SHOULD SUICIDE BE A SIN?

Today a 26-year old Vatican police officer named Alessandro Benedetti commited suicide in the bathroom of his barracks near the Pope’s private quarters. He left a suicide note which referred to the fact his girl friend recently left him.

A papal spokesperson said the Holy Father was grieving and he “trusts the young man’s soul to the compassion of God.”

The 1997 Cathechism of the Catholic Church says suicide is one of the gravest sins and results in damnation. When I was growing up a Catholic suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground.

However, the Catechism also says a person who suicides “may not be fully culpable if suffering grave psychological disturbance, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering or torture.”

Wouldn’t it be better to drop all this mumbo jumbo and simply admit that suicide is not a sin?

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17 Comments »

  1. 1
    bernie12 Says:

    Yes, I agree that a suicide cannot be judged by us . I feel that the person must be disturbed to a degree that he or she is not culpable . God’s mercy is so beyond us. Tim

  2. 2
    Barbara Says:

    If you define sin in legalistic terms and assume one is dealing with a “policeman/gotcha/god”, then perhaps not, but if you define sin in terms of a weakness in our human nature, something with which we struggle in our attempt to become the holy people of God, then maybe not. It certainly must be seen as an evil, even if culpability cannot be assigned.

  3. 3
    SUZANNE Says:

    You can’t just reject your own life, escape your own responsibilities, etc because of pain in your life.

    There are extenuating circumstances. But suicide is often the easy way out.

  4. 4
    Cate McB Says:

    I think we need more concentration on the compassion of God and the need for human beings to be more compassionate and to stop thinking they are on the level of God and have the power to judge other people as “sinful” or whatever word you want to use. And suicide is never “the easy way out” — its actually quite difficult and ironically, takes great guts or great desperation, depending on how you look at it. Having cared for many suicide patients whose attempts were unsuccessful because they, or someone else called 911, these patients are people whose physical or more often, mental pain fell through the many cracks of the healthcare system and our social safety net. Psychiatric resources have always been deficient in my experience, and people with chronic physical pain meet a medical system that even today, does not have the “know-how” to deal with it adequately. Let’s deal more adequately with the real problems of our fellow human beings and let God be God!

  5. 5
    jeremy Says:

    Hello

    Oh, right up my alley. We know what religion tells us about suicide, and the Late Pontiff JPII had a lot to say about that issue. I believe that the church cannot hold to the party line in some cases, because of the possibility of the diminished capacity of they who kill themselves.

    That he killed himself inside the Vatican, must speak of the mans desire to die near the Seat of Peter, thereby assuring him God’s forgiveness. Don’t you agree? He could have chosen an alley somewhere or an abandoned property or his home, yet he choose to end his life in a religious setting. If he wanted God’s attention and forgiveness, I am sure God heard him and forgave him, and I am also sure that God knew his pain, well before he took his own life.

    In the end, what can the church do, punish him? Punish his family by decreeing that he should not be buried in hallowed ground? Only the Pope has that temporal power, but I also know that it may come down to the priest who administers that mans parish or family to condemn or to bless his burial. So we pray for that man’s soul and for his family.

    Eternal Rest Grant Him and may perpetual light shine upon him.

    If I was going to make a religious statement, making it inside the Vatican is pretty cut and dry for me. bury the man with his dignity and his faith. Let God sort this out, not man.

    I am sure God already has.

    Pax
    Jeremy

  6. 6

    Jeremy – I think the reason he committed suicide inside the Vatican was that he was a Vatican soldier and his barracks were just a short distance from the papal apartments.

    As you say, RIP

  7. Greetings,

    As someone who has suffered the suicide of a dear friend, this is a difficult topic. For the sake of discussion, here is what G.K. Chesterton said:

    “Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront. Of course there may be pathetic emotional excuses for the act. There often are for rape, and there almost always are for dynamite. But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the cross-roads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer’s suicidal automatic machines. There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man’s crime is different from other crimes — for it makes even crimes impossible.”

    Pax,
    Iosue Andreas

  8. 8
    Barbara Says:

    There is a typo in my previous post. It should read
    ” …but if you define sin in terms of a weakness in our human nature, something with which we struggle in our attempt to become the holy people of God, then maybe.”

    The way I look at it, any form of destruction is an evil be it war, a tsunami, a plague, a suicide. Whether one committing suicide is culpable is another story, a judgement best left to God, as Cate wrote above. But that person still can leave much unnecessary pain behind him/her. Their act reverberates through the universe, sadly.

  9. 9

    The Western Confucian – Thank you for sharing the piece from Chesterton. It is very relevant to our discussion. But I must beg to differ from GKC on this one. He seems to view the suicide with a dogmatic coldness, even contempt. I doubt his attitude to a a broken reed is even Christian.

    Barbara – I think you’ve put your finger on one of the central problems – the wreckage the suicide leaves behind among friends and lovers.

  10. 10
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    I can somewhat understand suicide in cases of torture or excruciating PHYSICAL pain (not PSYCHOLOGICAL pain), but in all other cases I view suicide as the gravest of sins.
    Man is made in the image of God. Therefore, if a Man kills himself, he is, in effect, killing an incarnation of God.
    What worse sin can there be than killing God?

  11. “Their act reverberates through the universe, sadly.”

    A friend’s father committed suicide. My friend had very, very strong views about never romanticizing or justifying suicide. As a son, he felt ultimately betrayed and abandoned. He would have agreed with GKC and Tony Kondaks above.

    “No man is an island,” as John Donne told us, and those left behind are left with an agony that never goes away. To this day fifteen years later, I wonder what I could have done to prevent another friend’s suicide. His mother, who suffered severe burns on her hands trying to put out the flames on her son’s self-immolated body, has never recovered.

  12. 12
    Stéphanie Pagano Says:

    C’est un pêcher si on regarde l’acte du suicide avec une approche religieuse. C’est bien ce que le Vatican et l’histoire de la Bible soutiennent?

    Mais si on regarde l’acte seulement du côté humain…je crois, que c’est plutôt une détresse psychologique ou émotive. Un manque que l’on crois impossible à combler. Pour ceux qui sont religieux et qui commettent l’acte, je crois qu’il peuvent penser que même leurs croyances les a dépasser.

    Est-ce un pêcher? Il faut aller au-delà de la question.

  13. 13
    Stéphanie Pagano Says:

    C’est un pêcher si on regarde l’acte du suicide avec une approche religieuse. C’est bien ce que le Vatican et l’histoire de la Bible soutiennent?

    Mais si on regarde l’acte seulement du côté humain…je crois, que c’est plutôt une détresse psychologique ou émotive. Un manque que l’on crois impossible à combler. Pour ceux qui sont religieux et qui commettent l’acte, je crois qu’il peuvent penser que même leurs croyances les ont dépassées.

    Est-ce un pêcher? Il faut aller au-delà de la question.

  14. 14

    Stephanie: Thank you for your interesting comment. You add a bi-lingual dimension to the blog and I hope others will follow your example

  15. 15
    Carole Kennedy Says:

    How dare anyone feel they have the right to condemn a person who commits suicide. We are not God ! We were created in Gods image. If ‘ your ‘ God is one who would condemn someone who was so desperate that they felt the only solution was to rid themselves of the precious life God gave them then he isn’t the same one I pray to ! My God will welcome that person with open arms into his house and take away the pain they were feeling and will look upon you ‘obsessive self righteous’ so called christians with the contempt you deserve !

  16. 16
    Carole Kennedy Says:

    My poor dear mother committed suicide. She was a ‘ true christian ‘. She was a kind caring woman who never had a bad word to say about anyone. She went to church regularly, cleaned the brass and alter cloths regularly, attended bible study and was a very active member of her local church. She was not an obsessed christian who felt she could use her own interpretations of the bible to condemn people or make them feel they weren’t as ‘ good ‘ as her. She accepted that we are ALL Gods children and that no matter what, God loves and accepts US ALL. The vicar at the church she attended for over 20 years was not allowed to include the hymn ‘ How Great Thou Art ‘ ( her favourite hymn) at her funeral because of the words and because she was not allowed to feel that Jesus was welcoming her into his arms because she had commited such a sin !! This is a woman who adored her God, who lived a good christian life and who I KNOW was welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven when she arrived there with open arms and how dare anyone believe otherwise !
    The note she left said she knew she was commiting the ultimate sin in the eyes of the church. How awful for such a mentally ill depressed woman to become desperate enough to need to leave this world before God called for her thinking she would not be accepted by him, the one she had worshipped and adored all her life. I know she’s there with God now and is at peace and happily waiting for all her loved ones to join her when their time comes.

  17. 17

    Carole:
    Thank you for sharing with us so eloquently the painful experience of your mother’s suicide. Of course your mother is in heaven.


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