Question: I know its a touchy subject but I was always taught that people who committed suicide would go to hell. I read a article that said the churches got together and literally started saying this to keep people from killing themselves because their lives were poor, ect and thought they could just kill themselves and go to heaven to be in a better place. Does this make sense? So is this teaching untrue?
The Church’s teaching is ever evolving with new discoveries and her teaching on suicide is no different.
In today’s times, we know much more about mental illness than ever before. We now know that anyone who commits suicide is not in control over their own actions. For something to be sinful, by definition, it needs to be done willfully, meaning, we need to be free to make the choice to commit the act in the first place and we have to know that the act is sinful.
So therefore, if one is not in control over their own actions, they cannot be held responsible for what they have done, suicide included.
It’s also interesting to note that the Church has never definitively stated that anyone is in hell other than the fallen angels themselves. However, the Church also doesn’t deny the existence of that state of being either. Hell is a state of eternal separation from God, which means that a person has made a definitive judgement to separate themselves from God and to embrace sin instead of what God wishes.
So what happens with people who commit suicide?
We trust in God’s mercy and redemption. We don’t know definitively what happens when anyone dies. What we do know is that God’s mercy is offered to everyone. It is up to us to accept that mercy and forgiveness and to move toward greater unity with God in doing so.