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Fr. Matt
Site Owner
Posts: 382

“Can people who commit suicide still go to heaven?”

 

 

 

December 3, 2015 at 9:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Fr. Matt
Site Owner
Posts: 382

          This is one of those that was asked by the youth on one of those excursions last summer, and it’s one that I have been asked several times in very recent history. Very simply, the answer is yes; people who commit suicide may possibly still go to heaven. 

          We do not – and cannot – know whether or not any particular person who has committed suicide is in heaven. That’s because we cannot know the inner mystery which is in the heart of every person – we cannot see their soul. We cannot even know fully our own soul. Only God sees and knows that; so only God can and will reveal that in the judgment.  It is, of course, one of the great joys of being a priest that I have known many people who died and are certainly destined for heaven.  I'm talking, of course, about those who have confessed and received the Sacraments shortly before their death, and died in a state of grace.  Such a person is guaranteed to be in heaven (whether or not they arrive there by passing through purgatory, no one knows).  Sadly, though, in many cases, a person dies without the grace of the Sacraments, and so no such guarantee exists (or at least none that is knowable to us). 

          What we can and do know is that suicide – which causes such great pain to so many people – is a grave sin. But the degree to which a person’s freedom may be tangled up by external circumstances or internal (psychological) states might either increase or lessen a person’s culpability (level of responsibility) for his actions. For example, a person who is clearly mentally ill might not be fully responsible for his actions, and so would be guilty of a lesser sin. In some such cases, suicide might not rise to the level of a mortal sin for a particular person at a particular time.

          But here’s an even more important consideration in this question (especially in light of this extraordinary Year of Divine Mercy that we’re embarking on). Our hope (for our own soul and the souls of others) does not rest (primarily) on the goodness or badness of our own actions. That’s because (1) we cannot get to heaven by our own efforts anyway, and (2) God’s Mercy is infinitely more powerful than any sin that you or I or anyone else (or even everyone else!) can commit. The catch is that God will not force His forgiveness upon us. That’s why He gave us the Sacrament of Confession – so that we can ask and receive His saving Mercy.

          What is needed, then, for someone to go to heaven? In the end, it comes down to this: God requires our permission in order for Him to save us (from Hell). When you boil it all down, that’s the bottom line minimum requirement. That ‘permission’ is called faith and trust in Him. It’s called repentance and conversion which leads to living a life of Grace and friendship with God. It means putting our lives in the hands of God. No one in this life is beyond God’s reach, yet that permission – that act of faith and trust in Him can only occur in this life. The great unknown (and hence part of the great sadness) of suicide is that we cannot know whether or not – in that final instant of earthly life – this person cried out to God for help like so many in the Gospels, “Lord, save me!”

          That’s why it’s a risk not worth taking for you or me or anyone else. That’s also why there is Hope that salvation may be given for someone who has fallen through suicide. The thing for us to do is to hold onto that Hope and to pray for the person.  Let me repeat that.  It is so important for us to pray for - well, everyone - but especially those who can no longer help themselves.  That especially includes those who have died - and especially especially anyone who has committed suicide.  The ties of love that we form in this life do not end with death, and God will honor the prayers offered in love by those He loves. 

          Can people who commit suicide still go to heaven?  Perhaps so - especially with our help.  So, let's get to it!

          Thank you for such a great question, and as always, if you have further insights or comments, please share them with us online in the ‘Ask Father’ section of the ‘Forums’ at www.stanthonyniagara.org. May God bless you and your loved ones with His great love as we await His coming!

 

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Fr. Matt

December 3, 2015 at 9:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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