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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Suicide Isn't Painless: Three Questions

The coincidence of Lefty's question about heaven AND an e-mail I got from a Methodist listserv I belong to generates these questions:

One person was aware of someone who was Roman Catholic who was despairing over a suicide. Another person responded:

According to the online Catechism of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Under Part Three: Life in Christ Section Two: The Ten Commandments Chapter Two: "You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"
Article 5: The Fifth Commandment I. Respect for Human Life
Subsection on Suicide (Paragraphs 2280-2283) States:
Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Several people provided examples of a more understanding position by priests, including one who noted that the priest knew [X] and "his homily was warm and touching, indicating no hint of condemnation for suicide. I don't know what the official teaching is on suicide in the Roman Catholic Church, but the practice appears no longer to be condemnation to hell. I have been thinking recently that I would like to investigation this transformation."

This piece, from a more fundamentalistist approach, suggests one person who may have committed suicide but got into heaven (Saul), but generally has a gloomier take on the topic.

So, my three questions:

1. Is there a hell?
2. Who goes there?
3. Does suicide necessarily send you there?

My answers are: Possibly; it's not my call to make; it's not my call to make.
I went by a church this week and saw the sign out front that said: "Revelation: The Last Word of God". Somehow, this really bothered me. It was as though God hasn't had anything to say to us in 1900 years. No wonder people thought God was dead.


Anonymous said...

Religion, explained.


Anonymous said...

See now, if you believe in Free Will, then it cannot be some cosmic bureaucracy that decides whether or not you Go To Hell if you commit suicide. You decide. It would most probably be the level of despair that you have "achieved" at the moment of death. Going To Hell has to be learned.

But of course, what exactly is despair? Can it be imposed on you by others, or by The World at large? For example, if you are locked up in Gitmo and tortured to the point of committing suicide, have you liberated yourself from despair, or have you been manipulated into choosing Hell by your captors?

Maybe we need a new box for our speculative toys. A bigger one, so they fit.