Earlier this week, the Associated Press chronicled the assisted suicide of Robert Fuller, a Seattle cancer sufferer who choreographed his demise. From the AP’s report:
The day he picked to die, Robert Fuller had the party of a lifetime.
In the morning, he dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt and married his [male] partner while sitting on a couch in their senior housing apartment. He then took the elevator down three floors to the building’s common room, decorated with balloons and flowers.
With an elaborately carved walking stick, he shuffled around to greet dozens of well-wishers and friends from across the decades, fellow church parishioners and social-work volunteers. The crowd spilled into a sunny courtyard on a beautiful spring day.
A gospel choir sang. A violinist and soprano performed “Ave Maria.” A Seattle poet recited an original piece imagining Fuller as a tree, with birds perched on his thoughts.
Shortly thereafter, he injected a suicide potion laced with Kahlua, his favorite drink, into his feeding tube, and that was the end of him. This was legal under the state’s “Death With Dignity” law.
This part of the story has proved controversial:
Fuller began returning more often to the Catholic church he had long attended. His spiritual views were hardly orthodox — he considered himself a shaman, and described his impending death as a state of “perpetual meditation” — but Seattle’s St. Therese Parish was known for accommodating a range of beliefs. Fuller was beloved there, and he craved the community. He had sung in the gospel choir and read scriptures from the lectern during services, sometimes delivering insightful or funny remarks off the cuff, said Kent Stevenson, the choir’s director.
… The Roman Catholic Church opposes aid-in-dying laws, citing the sanctity of life. But Fuller’s decision was widely known and accepted among the parishioners. At the service where he received his last communion on May 5, the Rev. Quentin Dupont brought over a group of white-clad children who were receiving their first communion.
They raised their arms and blessed him.
If you read the whole thing, you can see a photo of the priest, Jesuit Father Dupont, and all the first communion children surrounding and blessing the man who intended to commit suicide days later.
How on earth does a Catholic priest and parish — even a parish like St. Therese’s, with a reputation as very progressive — bless and further participate in what the Catholic Church teaches is an abomination: suicide?
After the AP story appeared, the Archdiocese of Seattle released a statement saying that the parish’s leadership had not known at the time of Father Dupont’s public blessing that Fuller was planning to kill himself.
I know this is going to come as a shock to you, but — surprise! — the Archdiocese is not telling the truth. Whether they unwittingly repeated a lie told to them by the Jesuit and others in the parish, or were consciously participating in that lie to cover up the parish’s collaboration in a suicide, is not yet known.
Why do I say that? Christine Rousselle of Catholic News Agency reports that Fuller’s Facebook feed contradicts the Archdiocese. Excerpt:
Social media posts made by Robert Fuller, the man whose assisted suicide was profiled Aug. 26 by the Associated Press, suggest that he scheduled his funeral with his parish days before his suicide, and that a priest had “given his blessings” to the suicide plan.
In a March 16 Facebook post, Fuller claimed that he had completed the legal steps required to receive a prescription of life-ending drugs, and that he had the approval of a priest to end his own life.
“I have absolutely no reservations about what I am doing,” he wrote. “And my pastor/sponsor has given me his blessings. And he’s a Jesuit!!!”
Fuller did not name the priest referenced in the post, and the pastor of St. Therese parish, Fr. Maurice Mamba, is not a Jesuit. Several Jesuits assist with Sunday Masses at the parish. Examination of past parish bulletins show that only one, Fr. Quentin Dupont, SJ, regularly celebrated the Sunday Mass that Fuller normally attended.
That’s what you call diligent reporting. More:
Other posts on Fuller’s Facebook page recount that he met with parish staff as he planned the final days of his life, including a party held in the hours before his suicide on May 10, and his own funeral.
On May 4, Fuller posted details of his upcoming funeral, which he had arranged to be held in the parish on May 17. The May 19 parish bulletin from St. Therese included a notice of Fuller’s death, and confirmed that his funeral was held at the church on May 17.
In the same post, Fuller wrote that he had one week left to live. He thanked his “faith family” at St. Therese, and invited people to join him at Mass the next day and at his “end of life celebration party” on May 10 – the day he died.
A choir from the parish was the one cited in the AP story as serenading Fuller as he prepared to inject himself with poisoned Kahlua.
From the journalist Rousselle’s Twitter feed, this screenshot of Fuller’s Facebook page:
Some screenshots for your viewing pleasure. (Yes, I needed to charge my phone last night.) pic.twitter.com/Ap6MjY5J9X
— Christine Rousselle ??♀️ (@crousselle) August 29, 2019
What a disgrace. Why is it so hard to tell the truth? Why is it so hard for Jesuits to be Catholic?
UPDATE: Red-headed Catholic Erin Manning brings the fire:
Predictably, some Catholics on the left are already using the “uncharitable” label to denigrate anybody who has a problem with this. There’s the usual tripe about how this has only garnered attention because Mr. Fuller was a partnered gay man, along with calls for kindness and understanding, etc. They miss the point, which is this: if a partnered gay self-identified pagan shaman can be an active parishioner, a regular communicant, and involved in ministry at an allegedly Catholic parish, and then make public plans to do himself in while throwing a party to celebrate that act, and NOBODY at the parish appeared to have the slightest problem with any of that, then that allegedly Catholic parish isn’t worth a hill of beans and ought to be evacuated, de-consecrated, and demolished, with the rubble burned and the ashes covered with blessed salt. It is not a sign of contradiction to the world; it’s a sign of capitulation run by a den of thieves or a pack of wolves, a danger to all the faithful and a scandal to all who see it.
UPDATE.2: A new statement by the Archdiocese of Seattle:
The Associated Press news story naturally leads the reader to assume certain things about the priest and his intentions. However, we are learning a very different reality was at work. We looked into this and can confirm that the priest who did the blessing did not know about Mr. Fuller’s intentions. The priest was a visiting priest who happened to be at St. Therese that particular Sunday when the pastor was celebrating Mass at his second parish. The blessing was done after Mass by the priest whose interest was to bring comfort to someone he learned was dying. The priest was not aware of any news photographer, although he was aware people were taking pictures.
While it is clear that some of Mr. Fuller’s friends at the parish knew of his intentions, the pastor at St. Therese initially did not. Mr. Fuller eventually approached the pastor to ask to plan his own funeral. The pastor discussed the gift of life and tried to convince him to change his mind. He made it clear that neither he nor the parish could support his plan to take his own life. Once it was clear that Mr. Fuller was not going to change his mind, the pastor reached out to his leadership to discuss the situation.
Archbishop Sartain agreed that it is the church’s responsibility to pastorally care for those who
mourn. With this in mind, he gave permission for the funeral with 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.