Saturday, September 10, 2011

Suicide is not painless

From the Catechism:

2280 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.

2281 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.

2282 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.

2283 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.

Those of you who are old enough will remember the theme tune to the series M*A*S*H. At the time I thought nothing of it but the words have haunted me for twenty years now and have come into sharp focus in recent days. The father of a friend of my youngest son has committed suicide back home. He leaves two young children and a wife and a mother and a wider family. God grant him some peace and mercy and his family some consolation in their grief.

The theme tune to M*A*S*H includes the words:

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...
that suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave them if I please

Only suicide is not painless. It is not painless for the one committing it. I can only guess the despair that is required to bring about the end of one's life, especially in a violent manner. It certainly is not painless because it destroys families. It leaves a stain of guilt that never goes away, whatever the circumstances, a feeling of rejection, a sense of shame that one didn't do more and a loneliness and regret at the joy that the one who commits suicide has missed the blessings and pains of life and of the hours that could have been spent in their company in love and fellowship.

I know this because my brother killed himself nearly twenty years ago. As is so often the case he seemed to be getting over a bout of depression and was well supported by us, his family (I was phoning him daily from the other end of the country) and he was being seen regularly by the CPNs who were reporting the upturn in mood we thought we could see. He had gotten into financial difficulties that had put a strain on his married life.

Yet after going out for a lonely curry in his favourite restaurant he drove off into the night and killed himself alone in a country lane. I'm pretty sure it led to my mother's untimely death two years later. I was at home the weekend he killed himself and I can still hear the sound of my father sobbing alone in the bathroom every morning for the time I was there.

This appeared in one of the Canadian papers last week. Astounding. Over three thousand families in Canada dealing with this year on year. Countless friends and neighbours affected.

I am grateful for the fact that we able to give my brother a funeral in a Catholic Church, and the pastoral concern of those who cared for us - priests, religious and lay - will live with me until the day I die. God bless them for their kindness and courage (others crossed the street, literally, to avoid us). But the Church is right to maintain that suicide is gravely wrong and risks our immortal souls. The experience of suicide close to home has galvanised my own conviction of how utterly wrong and corrosive it is. We must do all we can to set our faces against such a grave wrong, however it disguises itself, whilst maintaining love and compassion for the despairing and their families left behind.


Blogger Victor S E Moubarak said...

What a well-written and well-thought out post.

Thank you.

I pray for the person you have mentioned and for your brother.

As well as all families concerned.

God bless.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post..I think as the depression lifts is a very dangerous time..I have suffered with severe depression & suicidal is truly awful..will pray for your spiritual reading for boys..let me know..I have 12 & 14 year old sons..Can u update yr link catholic mom of 10 to Heart Speaks Unto Heart?

God bless

11:18 AM  

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