But as his family, friends, and all those he helped gather for his funeral Friday morning, they can find some comfort in the church's relatively new teachings on suicide.
Years ago, those Catholics who took their own lives couldn't have a funeral or be buried in sacred ground at a Catholic cemetery. But Father Martin Moleski, a professor of Religious Studies at Canisius College, says those teachings have evolved, as has the understanding of the frailty of the human mind.
"That judgement of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell is reserved to God alone," says Fr. Moleski. "The church has changed it's discipline without changing it's doctrine."
Recently added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church was the sentence: Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
"We still believe that suicide is objectively, gravely evil. It's the kind of thing that could be a mortal sin, and me responsible for someone going to hell, because the despair of God's mercy."
But, says Father Moleski, "Instead of condemning them, we're open to the thought that God might act in their lives, and therefore, we console the family, my praying with with them for the person's soul."