June 12, 2020

What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about suicide and God’s mercy

Criterion staff report

The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses suicide in a section called “Respect for Human Life.” While identifying suicide as a mortal sin—an action a person knows is of grave matter but willingly commits anyway—the catechism also recognizes the decreased culpability of the person in certain circumstances and the hope for God’s mercy.

The Church also now allows a funeral Mass and burial in a Catholic cemetery for those who take their own life.

The catechism states:

• “Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of” (#2280).

• “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God” (#2281).

• “If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide” (#2282).

“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways know to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for people who have taken their own lives” (#2283). †


Related story: New program offers hope, healing to survivors of suicide loss

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