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.
Fr. Quentin Dupont, SJ, 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.
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.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.