In my previous column I explained about the 5th Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”, and shared briefly about “why suicide is a sin.” This may raise a doubt, whether every case of suicide is equally culpable and a mortal sin. Hence, I want to explain in this column, what the Catholic Church teaches on this matter.
Suicide has always been considered by the Catholic Church as a grave offence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:
“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains sovereign Master of life… We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of” (CCC 2280).
Though an act of suicide is a grave matter, the culpability is diminished, if the following three requirements are not verified: Grave matter, sufficient ability to recognize and deliberate consent of the will. For example, when a person commits suicide as a result of psychological impairment, such as that caused by clinical depression, the Church recognizes that he/she may not have been fully capable of the knowledge and consent necessary to make the act a mortal sin. The Church teaches that both full knowledge and deliberate consent must be present for the grave act of suicide to make it a mortal sin:
“Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice …” (CCC 1859).
“… Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide (CCC 2282).
The Church teaches also that salvation is possible for those who commit suicide. Hence, we should not be in a haste to condemn that those who commit suicide will go to hell.
“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” (CCC 2283).
Whatever be the circumstances, which may lead a person to commit suicide, as the Church, we entrust them to the mercy of God and pray for the repose of their souls.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.