Friday, August 15, 2014

Contemplating suicide: Here's another thought.

 "Job's very righteous and virtuous friends tell him that this is his fault..." 
The internet has been awash for the past couple of days with discussions of suicide. The discussion seems to break down into three basic groups: people who have actually experienced suicidal depression who are trying to explain what it is, people who have never experienced it but who are trying to offer compassionate support, and people who have never experienced it but are pretty sure that people who do are whining narcissists. 
This experience of forsakenness, of emotional anguish to the point of desiring death, is not a product of selfishness, narcissism, self-indulgence, or ingratitude. It does not only happen to bad people. Scripture tells us so. Look at the book at Job: Job in his anguish not only pleads for death, but demands to know why the stars did not close their eyes on the day of his birth, why the womb brought him forth. He not only wishes for death as an end to his present sufferings; he is so overwhelmed by pain that he wishes his entire existence to be stricken from the scrolls of Being. And of course Job's very righteous and virtuous friends tell him that this is his fault, the punishment for some secret sin. But God tells them that they have spoken wrongly. - Melinda Selmys
"Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." - CCC

I love how Melinda brought up Job's friends - Job's friends have been on my mind since commentary on Robin William's death has shown up online.  Nearly every comment or post by Catholics online has reminded me of something Job's friends might have said.  Some have gone so far as to denigrate Robin William's religious faith.  How can anyone possibly do that?  How can anyone know his state of soul, the stage he was at in his faith and relationship to Christ before his suicide?  Perhaps one may be able to say he was a Christian, although not a Catholic - but there is no way to know much more that - especially for those of us not acquainted with the deceased.  We just don't know.  One may critique his work, his comedy, his life style, and so on - but we cannot judge his conscience, his soul.  We can make observations on his Christian denomination, but we can't judge his soul.  Only God can do that.

Likewise - just about every person who dies has a family, loved ones who survive them - how would you feel if someone was judging your loved one and denigrating their memory?  Rich. poor, celebrity, common man, refugee, prisoner, soldier - when a person dies they deserve respect - no matter who they are.  Unless you want to be like the Westboro Baptists who show up at funerals telling family members their loved ones are in hell and that God hates them all.   

Pray for the suicides.

"I am sorry, friends and brothers, that I cannot express this clearly. But woe to those who have slain themselves on earth, woe to the suicides! I believe that there can be none more miserable than they. They tell us that it is a sin to pray for them and outwardly the Church, as it were, renounces them, but in my secret heart I believe that we may pray even for them. Love can never be an offence to Christ. For such as those I have prayed inwardly all my life, I confess it, fathers and teachers, and even now I pray for them every day." - Fr. Zosima, Brother Karamazov, Part II, Book 6, Chapter 3

"The Suicide" - Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865)


  1. After reading what Selmys wrote, I was grateful to have found this, later on, from an anonymous blogger:

    "There is a rush all over the internet to be the first and loudest to call for greater “awareness” of the agony of mental illness, drug abuse and alcoholism and their potentially devastating effect on the mind. Nearly all of them are predicated with some declaration that Robin Williams, because he was depressed, must be absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing in his decision to take his own life. I have been informed all day that “depression kills” in exactly the same tone of dire warning as those old seat belt ads from the 70s. The internet is awash today in lachrymose warnings against “blaming” those tempted by depressive illness to commit suicide.

    “Do you think we rather enjoy feeling good about ourselves for being angry at people who say he did wrong? It feeds our egos to be angry at injustice. Isn’t there just the tiniest voice under the anger that whispers, barely audible, “What a good chap I am, how forgiving of Robin! How commendable it is to be angry with such unpleasant people!”

    “I've spent most of the day today reading all the tidal wave of apologetics for suicide that this has sponsored. Even in the feeds of people, pro-life activists, who should decidedly know better. I'm more than ready to give Robin the benefit of the doubt. The guy was clearly troubled, and it's not up to me to decide who's in hell. But Catholics need to understand that they also don't get to decide who isn't."

    1. LOL, that bloggers definitely not anonymous, but I won't give up the secret.

      Though said blogger has recently suggested an endemic problem regarding those who struggle with suicide: often their circle of friends (such as it exists) is full of similarly dysfunctional people. From my experience anyway, depressed people can't be of much help to other depressed people.

    2. Well, anonymous to me as I don't know who they are and only came upon their blog secondhand.

      In any case, from the Catholic perspective which necessarily entails the element of sin, which is what I think Selmys was trying to address, and, as I admittedly read into her thinking of the manner in light of the 'acceptance' she'd argues for on other matters, it seems to me that a much different approach is necessary:

  2. Terry,

    This posts threatens my livelihood.



    In all seriousness, anyone who says that he is saved or damned is full of it, and is treading on God's sovereign territory. Our Lord is pretty clear: there are going to be a lot of surprises come judgment day, both who is a sheep and who is a goat. Most of it will boil down to your favorite mantra: have a humble contrite heart.

  3. Thanks for this Terry.


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