In the vast majority of cases, suicide is a not a coldly planned, completely rational act. In most instances the person who commits or attempts suicide is acting out of great emotional stress or overwhelming depression. Reason is clouded and not functioning normally. The very attempt is a kind of distress signal, a cry to be noticed, a plea for assistance.
Even after the person has harmed himself or herself, there may come a change of heart.
an elderly woman had slashed her wrists and neck while sitting in her easy chair. But she had quite evidently experienced remorse. She had somehow walked or dragged herself to the kitchen door looking for help, only to collapse and die before someone found her. In such cases guilt and responsibility are greatly diminished. And in cases of suicide pastors usually do not deny Christian burial.
Now, suicide as a coldly calculated, freely committed act is another matter. Father Bernard Haring in The Law of Christ, echoes what other moral theologians have long said. Suicide, the arbitrary taking of one’s life, is among the most grievous sins against bodily life. It is contrary to the deepest instinct of selfpreservation. On the religious level it is a “manifestation of the most extreme and arbitrary selfassertion, of spite and desperation”. Haring writes that this sin violates the very majesty and sovereignty of God; the suicide has not the will to serve and to suffer according to God’s will. The suicide sees no meaning in his or her life and suffering.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbour because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. (2281)
We are living in times when human life is being greatly devalued. Euthanasia and mercy killing appear on the ballot each year in some areas, to be acceptable and lawful. There is much talk about whether or not ordinary lifesaving or preservation measures should be used for the aged and terminally ill. A prominent medical journal published an article by a doctor about how he had assisted a person to die with a lethal injection. That may explain why some people see suicide as an easy and acceptable escape from sorrow and pain. It is important for Christians to insist on the value and dignity of human life under all circumstances. We must be sensitive to the suffering and pain of others and reach out to them.