UPDATED: Seattle bishops double-down that priest ‘did not know’ he was blessing man about to kill himself
August 29, 2019, 3:55 PM EST update: This story has been updated to reflect correspondence LifeSiteNews received overnight on the situation.
SEATTLE, Washington, August 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Archdiocese of Seattle has released a second, clearer, statement (read first statement here) denying that a priest photographed blessing a cancer sufferer knew that man planned to end his life. The statement comes in the wake of pundits on social media casting doubts on the Archdiocese's denial that the Catholic priest who led a blessing over a cancer patient knew of his suicide plans.
Robert Fuller, an active member of St. Therese Catholic Church in Seattle, self-administered a poisonous cocktail of drugs on May 10, 2019 after a day-long celebration that began with Fuller’s legal “marriage” to his same-sex partner.
On May 5, 2019 he had presented himself at Sunday Mass, where he received Holy Communion and a special blessing from guest priest Fr. Quentin Dupont, S.J.
When the Associated Press (AP) belatedly broke the story on Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Seattle released an awkwardly worded statement denying that “parish leaders” knew before the blessing what Fuller had planned.
LifeSiteNews has obtained a second statement from the Archdiocese clarifying that neither Dupont nor the parish pastor knew Fuller’s “intentions” when he presented himself for a blessing.
“The Associated Press news story naturally leads the reader to assume certain things about the priest and his intentions,” the statement reads.
“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,” it continued.
“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.”
A member of the St. Therese Catholic Church community told LifeSiteNews that Dupont did not know Fuller personally and that he was certain the Jesuit priest was unaware of the details of Fuller’s circumstances.
He concurred that Dupont was only a guest priest and added that giving “blessings for healing” during Mass happens nearly every week at St. Therese.
The source added that on May 5, five people, including Fuller, had requested prayers for healing.
Yesterday the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that Fuller had said in a Facebook post he published on March 16 that he had completed the necessary legal steps to get medical assistance for his suicide and that he had his Jesuit pastor’s “blessing.”
“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!!!”
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Seattle told LifeSiteNews that Seattle has a large Jesuit community and the Archdiocese does not “conclusively know” to which Jesuit “pastor” Fuller was referring.
A source at St. Therese told LifeSiteNews that Fuller knew many priests, thanks to his years of working in Catholic hospitals and through social service work at the Jesuit-founded Seattle University. There are about 27 Jesuits associated with the institution.
Fuller wrote on his Facebook page that he had studied “philosophical theology” at Seattle U.
In May, Fuller publicized the Catholic funeral he planned to have at St Therese and invited people to join him at his “final mass”.
“One week left. 7 days,” he posted to Facebook.
“It’s getting near. And yes, I’m totally at peace with that. My life feels complete. I’m finished for now on this plane. I’m ready to be escorted into the ‘spirit world’ next Friday. I’m ready to shed my mortal coils and be enveloped in total love and healing,” he continued.
Fuller wrote that his “faith family at St Therese” had “renewed his faith” and that his “kharmic [sic] scales” were balanced.
“Meanwhile I now have in my possession the medication I will need for a true Death with Dignity,” he continued.
“And I will sleep tonight in a fine hospital bed that was delivered earlier. This Sunday I’ll attend my final mass at St. Therese up in Madrona. I seriously invite you to come. And to come to my Life Celebration party on the 10th. And lastly to my funeral mass on Friday the 17th. I’m assured my spirit will be there. Listen for my awesome baritone voice.”
The Archdiocese of Seattle said that the pastor of St. Therese Catholic Church found out about Fuller’s intention to end his life only when Fuller approached him about the funeral. It stated that the pastor tried to change his mind.
“Mr. Fuller eventually approached the pastor to ask to plan his own funeral,” it reads.
“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.”
The statement goes on to say that Archbishop Sartain 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. “
While the 1917 Code of Canon Law deprived Church funeral rites to those who deliberately kill themselves, the 1983 Code does not, stating that "manifest sinners" are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals.
Fuller, a right-to-die advocate who was determined to die publicly so as to be an example to others, invited reporters and photographers to this Mass, his final party, and his death.
Elaine Thompson of the AP snapped a photograph of Dupont leading adult parishioners and a group of children dressed in First Communion finery praying over the longtime euthanasia advocate.
According to Gene Johnson, also of the AP, Fuller’s religious beliefs were not Catholic. For one thing, he believed himself to be a “shaman.” However, he was “beloved” at St. Therese Parish, and his decision to end his life was “widely known and accepted by among the parishioners.”
In his article, Johnson contrasted the Catholic Church’s opposition to euthanasia with the parishioners’ knowledge and the blessing service: “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.”
LifeSite’s source at St Therese concedes that Fuller’s plan was known to his friends in the parish but not necessarily “accepted.” He also underscored that Fuller’s same-sex “marriage” plans were a “complete secret”, including from many of those who came to his suicide party.
In the AP article, it was revealed that Fuller had been interested in suicide since his grandmother took her own life and that his first suicide attempt was in 1975, after his wife left him. Fuller had told her he was a homosexual. Fuller then lived as a sexually active "gay" man and by 1985 had contracted HIV. A trained nurse, he took care of friends who were dying of AIDS and gave one of these friends a fatal drug overdose.
Catholic commentator Patrick Coffin was incensed by the AP story, which appeared across the USA on August 26.
“How much darkness can be crammed into one story?” he tweeted.
“Seattle Jesuit Quentin Dupont, SJ, gathers first Holy Communion children to bless a self-described homosexual shaman who intended to kill himself. And did. Archbishop Sartain?”
LifeSiteNews reached out to Fr. Dupont, the American Jesuits’ West Province, and the pastor of St. Therese Catholic Church but has not yet received a response.