Family Suing Over Hell Prediction at Funeral
Email this story Jul 17, 8:40 am ET By Zelie Pollon
SANTA FE, N.M (Reuters) - A New Mexico family is suing their local Catholic church over a funeral Mass in which they claim a priest said their relative was only a middling Catholic and going straight to hell.
Lawyers for the family of Ben Martinez said on Tuesday they had filed a lawsuit in June against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe and one of its priests.
Court papers filed last month say that Rev. Scott Mansfield said at Martinez's funeral last year that the deceased was "living in sin," "lukewarm in his faith" and that "the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell."
Martinez, 80, died June 17, 2002. Roughly 200 people attended the funeral at St. Patrick's Parish in Chama, New Mexico, a small town north of Santa Fe. Family members say he was a practicing Catholic all his life, but was too ill to attend church in the last year of his life.
Nine members of the Martinez family are seeking punitive and compensatory damages for severe emotional and physical suffering. Lawyers did not say how much the family was seeking in damages.
One of the plaintiffs said the townspeople "are staring at her, thinking her father is in hell," their lawyers said.
The complaint also said that as Mansfield walked to the grave, he laced his comments about Martinez -- a former town councilman -- with profanities.
"These people are profoundly hurt," said attorney Kathleen Kentish-Lucero, representing the Martinez family. "If you are Catholic and a representative of your church says your father is going to hell, that's perhaps the most devastating thing someone can say to you."
But church officials deny the family's claims.
"We deny the allegations and Father Mansfield denies the plaintiff's allegations," said Celine Baca Radigan, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
Radigan said that Mansfield has been moved to a parish outside of Albuquerque on a routine transfer.