The Church Gets It Wrong

A Washington Post article published on December 15, entitled, “Parents Horrified After Priest Used Teen’s Funeral to Condemn Suicide,” caught my eye. Anything with the word “suicide” in it still tends to capture my attention, even eight and a half years after my own son’s untimely death.

For centuries, suicide was considered a sin according to the Catholic Church. Those who died by suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground. The consequence of this policy was that survivors of suicide loss – the family members and loved ones left behind – were enshrouded in a blanket of shame. It was insult added to injury. It turned an already devastating experience into something even worse.

In recent decades, however, the Catholic Church has taken a more caring approach, acknowledging that suicide often stems from mental illness. There has been a willingness to de-stigmatize these deaths and to provide more compassionate support to surviving family members and friends.

Some priests apparently did not get the memo.

Full disclosure: I am a recovering Catholic. I’m not a big fan of this religion, in particular, or of organized religion, in general. I consider myself “spiritual,” with a sprinkling of Buddhist tendencies. My sense of God/dess is that s/he/it is a benevolent “something” inside of me, part of me; not something out there somewhere that watches over and judges.

Of course, we each get to wrestle with these big questions for ourselves. I actually admire the faith of others if and when it lifts them up, and when it does not condemn others for not seeing things through the same lens.

And so, perhaps it’s hypocritical of me to judge this priest who probably thought he was simply doing his job. I’d like to think that one of the roles of any religion is to provide comfort in troubled times. My hope is, as a result of this failure, word will spread, and other families will not have to endure this additional strain on their hearts in the face of a loved one’s suicide.

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5 comments

  1. My recovering Catholic belief is that God (whoever you perceive her/him to be) wraps the souls of those who commit suicide in bigger and more loving arms than for any other soul, for their pain on earth was greater. I wish religion would wrap its arms around that. Peace and joy to you this season, Celenia.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My uncle died by suicide as did a good friend of the family and the sons of two families I knew. I am also a recovering Catholic – there is much to recover from, unfortunately. Perhaps it was part of the times, but there was a lot of shaming and toxic messages for much of the church’s history. I am so blessed to read your words of comfort and to know people who grieve a loved one have (hopefully) a new and better world in which to heal from the pain. I thank God for you and your caring heart. Wishing you many, many blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Carol. This news article just broke my heart. Hopefully, something good will come of it. I so applaud the parents in this case who knew in their hearts that this was wrong, and spoke up about it so that others in the future would not undergo their same harrowing experience. Bravo to them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is mind blowing that such archaic and draconian ideas still exist in some people. Thank you for sharing it, for some reason I misunderstood and did not realize this happened more recently = that is truly shocking.

        Like

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