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Our readers asked:

Do People Who Commit Suicide Go to Hell?

Mike Hayes Answers:

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.

Also, see “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” #2280-#2283.

 
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The Author : Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes is the senior editor for the Googling God section at BustedHalo.com.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • daisy

    R I think that this is a fairly difficult question for the simple fact that are are so many different angles. I understand the whole “suicide is a temporary solution to a permanent problem” but I think that unless people have actually experienced that kind of hopelessness, who are they to judge. Many people have this misconception that depression is just sadness. That the solution is simple; just be positive, or suck it up and drive on. But what they don’t realize is that unlike sadness, which is normal and to an extent, healthy, depression is something much colder and darker. It’s a soul consuming void. It’s more than just the terrible aching feeling of loneliness and despair. It’s almost a literal pain in your heart, mind and soul, sometimes intensifies to the point of complete and utter helplessness. If there is a God, I would hate to know that he would punish these people who have suffered so greatly already. I don’t understand a God who would not only allow a person to suffer so deeply, but would then force them to suffer even more in the eternal realm, for desperately looking for a way out of the misery that consumes their very existence. How can he see his children endure so much pain and not reach down. How can he sit there and watch his children cry out to him from the depths and their soul, yet remain unmoved. How can he condemn them for feeling so lonely and empty and unworthy of love from anyone, including the God who watches them suffer? No. I’d like to think that God sees the suffering of these people, and that if they do end their own life out of desperation, that he does not condemn them, but welcomes them with loving arms. That he holds them and cries with them, and gives them the love and understanding that they so desperately longed for in life. I’d like to think that he grants them that peace in the afterlife that they could never achieve alone on earth… there is such a stigma on depression and other mental illnesses that it makes it almost impossible to reach out for help. And it doesnt help when you have religions or religious people judgeing and condeming everyone for feeling so hopeless. Its easy to sit there and say “just pray and trust in God and everything will be okay” when theyre not the ones experiencing that kind of pain… but that’s just me.

  • R. Peter

    You may wish to look at Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s OMI website he writes an article about suicide each year. Use the search engine to see the articles

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1151581349 Steve Nadel

    ” 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 you believe that all Atheist are dammed for a place which they don’t believe exists?

    Even if they have clearly lived their lives more morally than a God fearing person?

    • Bob Faser

      Very few mainstream Christians today – whatever the denomination – would say that God would condemn a person because of their beliefs, or the lack thereof. The fundamentalist groups believe this, but very few mainstream Christians. A few years ago, I heard a VERY conservative Cardinal say on a public TV programme that he didn’t believe people would be condemned merely due to non-belief.

    • Clint Evrard

      There are a few questions here. If a person was an atheist because they lived a life where they never truly knew God, and they were never truly taught about Jesus Christ then this could be a situation where the person would not be viewed as having turned their backs on God. I believe true atheism is this state of truly not knowing God, and having no basis to come to know Him (and any permutation of this thereof). There are other people who have been taught about God, and have through one reason or another decided to intentionally turn their backs on Him. They may be held more culpable, but it would depend on their knowledge of sinfulness, if they believed they were committing a sinful or rebellious act and chose it anyway, etc. Then there are those who claim atheism, but have actually turned from the faith they were taught in malicious fashion. The people would most likely be held culpable for that decision. Although I will not speak in definitives on any of this because firstly I am not God and secondly because I am not a man with magisterial authority. This is just my opinion gained from Catholic formation. So no, I don’t believe that you could generalize across the atheist board and say with any certainty what they will experience after death. Always remember to scrutinize a person’s true culpability for the path they are on. This is something I feel is a good practice because I feel it keeps us from undo judgement against our fellow person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/connie.neuman Connie Lane Neuman

    This is a very helpful reflection. A friend whose daughter with bipolar disease committed suicide while in the depressed cycle said about her: She would be so pissed to know she succeeded.
    God’s compassion knows no limits.

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