it once.”
Catholic News Agency also stated that “the Aug. 28 archdiocesan statement did not address Fuller’s March 16 statement that he had met with a Jesuit priest to discuss his intentions, or questions related to the parish choir’s performance at his ‘end of life’ party.
In an Aug. 30 America Magazine article, Fr. Dupont said he was completely “unaware” of Fuller’s suicide plans. He said he would have handled the situation differently had he known.
“I feel terrible that there is an insinuation that I, or a member of the clergy or religious order or this archdiocese, would think otherwise or would make a public statement otherwise,” Fr. Dupont said.
“I had absolutely no idea what his intentions were before [the blessing]. The moment I learned about his intentions, I was completely stunned. I was shocked; and I was just really really puzzled. I remain very puzzled.”
“I feel absolutely terrible about the confusion that has arisen out of this story,” Fr. Dupont added. “The last thing I want to do is be part of a confusion, and I certainly have no desire to question the church’s teaching on the sanctity of life.”