Will you go to hell if you kill yourself?

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.


  1. Evan Strode on February 19, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Suicide is murder. You can sugarcoat it anyway you want. Kill your neighbor, kill yourself. It is no different.

    • Shawn Pavlik on February 20, 2015 at 8:55 am

      Yet even murderers can be forgiven, should they come to Christ.

  2. oarubio on February 19, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    This is a good reminder, Tom, especially during Lent.

    Yes, I had a good friend, a fellow but retired professional, when I worked at a paper mill. His means of departure was very surprising to all of us. I remember him periodically in prayer. (It also prompts us to be on sensitive guard for those who may be vulnerable.)

    This may be a good opportunity to remind those not familiar with our faith. While the Church may learn as to who is in Heaven (when saints are declared), she is not granted the knowledge of who isn’t. Therefore, she declares nothing of “the other side” including Judas’ status. Some saints have been given a glimpse of Hell in order to tell the rest of us, but no specific souls are revealed. — Tony

    • quinersdiner on February 19, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks, Tony.

  3. catholicprophecytoday on February 19, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    “The wage of sin is death.” There are many ways to kill yourself. Better to trust God that He will work things out! Topic included at http://catholicprophecytoday.org/

  4. chicagoja on February 19, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Actually, I would ask a different question: Does Hell really exist? The Pope himself knows that the answer is no, notwithstanding the Catholic Catechism. The Vatican has recently announced that Christians will have to reevaluate their faith and come to a new understanding of the Bible. I suspect that most Christians would rather bury their head in the sand than to confront the reality of the Vatican’s statement.

    • quinersdiner on February 19, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Does Hell exist? Jesus said it does. That’s a pretty good indicator.

      • chicagoja on February 19, 2015 at 7:50 pm

        I take it, then, that you disagree with the Pope, who publicly said that everyone has been saved, and the pronouncement of the Vatican that I mentioned.

        • quinersdiner on February 19, 2015 at 8:38 pm

          I’m not familiar with the pronouncement to which you refer.

          • chicagoja on February 19, 2015 at 9:04 pm

            If they said it, what would be your takeaway?

          • quinersdiner on February 19, 2015 at 9:09 pm

            What’s your game? Are you just another Catholic basher?

          • chicagoja on February 19, 2015 at 9:30 pm

            With respect to your post, I believe that suicide is murder but I don’t believe in the concept of Original Sin, but rather in the biblical story of you reap what you sow (otherwise known as the Law of Cause and Effect). I generally ignore church pronouncements about doctrine but when the Pope/Vatican make such shocking statements (which you can find online if you’re at all interested), my ears prick up. Any serious believer has got be very concerned that the church has not been giving them the whole story.

      • Shawn Pavlik on February 20, 2015 at 8:52 am

        I think chicagoja needs to visit snopes…


        • quinersdiner on February 20, 2015 at 9:14 am

          Thanks, Shawn.

  5. Shawn Pavlik on February 20, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Tom-Thanks for your explanations. The concept of repentance and the inability to repent after the sin of suicide is one that had me concerned. My Baptist pastor assured me that if one is saved, even the sin of suicide is not one that cannot be forgiven. The only unforgivable sin is the denial of the divinity of Christ.