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)