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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.
  • Rev. Dr. Michael Spain, PhD

    Christ took all the sins of all mankind for all time off mankind and upon himself and accepted the punishment in place of all mankind. All mankind does not exclude anyone. The punishment has been completed. There is no sin left for anyone to be punished for. It is finished. Jesus required of The Father to make it so by virtue of his sacrifice, saying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. ..and is was made so…all mankind was forgiven ‘on the cross’..not by anything they may think to do to please God…saved by Christ’s sacrifice, not by any act or belief of their own. The reconciliation of all mankind with God has already been accomplished. That is the ‘good news’ whether you understand it fully or not.

    • Jorge Sanchez

      This response seems to be far removed from the truth of the gospel. While Christ died for all humanity to have a chance to be on right terms with God, the matter of fact is that many have, are, and will reject his gift. Christ states that he “is the truth, the life and the way. Nobody gets to the Father exept through [Him]” meaning that He is the only way to salvation and that those who do not accept his sacrifice will not be accepted by the Father.

      If we are to compromise the conditions of salvation such as you suggest, there is no reason for the Gospel, for morality, for seeking God. Most of the New Testiment also dissolves under that premise because there is no reason for Jesus to discuss the lake of fire, no reason for Jesus to say “go make disciples of all nations”, and the statement that “the havest is plentiful but the workers are few” is utterly meaningless. These are just a few of the many examples of how universal unconditional (ie, whether one accepts Christ or not) salvation would render the New Testament as void of its meaning.

      Not all mankind is forgiven, but all mankind has the opportunity to be forgiven as long as they follow Him.

      I know that eternal damnation sounds harsh, but that is what God decrees and we are nobody to challenge Him. We must be cautious not to dilude the Gospel or become likewarm Christians because we then may teach others incorrectly or give them the wrong perception of what Christianity is.

  • 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.

    • L. M

      Hello Daisy,

      I just want to say thank, you I don’t know anyone that has described what I feel. You have truly blessed me more than you will ever know. I have thought about suicide more than once. A victim of spiritual abuse is hard to recover from thank you I’m doing my best to live and not die.

      • Daisy Mae Morales

        You are not alone in this struggle. Don’t let your demons win. Remember, that through Adversity, there is redemption.

    • Rick

      Daisy,
      I have gone through many bouts and attempts with suicide, and much depression. My wife of less than two years (together for four) has recently left me for another man after cheating on me for over a year, starting back while I was in Iraq last year. The pain is excruciating, as it’s hard to lose someone that I’ve committed myself to under God’s hand, and loved so much. It has taken a huge toll on me, and I’ve thought about ditching life on just about every day since we’ve started having trouble back then. I’ve only recently come to realize the reach of God’s forgiveness in regards to suicide, and His endless love in such. But your words, your explanation and thoughts of how you don’t think He could possibly stand idly as someone hurts and then condemn has made me cry for the last five minutes. Not in sadness, but due to the realization even more of His love. You’ve revealed more about Him in your response there, and it overwhelmed me so much. I can’t believe I never thought of that, and it’s so powerful to think of. He loves us (and me) so much. And even though I want to live, and plan to live, it is so reassuring that if I ever faltered with suicide, that God would still love me, and forgive me.

      • daisy

        RIck, first of all, thank you for your service. I too am an OIF Veteran, and believe me when i say i have been in your shoes. I got my own dear john letter when i was deployed. Came back to find my guy married to someone else. Along with many other things, i was in a dark place. Sometimes still am for other reasons. But we live and we learn. If you’re still here, it’s for a reason. Never give up the fight, but know that your pain does not make you weak. I hope you’re doing well.

      • Derick

        Please tell me how you guys can be so positive? I am currently in a very bad place and trying to find that little bit of hope!!! Where do you find that?

      • daisy

        I wish I could give you a straight answer. I don’t know. And I don’t know how I have made it through. I see so many people struggle with their demons and lose, and I look at myself and wonder how I’ve managed to keep fighting. I guess it’s the few people I trust. I have always had at least one person who has helped pull me out. You’ve gotta do it for you. Its hard, but you gotta fight. For you, and for others like you

      • Derick

        Daisy, I am trying to find that one person that really cares about me!!! “Friends” just run and make their own stories, my wife chased me away, I have nothing, I feel like nothing and can’t see any purpose!!! It is like everything has been taken away from me!!! I love this woman with all my being, I have given her everything I possibility could, just to be told how useless I am!!! How is life fair if this is happening!!! Is the pain I feel now worth it? Is it maybe not better to just take the pain away?

  • 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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