Aleteia is running a priestly advice piece on suicide, and predictably it does everything humanly possible to make killing oneself seem anything but damnable. It even presents a picture of a woman who seems to be submerged, as if drowning. If only suicide were drowning!
A writer asks Fr. Mike Schmitz if those who commit suicide ‘automatically’ go to Hell. Who asks questions like this? Does anyone believe that Hell is automatic? Isn’t Christ our judge? Mercy is always possible for those who can truly repent but reiterating that incessantly undermines Church teaching. We have our Church to show us what we should expect, and what not to presume.
Catholics must take an absolute stand against every form of suicide. Suicide is “contrary to the love of God.” It is truly evil. Now, please understand me here. In saying that suicide is evil, I am not saying that the person who commits suicide is necessarily evil. But anyone can choose to do evil actions. There are some actions which are evil in and of themselves, regardless of motivation or circumstance. Of these, suicide is one.
Suicide is always bad, but people…people are not bad, OK. This confusing modern mantra makes Catholics think they’re all going to Heaven. People can be called bad when they are vicious, meaning they have acquired many vices. That’s what a bad person is. Everyone is redeemable, but some can truly be called bad until the point when they are not.
And for these people who are never really bad and who commit suicide, there are all kinds of extenuating circumstances.
If a person freely chose to kill himself, fully knowing that he was saying “no” to God, and he died unrepentant, all signs point to eternal separation from God. But here’s the deal: we don’t know a lot of that information. I don’t know if his will was truly free (the person may have suffered from “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture”…these can lessen their responsibility (cf. CCC 2282). I also don’t know the person’s degree of knowledge; did he know that he was not simply “escaping pain,” but was in fact choosing something contrary to God’s love? And lastly, none of us have any way of knowing if the person repented before death. There is an ancient saying in the Church, “We don’t know what happened between the bridge and the water.” This indicates that you and I have no clue if the person we love regretted the decision and turned back to God at the last minute. There are stories of many people who survived attempted suicides, who found themselves praying that God didn’t let them die even after they jumped, or swallowed the pills, or used other means.
Why is the bar so, so low today? Committing suicide is absolutely one of the worst things a person can do and honestly, when did psychology ever begin to be a factor in someone’s culpability? Didn’t they just invent it?
Another mitigation is this lack of knowledge. People who kill themselves don’t really know it’s bad today, and people don’t know what marriage is either, and they don’t know all the sexual sins are wrong any more, and on and on. Why do we even teach anyone the Faith? If we left them all blissfully ignorant they could sin miserably their whole lives and then sail into Heaven! You don’t even have to be part of the Church so long as you’re nice.
It’s like we’ve developed a new doctrine of excuses. Can we really expect to get to Heaven with a pocketful of explanations? No. but we can surely go to Hell preaching laxity, presumption, and hyper-mercy.