Q. 1. What is the position of the Catholic Church regarding a person who commits suicide? I know someone who did it and I am wondering if he will burn in hell for eternity because of it.
A. 1. On the matter of suicide, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of." (C.C.C. # 2280)
"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 neighbor 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." (C.C.C. # 2281)
"If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law." (C.C.C. # 2282)
"Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide."
"We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives." (C.C.C. # 2283)
Summarizing what the Catholic Church teaches on the matter of suicide:
A. Only God knows what was in the heart of the person who committed suicide. Therefore, only God can determine if the soul is lost or not.
B. For suicide to be a mortal sin that leads to the lost of the soul, it must meet the conditions that are required for a sin to be mortal. First, the action must be grave (which it is in the case of suicides). Secondly, the person must have an informed intellect (know that the action is wrong). Finally, the person must give full consent of the will (intend to commit suicide).
In cases of mental illness, it is unfair to eternally condemn a suicidal person because the individual may not have had the necessary faculties to understand his actions.
C. We should pray for those who have taken their own lives.