Thursday, September 29, 2011

Suicide, Catholicism, and hope

For Lori, whose husband died this year:

I'm so sorry that you felt let down by that Catholic priest when you looked to the church for support. (*see below for a fuller explanation in an update)

I believe Catholicism does offer answers, but it doesn't claim to answer everything about why horrible things happen to innocent people. You only have to look at its symbol, a good young man murdered and hung up for everyone to see, to see it knows that sh*t happens.

What Catholicism and Christianity as a whole offers is hope and a way to live through the horrible things that inevitably happen to all of us.

The way is simply this: Whatever unfairness comes my way, God has suffered it too – literally – in the life and death of Jesus Christ who was fully human and fully God. From the moment he was born he was hunted down to be killed.

We ask, if God is love why does God let us suffer? No one can answer that satisfactorily, but Christians believe that God loves, and God suffered. Love and suffering go together, they can’t be separated. We know this maybe especially as parents.

The idea that someone who suicides goes straight to hell because of mortal sin is incorrect. It’s a hurtful oversimplification of Catholic belief. We can't know what happens to that person, what happened between them and God in the last moments of their life. And we can't peek through the other side of their death to reassure ourselves.

The believing Christian has a logical hope that as God loves and understands and wants to forgive that person better than anyone else, that the person is safe with God now. We pray for them anyway, because we know that they suffered so much and want to do whatever we can to help them be at peace, with God.

The challenge then is supporting the people left behind after that horror. I think you know most people are not very good at that. But there is always some comfort to be found. I hope this has helped a little bit.

* I have done a little research and found that there can be one Catholic priest to hundreds of Catholic patients in any one hospital. That one priest may do two Masses a day plus bless newborn babies, hear confessions, take communion to people who request it and basically go to anyone who asks for a priest.

They don't only assist the dying, and I guess that might be a reason why he didn't wait for you to get to the hospital before doing the sacrament of anointing of the sick (last rites). Also, why he might have wanted to check if you were parishioners.

Given that there's one priest to so many, I don't know this for sure, but maybe parishioners get preference to try to be fair to them who have been active members of the religion. That is a bad situation I know, and it doesn't take away the hurt, but at least it gives you a fuller picture.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't know what I would do without this hope - a hope that doesn't fade. x


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