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Fr. Joe Answers:
Catholics believe that suicide is a serious evil in and of itself. It’s a sin against God, who is the author of all life, against the love of one’s own self as a creation of God, and against neighbor because it breaks the ties each person has with the human family. In Catholic teaching it is not permitted under any circumstances.
Even though suicide is considered such a serious sin, we cannot make any judgment about the eternal state of someone who has committed suicide. There are at least two reasons for this.
One reason is that we have no idea what the interior state of the person committing the act of suicide might be. So often persons who commit suicide do so because of depression, mental illness or because they are suffering from extreme physical or emotional pain. In Catholic theology to be guilty of a serious sin one must commmit the act with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. Conditions of extreme emotional or physical pain can often diminish a person’s ability to act rationally or reflectively. While their action in taking their own life is objectively wrong, we cannot determine what subjective guilt for this action they may bear.
A second reason is that we believe in a God who is love. Jesus has revealed to us a God who is not angry or oriented toward punishing our sins, but whose stance toward us is always one of forgiveness and mercy. While we believe that we can of our own free will separate ourselves from God’s love, we also have reason to trust in the mercy of God who sees into the hearts of all, understands the pain of those who suffer, and wishes all people to be saved.
Catholics express this trust and hope by offering a funeral Mass for those who have taken their own lives and continuing to place them before the mercy of God in their prayers.