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Dupont: I was ‘absolutely’ unaware Seattle man was planning suicide

A priest who was photographed blessing a man who planned to commit suicide said Friday that he was unaware of the man’s intentions.

St. Therese Catholic Parish, in Seattle, Washington. (Image: Archdiocese of Seattle)

Seattle, Wash., Aug 30, 2019 / 11:44 am (CNA).- A priest who was photographed blessing a man who planned to commit suicide said Friday that he was unaware of the man’s intentions, and that if he had known what the man was planning, he would have acted differently.

“I believe that life is a gift. I believe that it is a gift from God and an opportunity every day to learn from God and love as God is trying to teach us to love though scriptures and the examples of Christ and the saints. 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. Quentin Dupont, SJ, told America magazine Aug. 30.

Dupont is a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, and periodically celebrates weekend Masses at St. Therese Parish in Seattle.

A photograph of the priest was part of an Aug. 26 Associated Press story profiling Robert Fuller, a St. Therese parishioner who committed medically assisted suicide May 10.

On May 5, Dupont, along with the parish community, blessed Fuller at a Mass he had announced as his last.

Dupont told America that when he conferred the blessing,  “I was absolutely, unequivocally unaware of Mr. Fuller’s intention [to kill himself]. I’m not part of the conversations that happen in [the St. Therese] community all the time. I was given very limited information, and I had very limited knowledge about Mr. Fuller’s situation.”

“I did what I thought was pastorally expedient with the knowledge that I had. And it turns out I did not have key pieces of the story, otherwise I would have reacted completely differently.”

Members of the St Therese parish community were aware of Fuller’s plans at the May 5. He had by then announced that his funeral would be held at the parish May 17 and arranged for a parish choir to perform at the “end-of-life” party he threw in the hours before his suicide.

Dupont, however, told America that he was not told of those plans when he arrived at the parish May 5.

“I arrived at church and I saw a parishioner there and I asked how he was doing. He said, ‘Well, this is Bob Fuller’s last Mass,’ and I was puzzled and so I asked him what he meant. He said, ‘Well, Bob is going to die.’ I didn’t know much about Mr. Fuller. I knew he was very ill and I thought that meant that his treatment had run out, that he was getting off treatment and that Mr. Fuller knew he had days to live. And I continued my way to the sacristy and I met another couple of parishioners who said likewise, that this was Bob’s last Mass. Through those conversations, I became aware that this man that I knew was very ill would like a blessing.”

“So we talked about doing a blessing at the end of Mass. We had Mass and at the end of Mass we blessed him.”

“I thought the pastoral situation I was walking into was with this very ill man who knows he’s about to die. I wanted to make sure he felt cared for by the church.”

Dupont said that he knew a television camera was at the May 5 Mass “because Bob was there. I didn’t probe what story they were writing. I thought they were making a story about this man who was facing great health difficulties and who had a life of faith, which I assumed was an interesting story to tell in a day and age which is heavily secularized.”

“There was a photographer there. I do not at all remember being introduced to this photographer as a member of the press. I was never asked for an official release about images that would be taken of me or photos that would be taken of me. I thought that this photographer was there because this was [Mr. Fuller’s] last Mass and he wanted a memento, a memory, of this Mass, this community, this time, when later he would be gravely ill in bed and he wanted to feel the strength and the love of the community with him. And I thought this was a professional photographer that he had hired to take some pictures to have them as memories and souvenirs for himself,” he said.

The priest said that a parishioner told him about Fuller’s suicide plans shortly after the Mass, at the parish social hour.

“I had absolutely no idea what his intentions were before that. 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,” the priest told America.

Dupont addressed a March 16 post in which Fuller claimed that he had the approval of a priest to end his own life.

“I have absolutely no reservations about what I am doing,” Fuller wrote in that post. “And my pastor/sponsor has given me his blessings. And he’s a Jesuit!!!”

Dupont said that he was “absolutely not” the Jesuit priest Fuller referenced, and that he did not know who the priest might be. Neither the Archdiocese of Seattle nor the West Province of the Society of Jesus have indicated what priest Fuller might have been referencing, or if the matter is under investigation.

Nor has the archdiocese addressed questions related to the parish choir’s performance at the party Fuller hosted leading up to his suicide.

The archdiocese has addressed Fuller’s funeral, which he scheduled with the parish prior to his suicide.

In its Aug. 28 statement, the archdiocese said that when Fuller discussed his desire for a funeral with his pastor, Fr. Maurice Mamba, the priest 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.”

After it was clear Fuller would continue with his plans, Mamba contacted Archbishop Sartain, who agreed that “it is the church’s responsibility to pastorally care for those who mourn. With this in mind, the archbishop 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 archdiocese said.

Fuller announced the arrangements for his own funeral one week before he died, and days before the parish blessing. He scheduled the funeral for May 17. The archdiocese did not indicate when Sartain granted permission for the funeral, or when Mamba requested it.

For his part, Dupont said that he feels “shocked” by the attention the story has received.

“I feel absolutely terrible about the confusion that has arisen out of this story,” the priest told America.

“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.”


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5 Comments

  1. “ ‘I believe that life is a gift. I believe that it is a gift from God and an opportunity every day to learn from God and love as God is trying to teach us to love though scriptures and the examples of Christ and the saints. 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. Quentin Dupont, SJ, told America magazine Aug. 30″

    Yes it’s understood that he feels “terrible.” Ok, it wasn’t him (Dupont). He wasn’t the Jesuit. We will accept the “last Mass” narrative minus any other details. But why isn’t he outraged that he was NOT fully informed of Fuller’s intentions? He feels “terrible” about insinuations regarding what others have said about him (surprised/offended by that?) but not that he was…mislead? He wasn’t mislead? Parishioners just left out a huge BTW before the blessing? Does Dupont feel terrible that a grave moral evil was “accompanied” by so many in the parish? He doesn’t feel “terrible” about some of the people in that parish? The Gospel Choir…was it from the parish? That the Archbishop created not simply “confusion” but who in being “clear” by approving a canonically challengeable funeral created a morally dangerous precedent? And if the funeral was approved before Fuller took his own life…

    No one in this equation/pastoral chain (it seems?) can come out directly (or came out directly?) and can say besides “the gift of life” argument which Fuller also celebrated on the day he took his own life…no one says with true clarity that taking your own life in such a manner is gravely evil, a mortal sin, where one objectively risks eternal loss…even after the fact? And that being complicit in such an act is also morally grave? It just gets lumped under “Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life?”

    “I had absolutely no idea what his intentions were before that. 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,” the priest told America

    “For his part, Dupont said that he feels ‘shocked’ by the attention the story has received.”

    Yes…why so much attention?

    Puzzled? Like a “puzzle” in ancient philosophy (ex. Aristotle)? No need to question those involved? Just “remain puzzled?”

    For me it’s more like feeling outraged and a sense of profound sadness I feel for Fuller whose biography I reviewed…

    This was Fuller’s “last Mass” but this won’t be the last time this happens…sadly…with another parish and another Bishop or Archbishop who “accompanies.”

    Is it OK if I do not feel “puzzled” when this happens the next time?

    Dupont’s narrative begins and ends with his being “puzzled” both before he knew of Fuller’s intentions and after Fuller’s suicide.

    “The priest said that a parishioner told him about Fuller’s suicide plans shortly after the Mass, at the parish social hour” That was the day of the blessing? May 5? Five days before Fuller ended his life…was Fuller still at that parish social when Dupont became aware? No one knew where Fuller would be the last five days of his life (after he indicated he would end his life)..no one could speak to him again?

    Did Dupont who had been “puzzled” into a blessing without knowing Fuller’s intentions (at the moment of that blessing) have any moral obligation to speak with Fuller after he DID become aware of Fuller’s intentions (or reach out to others)…even for selfish motives considering what would likely be “insinuated” about him (and his photographed, public “memento” blessing)…what would later not make him feel just “shocked” and “puzzled” but also terrible?”

  2. The Archdiocese admits that it approved the Catholic funeral before Fuller’s death for pastoral reasons for the mourners. While this rationale might be believable after Fuller’s death, this is pastoral incompetence if the okay was given before his death. Therefore, I think that the Archdioceses and the pastor are accomplices in this man’s death.

  3. I believe him and I thinking people should definitely give him the benefit of the doubt. It would not surprise me at all of the matter was thoroughly investigated the parishioners who organised the blessings on behalf of the ill man used deception & did not fully inform the priest of the Dying man’s intentions. If anyone thinks this is not plausible than they have not been involved or seen first hand social justice catholic activists & their driven need to push their agendas inside a parish.

  4. In my own response here regarding Fr. Dupont…I stated ok, he did not know before the blessing. He still did NOTHING? after finding out at the parish social.

    Fr. Dupont’s statements do indeed lean towards overelaboration…starting with the account of how he “continued my way to the sacristy and I met another couple of parishioners who said likewise, that this was Bob’s last Mass. Through those conversations, I became aware that this man that I knew was very ill would like a blessing.” He then provides an interpretation of the video-taping/photography at a “last mass” towards “mementos, souvenirs”…there was also a television crew and it is here that Dupont’s conclusion seems like…nonsense:

    “Dupont said that he knew a television camera was at the May 5 Mass ‘because Bob was there. I didn’t probe what story they were writing. I thought they were making a story about this man who was facing great health difficulties and who had a life of faith, which I assumed was an interesting story to tell in a day and age which is heavily secularized.'”

    So here is a man at his “last Mass” who on one hand is near death yet somewhat generically is “facing great health difficulties.” How plausible is a story regarding his faith in secular age? How newsworthy would such a story be? Yes, Dupont quite knowledgeable about Economics BTW… Dupont “knows” the television camera is there “because Bob is there” but he knows so little about Bob Fuller>
    ? except there’s this story about faith in a secular age and Fuller is dying? As a Jesuit on the cutting edge he anticipates such stories in the media…????

    Why not just say “I didn’t know before the blessing.” The emphasis of “absolutely, unequivocally” adds nothing…and raises eyebrows.

    But the point is this, I have no need to further assess the “puzzled” Dupont (and may I say congrats on acquiring the sort of nebulous aloof emotionally disjointed responses we have come to expect from so many of the clergy…and not many years after ordination!!!)

    Ultimately this comes back to the Archbishop and a parish where so many have the ministry of theologian/spiritual director…those who “accompanied” Fuller who stated on his Facebook page something like “Uncle Bob is in charge.”

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