Suicide – The Inconsolable Sin? 

Editor writes…

A reader – we’ll call him Mark (not his real name) – emailed the following short article for publication.  We’re withholding his real name out of consideration for the young suicide, Shaun (also not his real name).

From the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

Positive and direct suicide perpetrated without God’s consent always constitutes a grave injustice towards Him. To destroy a thing is to dispose of it as an absolute master and to act as one having full and independent dominion over it; but man does not possess this full and independent dominion over his life, since to be an owner one must be superior to his property. God has reserved to himself direct dominion over life; He is the owner of its substance and He has given man only the serviceable dominion, the right of use, with the charge of protecting and preserving the substance, that is, life itself. Consequently suicide is an attempt against the dominion and right of ownership of the Creator. Source

Mark writes…

I found out today that a young man I know, Shaun, had died. Given that he was only in his early twenties, I was shocked and the first thing I asked was, “What on earth happened?” The facial expression of the person who had broken the news to me said it all. He had committed suicide.

Suicide is something that often occupies my thoughts. Not in the sense that I’ve considered it myself, quite the opposite in fact. I’m at a complete loss as to how someone could get to the point where they don’t want to live. My grandfather committed suicide many years ago. Some of the boys I went to school with did too. Now, a boy l have known for many years has chosen to end his life. We don’t know why. How his family feel right now I can’t even imagine. What a waste of a life!

Quite recently, British soap “Coronation Street” was praised for raising awareness of male suicide when it ran a storyline involving the suicide of a popular male character. We are told that more must be done to encourage young men to talk about their feelings. We must remove the stigma of mental ill-health, the experts declare. When talking with a friend about the awful news I received today, they suggested that we should do more to promote a growth mindset. Although I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these suggestions, I also have a different view which I hope to explore in this short reflection.

We all endure difficulties in life. Family troubles, relationship issues, money worries and health problems, to name but a few. Many of us experience bouts of low mood and even depression. However, to contemplate and attempt suicide is different. What could possibly lead someone to that dark precipice where death is the only answer? I don’t know. This is the key question I’m asking myself tonight through my shock and grief.

I can’t help but wonder if rejection of God plays a part. Shaun was Catholic and as a child had a strong devotion to St Joseph. However, in his teenage years, Shaun drifted from the Faith and even promoted the LGBT agenda. I’ve now idea if he was homosexual himself. What’s clear is that although, as far as I’m aware, Shaun never made any declaration that he had rejected God, his actions suggest that he had. Is there a connection here? I think there is.

I often wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t believe in God and didn’t adhere to the Catholic Faith. The thought terrifies me. Although I’m by no means a model Catholic and often neglect my religious duties, faith in God keeps me sane. There’s something to live for! The promise of Heaven and eternal life with God sheds light even on the darkest of days. Without faith, without the Catholic Church, I would have nothing. Would life be worth living? On a purely human level, perhaps. Lying in bed until midday on a Sunday, eating steak and chips on a Friday and never having to worry about Commandments morning might allow me to sink into a pleasure-filled cesspit. However, lying in bed at night and realising how short life is would surely terrify me.

Did Shaun believe in God? Did he believe that God is his loving Father? Did he believe he had a soul? Did he know that his soul was made in the image and likeness of God? How COULD he believe all this and still do what he did?

Right now, I find myself thinking about where Shaun’s soul is now. I know the Church’s teaching on suicide. It’s a mortal sin. Is there any hope for those who commit suicide? If there’s mental illness involved, can the person have full knowledge and/or consent? How can someone commit suicide and NOT be mentally ill? I don’t know if there are definitive answers.

Comment:

How, then, should we  pray for those who have committed suicide?  Gut Catholic instinct suggests entrusting the soul to Our Lady’s motherly love, but please feel free to share your own thoughts, devotions, quotes, videos and prayers to console Shaun’s family and the families of all those who have taken their own lives, unless, that is, you believe it is impossible to console anyone suffering the loss of a friend or family member as a result of suicide – IS suicide “the inconsolable sin”?     

Who’s right – the Gospels or YouGov?

HellquoteOne of our Glasgow readers, George (his real name!) sent me a copy of a letter he had submitted to the Daily Mail, in response to their article Oh hell – it’s the least that we deserve, by Jonathan Brocklebank, September, 11, 2015.

The article is a commentary on a YouGov poll which “shows significantly more guilty consciences in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, with 14 per cent admitting their sins merit damnation.” Only “10 per cent of people in the rest of the UK think Satan’s furnaces should await them in the afterlife.”  [Ed: and before our English readers jump to the wrong conclusion – this has nothing to do with the independence referendum 😀 ]

I’ve been unable to find a link to the article online (not having a Facebook , Google or Twitter account) but the reader who sent me his unpublished letter also enclosed a copy of the article, so here are a few quotes from it.  You can study the YouGov poll here

The YouGov survey revealed that: “…despite Scots’ dimmer view of their own moral virtue, they are less afraid of death than those in the rest of Britain. They are also less likely to believe in the afterlife…”  The survey asked: ‘If there were a heaven and a hell, which would you end up in?” The article continues:  “Among Scots, 48 per cent believed they would pass through the Pearly Gates – in line with the UK average.  The proportion willing to admit they deserved the other place was surprisingly high – a finding which one minister said might be explained by Scots’ cultural Calvinism placing greater weight on sin.” [Ed: Well, it sure ain’t because they’re hearing  thunderous sermons on Hell  in Catholic parishes. ]

Below is our reader’s letter to the Daily Mail:  he is disappointed it was not selected for publication, so it will be pleasing to be able to let him know that we published it here and discussed the very good points contained therein…

George’s Letter to the Daily Mail…

Dear Sir,

I found the results of the YouGov survey on “would you end up in Heaven or Hell?” fascinating and most revealing.

As it happens, I had been reading about the forthcoming centenary of the apparitions, in 1917, at Fatima where Lucy, one of the three seers, when asked this same question later in life said: “Taking into account the behaviour of mankind, only a small part of the human race will be saved.”

This seems to agree with many of the saints who answered “that most people will end up in Hell.”  Indeed, Jesus Himself said in the Gospels that “few” are saved and enter by what He called “the narrow gate.”

All this runs counter to the YouGov results, e.g. 52% of Londoners believed they were “heaven bound”. As for views on “fearing death” when only 16% of those surveyed said that “death scared them” we know that St Paul said that we all should approach death and the final judgment with “fear and trembling.”

All this “doom” seems to be at loggerheads with comments from the majority of the clergy over the last half-century, saying that “most, if not all of us will go to Heaven.” Seldom a mention of Hell.

Could they be guilty of  genuine heresy?  Perhaps another YouGov poll is needed. 

Yours etc.

Comments invited

Feast of Our Lady of Fatima – Reflect…

Christopher Ferrara…

“I have said it before, and I will say it again: in the entire history of the Catholic Church there has never been a Pope like this. With Francis we seem to be nearing the end of a trajectory whose fearful arc was predicted nearly a century ago in the Third Secret of Fatima. As that centenary approaches, we can only regard the year 2017 with increasing dread, mitigated only by the hope that God will see fit to give Our Lady a miraculous victory over the madness that afflicts so much of the human element of the Church today.”   Read entire article here

Comment

We give honour to Our Lady on this Feast of Fatima, and pray especially for the Pope and Church today.  There is plenty of food for thought in the article by Christopher Ferrara – so comments welcome on that, as we exchange Feast Day greetings, in gratitude for Our Lady’s warning of the diabolical disorientation to come in our times. Without the Message of Fatima, many of us would be finding our faith sorely stretched, to the point of being intolerable,  today.

In that spirit, allow me to wish all our bloggers and readers a very Happy Feast! 

And The Greatest Of These Is Charity…

“Let us consider the Eighth Commandment, not least within the context of today’s digital age. The Ten Commandments make explicit the natural law written into every human heart. They tell us to love God (Commandments One to Three) and to love our neighbour (Commandments Four to Ten). The Eighth Commandment says this: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”9 In other words, we must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy, and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment. We must avoid calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings. 10 How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings? All this is grave matter. Yet when we think of our news media and TV, in which fallen celebrities are pilloried, reputations shredded and people’s sins exposed, it sometimes seems our popular culture thrives on breaking this Commandment.”  Click on photo of Bishop Egan to read his Lenten Pastoral Letter in full.

And then, focusing on his remarks about social media, we might consider whether or not blogging – by its nature –  leads to lack of charity, and hence to sin against the eighth commandment. Share your practical tips on how to avoid lack of charity in blogging…

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Adulterous Unions: “Pastoral Concern” Euphemism For “Acceptance”?

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Rome, Italy, Dec 18, 2013 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church must reach out to Catholics who are divorced and remarried to let them know they are welcome even if they cannot receive the sacraments, several theologians have noted.

Sean Innerst, theology department chair at Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary, said he hopes to see “interesting and creative responses” to help those who are divorced or divorced and remarried and believe themselves to be outside of the Church.

“They might be in a life situation which means they can’t receive Communion, but that doesn’t mean they can’t darken the door of the church,” he told CNA Nov. 5.

“It’s just inconsistent with the gospel for people to feel they’re excluded because they’re in a situation that’s tragic and complicated and they can’t currently sort out.”

“We need to have some pastoral responses to these situations where we don’t simply allow people to drift away because they’ve made serious mistakes, because the culture has led them in this direction,” Innerst emphasized.

“We need to go out and find these people and help them to know they have a place in the Church.”

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller – head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – reaffirmed in an essay republished in L’Osservatore Romano in October that Catholics in irregular marital unions after divorce cannot receive Holy Communion. He underscored, though, that it is “imperative” to show “pastoral concern” for them
(Ed: it would help if someone would spell out what this means in practical terms.)

However, many Catholic bishops in Germany have said they intend to give Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, despite Catholic teaching.
(Ed: and what then? Do they remain “bishops in good standing” – unlike the Bishops of the SSPX?)

The Archdiocese of Freiburg in October released a document saying that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Holy Communion if they can show their first marriage cannot be reentered, if they repent of their fault in a divorce and if they enter “a new moral responsibility” with their new spouse.

That document drew a swift response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said pastoral approaches must agree with Church teaching.

Despite these rejections, Bishop Gebhard Fuerst of Stuttgart in November told a meeting of the Central Committee of German Catholics that the German bishops have drafted guidelines and aim to approve them at their plenary meeting in March 2014.
(Ed: what will the Pope do then? Remember, Archbishop Lefebvre was “excommunicated” for a heck of a lot less)

Last week, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith member Cardinal Walter Kasper told the German weekly Die Zeit that the divorced and remarried will soon be able to receive the sacraments, the Italian news site AGI reports.
(Ed: this is the same Cardinal Kasper who said the SSPX must accept Vatican II – hilarious considering he clearly doesn’t accept Christ’s own words about divorce and remarriage = adultery, expressly stated in the Gospel.)

Catholic teaching recognizes the indissolubility of Christian marriage, allowing marriages for the divorced only if they can show the first marriage was invalid according to canonical norms. Those in irregular unions are admitted to Holy Communion only if they are living “as brother and sister” with their partners.

Manfred Lütz, a German psychologist and theologian in Rome for the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s plenary meeting on “Proclaiming Christ in the Digital Age,” said the Church’s dogmatic teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received an annulment is “clear” but the pastoral response is the question.
(Ed: at the risk of repeating myself, will someone tell us all what “pastoral response” means – in practical terms.)

He told CNA Dec. 4 that in the Catholic Church in Germany lay people are “not always very informed about the position of the Church” and believe that the Church is “not merciful enough.” This is “a great problem” not only in Germany but “all over the world.”
(Ed: someone should tell them that they are, therefore, accusing Christ, our Lord of not being merciful enough.)

Innerst agreed that many Catholics do not know or understand Church teaching.

“I know some people who are divorced, and not remarried, and they think they’re formally excommunicated from the Church, but that’s not the case of course,” he said. “They feel that if you violate a rule, you no longer belong.”

He noted that many people feel that Catholicism is “all about laws” and places the “law before love.”

While Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had to establish guidelines to correct laxity in the Church, Innerst said, Pope Francis is working to stress that “God loves us first.”
(Ed: but what Pope Francis consistently forgets to mention is that Christ told us to prove our love for Him by obeying His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments.”)

“All Francis is saying is that we have to start loving people first, and then bring them to…the law.”
(Ed: again, a false dichotomy is being created: God’s law IS “love”. Are these guys really “theologians”?)

If others see Christians as “a source of God’s love” then Catholics can “begin to talk, about conversion and changing people’s lives in accord with natural and revealed law. Otherwise it’s a losing battle.”

Lütz said Pope Benedict XVI was also aware that the pastoral care for divorced and remarried Catholics is poor. Catholics have to “see how we live in the parish together with these people” so that they are “not thrown out of the Church.”

He said it is “very important” to help these people and Pope Francis aims to discuss this pastoral care at the October 2014 extraordinary synod of bishops, which is dedicated to the pastoral care of families.

Innerst suggested that the divorced and remarried should refrain from Communion and engage in prayer and penance “not as a punishment, but just as a way of finding meaning in their currently tragic situation.”

This would be a way for them to wait “for the time when they can come into conformity with Church teaching.” These are ways to respond “without pretending that the Pope can change things that he can’t.”

Pope Francis “can’t erase the marriage bond” but he can change the Church’s approach given that the status quo is “not working.”

Innerst suggested that the Pope’s request for input from the Church around the world is an effort to find a good pastoral response for divorced and remarried Catholics, rather than a way to “pretend that they’re not divorced.”

Lütz said the Catholic Church in Germany or an individual diocese cannot decide these responses alone. Rather, this response has to be decided “worldwide.”

He noted that many young Catholics in Germany place the “highest value” on being “faithful” in marriage.

“So, young people hope that to marry will be forever. But when they are asked if they think that they personally will succeed in this, they say they do not think so. And this is really a little bit pessimistic view of things.”   Source    (All emphases added)

Note:  while there’s talk about not pretending people are not divorced in the above article, there’s plenty of pretence that they’re not committing a grave sin, causing public scandal – yet that is the truth of the matter. Their “situation” is described every which way to avoid all mention of sin and repentance.  And what do I tell my friend who struggles to remain faithful to her vows despite the fact that her husband left her for another woman? How about some “pastoral concern” for her and the millions of abandoned spouses like her?

So, what’s going on here – and will someone please tell me what can any priest, bishop or lay person do that constitutes “pastoral concern” – in practical terms – for those living in an adulterous union?  Are we supposed to send  postcards from the place where the altar rails used to be saying “wish you were here”?  Well… what then?