Q. I need an answer. Our son had been suffering from clinical depression since he was 4 years old. All of the doctors and all of the medications we tried over the years seemed to do little to help. One year ago, his own son died in an auto accident at the age of 24, and that seemed to be more than our son could handle. Last week we received a phone call that our son, aged 50, had taken his own life.
The priest from our church spent that evening with us. He told us that our son was forgiven because it was mental illness that caused him to take his life. Since my sister found out about my son’s self-inflicted death, she has refused to speak with us. I am wondering whether she believes that someone who commits suicide, no matter what the reason, is condemned forever.
I am writing to you because I would like to have someone who is removed from the scene tell me what the Catholic Church’s thinking is on this subject. (City of origin withheld)
A. Suicide, objectively, is a grave sin. God has gifted us with life. We are only its stewards, not its masters. But in reminding us of that, the Catechism of the Catholic Church in No. 2282 is quick to note that the moral responsibility for a suicide may be diminished because the inner turmoil a person was going through precluded sound reasoning.
The catechism goes on to say in No. 2283 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.”
In contrast to older versions of the Code of Canon Law, Canon No. 1184 no longer lists a person who died by suicide as someone who should not be given a Christian funeral.
Moral judgment in such cases is best left to God. The church’s approach to the tragedy is pity, not condemnation, and your parish priest had a sound basis for the comfort he offered you.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103