Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Catholic view of suicide

There has been a lot of talk this week about suicide and assisted death, so I thought I would investigate the religious view of this issue, especially the Catholic Church who I was always told considered taking one's own life as a 'mortal sin' for which one would burn in hell.

The view of the church appears to be that God gives life, and only God has the right to take it away. Taking your own life is therefore a direct affont to the dominion of God. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for the honour of God and the salvation of our souls.

Interestingly, though, the hard line view I had expected seems to have soften over recent years.

For a start, there seems to be a get out clause that the person has to be of sound mind and that if he is not, then he is not responsible. There also seems to be a further get out clause that once dead, the sinner should be afforded the opportuniy for true repentance for his act as with the repentance of any other sin.

We are told that "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."

Also, in the past, suicides were not afforded a church burial but this no longer appears to be the case. Certainly a step in the right direction.

However, we are also told that "for a sane man deliberately to take his own life, he must, as a general rule, first have annihilated in himself all that he possessed of spiritual life, since suicide is in absolute contradiction to everything that the Christian Religion teaches us as to the end and object of life and, except in cases of insanity, is usually the natural termination of a life of disorder, weakness, and cowardice."

Earlier this week, I watched Peter Smedley take his own life on the BBC. Weakness and cowardice are the last characteristics I would attribute to him. A stronger and braver man I have yet to encounter.

I am not an admirer of religious dogma, and on this occasion I am pleasantly surprised that the attitude of the Catholic church to this issue has softened.

Now we just need to get the law changed...

(You can read an article on this subject by clicking here)


  1. Also keeping people alive on machines when death would actually be a relief is another area that should be looked at. I even think the Pope (John Paul) spoke out against this a few years back.


  2. Consider

    1 If a wife helps her wheelchair-bound husband onto a plane bound for Switzerland, knowing he is going to Dignitas, she is guilty of an offence in this country.

    2 If a patient in hospital is in a persistent vegetative state, it is not unusual (in fact it is relatively common) for life support machines to be switched off. This is perfectly legal.

    If the courts are considered competent tomake a decision in case two, why can there not be a similar system in place in case 1?

    And what of the hapless airport employee pushing a wheelchair bound passenger to the plane, who finds out on the way that the passenger is heading for Dignitas? Is he supposed to just abandon the passenger in the airport lounge? Throw him out of the airport? Face prosecution?

    That fact that the law is an ass is well-known. The fact that it is abusing this privilege is now becoming painfully obvious.

  3. Quite right, Mike. What I also find interesting is that the law on assisting a suicide was recently tightened up and the penalties increased.

    At the same time, the police question relatives returning from Dignitas but they have never charged anyone or brought a prosecution.

    So if the police have this latitude, why is the law so strict in the first place??

  4. name of tablet plz plz plz plz


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