We all want to hear truth from the pulpit, right? Well, maybe not so much at a funeral--at least not so bluntly and directly.
In 2003, the family of Mr. Ben Martinez filed suit against a New Mexico priest and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, claiming that remarks made about the deceased at his funeral were hurtful and defamatory.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family of Ben Martinez, charged that at the funeral for Mr. Martinez, the parish priest declared that the deceased, an 80-year-old former town councilor in Chama, N.M., had been a lukewarm Catholic who had been living in sin and was going to hell.
Besides accusing the priest of other abusive statements and demeaning behavior, the suit detailed psychological pain, physical afflictions, anxiety, depression and humiliation allegedly suffered by Mr. Martinez's family in the months after the funeral.
The archdiocese rebuffed the claims, saying that it was the priest's First Amendment right to speak his piece.
Of course, the time when the priest's concerns might have done some good would have been while Mr. Martinez was still alive. A funeral is the time to speak to the family and what the family needed was comfort, not shame. We all long for truth from the pulpit, but truth does not trump love. The two must be mutually inclusive. For truth to ring true, it must be spoken in a timely way and always in love!
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).