The Robin Williams suicide was so unsettling and the lack of perspective in the press so total that it’s terrifying.  It’s certainly a jolt that someone like Williams, whose business it was to bring hope and joy, and who was so gifted and accomplished; would brutally hang himself.  It’s not surprising that he had demons since he was brilliant at pushing the culture into the pit. Even if he had been unaware of the powerful negative effect of his work, the reality was still there and it would have weighed on his spirit.  He did not have the Faith and practice to save him.

There is a deep misunderstanding of suicide in the West, of despair, and of the gravity of sin.  There’s almost nothing about them in the Williams commentaries and that silence screams out death and Hell for the culture. Suicide is rampant and escalating.  Twenty U.S. veterans killed themselves on the same day as Robin Williams.  Calls to suicide hotlines skyrocketed last week.

There’s very little guidance for souls coming out of the American Church. In fact there’s misdirection. The USCCB’s Catholic News Service (a more official American Catholic source you won’t find) reports:

After 35 years of providing counseling and a Catholic outreach to families with a loved one who died by suicide, Father Charles Rubey has consulted on more than his share of the resulting funerals or wakes. A suicide priest. I didn’t know they had those.

The priest is the founder and director of a Chicago-based ministry called Compassionate Friends, which later evolved into Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, or LOSS, an entity of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

He still bristles when he occasionally hears misinformation or outdated notions concerning suicide and church teaching. Why be hostile?

“The church’s official teaching in the catechism still lists suicide as a sin but they do add that in most instances there are extenuating circumstances that could severely impair culpability,” said Father Rubey told Catholic News Service in a phone interview.

Twice recently he heard of someone suggesting to surviving families members that their loved one would be automatically deprived of eternal life as a result of completing suicide. Here is a straw man.  How is God’s judgment an automatic thing? 

The incidents prompted the priest to draft an advisory memorandum for best practices in dealing with and discussing suicide situations in local parishes, and how best to minister to families already feeling the stigma of suicide and the mental illness that often attended the deceased. Make sure those parishes don’t teach that suicide is a grave sin at the moment of death, when you have the least chance of repentance, and it’s impossible to confess to a priest!

“The church’s standing is to be pastoral to the survivors:  They feel stigmatized anyway … and so we shouldn’t do anything more because it is a suicide, nor should we do anything less because it’s a suicide,” Father Rubey said. “We do the normal rites and burial, not treating the situation any differently.” Every time someone in the Church wants to be ‘pastoral’, it means looking the other way at sin so the faithful are well-scandalized and ready to imitate.  Williams’ older brother also killed himself by the way. 

The question remains, if it was common practice throughout Church history to deny funeral rites to suicides, was it not in order to refrain from scandalizing the family and community?  The self-deceased would be deprived of the graces of the Mass, but people could always pray for them in a way that would not give so much scandal. If loved ones grieved that there was no funeral, it wasn’t the Church’s fault. It was the fault of the person who took his own life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that suicide “is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the Fifth Commandment (and) contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. … Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.”

What the church no longer teaches is that suicide automatically condemns the deceased to damnation, while denying family members access to a Catholic funeral and burial privileges for their loved one.  Again, the Church never taught that suicide automatically condemns to damnation.  It always taught that if you die with an unrepentant unforgiven mortal sin on your soul you will go to Hell. This hasn’t changed.  It’s not a new Church.  I’ve heard so many people say the Church no longer teaches this or that lately!

The catechism notes that “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.” This quote from the Catechism may lead some to believe that salvation is likely for suicides especially if there are mitigating circumstances (as if that were not usually so), but the truth is to ‘not despair’ means to remain open to a possibility no matter how slight.

“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,” it states.  The commonly used tag line that, “God can do anything” doesn’t really help us learn and keep the Faith though. Of course God can do anything, but He gives us His teaching and His Church to guide is in what WE do, and to help us understand what we can expect from Him.

The Aug. 11 death of actor-comedian and Chicago native Robin Williams has reignited questions about suicide, now the 10th leading cause of death in America. It is thought to often be accompanied by factors such as mental or other illnesses, substance abuse, the pain of social disconnect and other underlying problems.

Father Rubey, whose LOSS program has counseled thousands of family members of the years, said he is saddened but understanding at hearing of William’s apparent suicide and that he hopes people don’t think less of the actor as a result.  The is the best suicide priest ever.

Williams, who was reportedly found dead by asphyxiation in his California home, was suffering from longtime bouts of depression and a history of substance abuse about which he spoke publicly and often with humor.

“Does it make sense to me? No, but I understand that he battled with this all his life and he got tired of the pain. [Depression is pain over something that doesn’t concretely exist.  Imagine how much more understanding we should be of suicides by people with actual physical pain!] I feel badly for the wife, and all of his fans,” Father Rubey said. “He died of an illness and that is the important part of it, just as a person might die from a car accident or from a cancer. But with mental illness they look like everyone else (on the outside) and it may not be apparent.” Way too much is made of mental illness.  These things are almost entirely spiritual, a consequence of vice and lack of Faith.  It’s a distracting lie.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bill Schmitz Jr., board president of the American Association of Suicidology, a Washington-based research and prevention nonprofit organization, said he grew up in Boulder, Colorado, not far from the house used in William’s “Mork & Mindy” TV sitcom, which aired in the late 1970s.

Fans were flocking to the house in the days following the actor’s death to pay their respects.

“My heart goes out to his family,” said Schmitz, a clinical psychologist with the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. “This touches all of the entertainment industry, just as it can an entire church congregation (in other cases). I think Williams was really trying to find answers, and I would have loved the opportunity to sit with him.”

Schmitz told CNS that faith communities can and do play an important role in offering support groups and local networks for surviving family members. Churches can be part of the social cohesion that keeps people from completing suicide in the first place.  If they could have a support ministry for people who committed suicide they would.

“For a lot of people faith life is a buffer and protector against suicide — one of the key components I look at is a sense of belongingness and a sense of community, and church communities are a powerful buffer against suicide because they fill that need so well,” he said.

“Spiritual, physical and mental health are all interrelated and interdependent. [Make sure you slide that ‘mental’ in there and give it a good shake.] A sense of belonging is more than just saying, ‘I attend services.’ [Services? Does that mean Mass?] It is really about that connection.”

Where there has been a suicide, Father Rubey urged survivors not to make it “the family secret,” and instead talk about it rationally [Not like those outdated notions of the old irrational Church] just with any other tragedy — especially if there is a history of occurrence of suicide in a given family.

“Children have a right to know what is in their genes and it is part of the family history. It can be a very healthy learning experience: that this is not how you handle life’s problems,” the priest said.  It’s that suicide gene! I feel so healthy now that I know.

When loved ones ask him the inevitable question: is my loved one in heaven? “That’s a common question people have. My response is always: ‘Sure they are.'” But suicide priests can lie.

robin williams

In a thoughtful eulogy for Robin Williams, Tom Hoopes compares the troubled comic actor to a ‘fool-priest’ or a jester who ministers by making us laugh at the absurd and the painful.

That is what priests do also. The difference: the priest looks to the ultimate meaning of life, God, to help us see the purpose of suffering. The comedian looks at the ultimate absurdity of life to help us accept our lot in life.

Ultimately, Williams ministered to all of us. For that, we owe him thanks. Pray that he will find the rest for his soul that he sought to give to so many others.

This priestly comparison is unfortunate though because it suggests Faith, and Hoopes’ glowing praise for Williams’ gifts and efforts fails to address something very important; the tremendous scandal of the final example he left to the world. His is a loving example yes, but it’s also one of a lifetime of self-loathing and abuse, with a grave and self-absorbed exit that must never been imitated.

We can be grateful and pray that perhaps Williams will see Heaven someday, but if suicide was a ticket to get there, the whole world would be lining up.

isis sitting

Unam Sanctam Catholicam has said something today that I’ve longed to hear for quite some time.  It’s about pacifism.  Pacifism is not noble, honorable, or loving.  It’s only capitulation.  It takes the side of the aggressor.  Pacifism or simply put, ‘choosing to lose,’ is just the modern Western spirit applied to war.

The same spirit behind pacifism also drives cultural diversity, religious pluralism, ecumenism, family destruction, forced depravity, and the corrupt faux democracy we tolerate right now.

It is easy to sit in the comfort of modern society and cast harsh judgements on our forefathers that have come before us.  Not very long ago a somewhat popular priest in pop culture thought he had the right to cast judgement and declare that the holy St Bernard’s preaching of the crusades was wrong.  That is a crime. Bernard of Clairvaux should be the saint of our time.  I wish the example was only limited to that but, there are countless examples going back decades of the error of pacifism creeping its unwelcome tentacles into the Church.  Diabolic Utopian sentiments [how true!] are flung carelessly from our highest pulpits demanding a world without war, a world without violence. “Violence is never conquered by violence, but by peace!”  Is that Catholic or is it cowardice and negligence?

It was not always so though, there was a time where the Church defended her sheep with steel instead of empty platitudes and fuzzy feelings.  What do you think God is more pleased with? God gave Moses the Holy Land but Joshua had to fight for it.  No shirking or complaining was tolerated.  But that was before we evolved, you see.  God would never set us up like that today, yes? GOD IS DIFFERENT NOW.

Before you can offer the sacrifice at the Cathedral altar, you have to clear the land of enemies of God and make a Holy protected place.  Things have always been thus. Where are God’s enemies now?  EVERYWHERE.

Lets look at what happened during the preaching of the 2nd crusade by St Bernard:

“In every place on his journey and wrought the most astonishing and instantaneous cures : the blind recovered their sight ; to the deaf and dumb hearing and speech were restored ; the paralytic received the use of their limbs; the possessed, the lunatic, and the demoniac were delivered from the spirits which tormented them. But the greatest of his miracles was the conversion of hardened hearts and the penances to which public sinners submitted.” excerpt from St Bernard the Wonderworker – Free Catholic Audiobook

Every hear of a miracle during the preaching of pacifism? I didn’t think so, because there is not one.  I am almost sure of it, because if there was it surely would be shoved down our throat endlessly. Miracles reveal the mind of God. That must be why they don’t need them anymore when they canonize.

Yet, we know that the 2nd crusade did not end well.  Haha, our pop culture preacher might say, this is proof that it was not of God.  The facts say otherwise.

“On that on that very day, when the news came of the destruction of the Christian army, God wrought a miracle at the intercession of Saint Bernard. “It came to pass, however, that when the lamentable tidings of the destruction of the Crusaders resounded through France, a father brought his blind boy to the servant of God, to have sight restored to him, and, by many prayers, prevailed on the saint who declined. The saint, placing his hand on the child, prayed to our Lord that He would be pleased to make known, by restoring sight to the child, whether the preaching of the Crusade was from Him, and whether His spirit was with himself. While, after praying, he was waiting its effects, the child said, what am I to do? For I see! Then a great shout was raised by those who were present ; for many were present, not of the monks only, but of people living in the world, who, when they perceived that the boy saw, were greatly comforted, and gave thanks to God.” excerpt from St Bernard the Wonderworker – Free Catholic Audiobook

There is more in the Audiobook even about mystical visions confirming the validity of the crusade as well, be sure to check it out. Despite our forefathers courage in battle against our foe, they at least sent missionaries to convert the Mohammedans;  many of whom were martyred preaching Christ Crucified with bravery.

Yet, with the passing of time all falsehoods are revealed.  The absolute savage persecutions of the Christians in Iraq has once again shown us the true face of historical and authentic Mohammedanism, not some made up religion of peace which perverts Islam’s doctrines (how culturally insensitive!).   I hope Catholic intellectuals will find themselves blushing for shame for their past dismissals of Islamic terror as being  “a valid protest against pluralist secularization and materialism. ” There is a touch of this in the news today, and so welcome.

Intellectuals, and professors wearing fuzzy sweaters coming together will not stop war.  Slashing defense budgets and removing standing armies will not end wars.  It is a clear signal from those who reign over us in the world and in the Church that they tacitly condone aggression when they refuse to check it. We must understand that this is betrayal. We must ask ourselves, “Who is on our side?” Treaties, even good ones will never end war.  War is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, sent to afflict mankind when we reject the Gospel.

War will come, and war will go based on the decrees of our God.  It is absurd to believe that the God who has numbered every hair on our head is not the one actively choosing to send war as a punishment for sin, or to permit wars as a punishment for sin.

God made the Jews fight their enemies after they left Egypt!  Our sweet savior Jesus Christ ordered his apostles to own a sword, even if they had to sell their cloak!  Our God allowed the angels to fight a war in heaven! Our God is a God of War! There will always be war on earth, until the end of the world!  Viva Cristo Rey!!

Consequently, today (August 11) is the day to begin a Novena to St Bernard of Clairvaux (you can find one here) for his feast day.  He persuaded many nobles and Kings to embrace the crusade, perhaps we can pray that he does the same from heaven to our leaders, that they might bring some military relief for the Christians of Iraq. [and that there may be priests who can say a Holy Mass for those who fight, without being jailed or suspended by their faithless superiors.]

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, ora pro nobis!