By Tom Quiner
The pain of suicide is inexpressible.
I’ve known people who have taken their own life. You probably have, too. Or you may know a family that has been stung by the wrenching, sudden death of a loved one.
A Quiner’s Diner reader lost a sister to suicide. He asked what the Catholic Church’s position on suicide was. Specifically, does suicide compromise one’s salvation?
Here is the Church’s teaching on the subject according to The Catechism of the Catholic Church (be sure to stick with it until the end):
2280 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.
2281 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.
2282 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.
2283 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.
Most people who take their own life suffer from acute depression, psychosis, or despair. Their judgement is markedly impaired.
According to the Catholic Catechism, we should not despair for their souls. Catholics believe that many of us (I suspect that includes me) will need to go through additional purification before we reach Heaven. This process of purification creates a path toward salvation for those who commit suicide.
The prayers of the living can accelerate the purification process (called purgatory).
If you know someone who took their own life, pray for their soul. Your prayers matter.