Since it's a quiet, breezy summer around here, I've been slowly chipping away at our long queue of questions. Thanks for your patience if you've asked one! I do feel a little like I'm keeping you on the phone listening to sad music.
Yesterday I had to call the DWP, the Department of Water and Power, about our electricity. Happily, I wasn't on hold all that long, but the "on hold" music they play is eight sad notes (I could count them) played over and over again on some type of electric (what else?) keyboard. Having that stuck in my head, still today, is a good opportunity to release souls from Purgatory. I think that might be the music that is played in Purgatory, in fact.
In any case, today's question is a follow up from a post a little while back.
How can suicide be a mortal sin when you cannot be mentally well (in your right mind) when you take your own life?
And how is flinging yourself into flames or the ocean or whatever a protection of your moral purity or chastity? If a woman is raped -- what these saints purportedly were facing was forced sexual acts -- she does not become "impure." She has been violated and has in no way sinned of her own volition.
I imagine you're not very old. The world is not quite so black and white. Let's start with your first statement that you cannot be in your right mind, ever, if you take your own life.
Yes, you can. Try old age for a while, and get back to me. Despair does not equal insanity. Despair is also a mortal sin, yet it is a very sane response to some very desperate situations. Some people are in unbearable physical pain.
I would agree with you that possibly the majority of people who take their own lives are not in their right minds. But there are perfectly sane people who think they can just cash it in whenever they want to.
But the spirit of your question is certainly vaild, as there was a time when the Church blanketly stated that suicide was a mortal sin, period. In fact, people who committed suicide were not allowed to have a funeral Mass. Their bodies were not allowed in the church. As if a suicide isn't hard enough on a family. That has changed, precisely because the Church understands that the person may not have been in their right mind, or may have realized their sin and asked for forgiveness even as they kicked the stool out from under them.
And there was time in history, in fact up until recently, when even the law would question if a woman "brought it on herself" if she was raped. That really hasn't gone away entirely yet. Take the case of that nasty old French man in that hotel in New York. Now we're hearing that the victim was a liar and a drug runner or some such thing. She may be that and more. But she also still could have been raped by the nasty old French man and deserves her day in court, which may never come because of her 'criminal' past.
You are talking about a time when women were covered head to toe. A time where a young woman's purity was treasured in a way that we no longer seem to understand.
These women valued their vow of chastity above their very lives. They believed God agreed with them in this endeavor, since the vow was made to God. On top of that, the society in which they lived did believe that if they were raped they would be impure. We don't think that way today, but people did think that way back then. Not all so long ago, really.
Have you ever heard of The Magdelene Sisters? This was a convent (in Ireland, now the subject of much scrutiny, but also here in the US) that took in wayward girls and put them to good honest work in the convent laundry, which was a commercial enterprise. And while that sounds like a good idea, and often did work out well for the girls, what was considered "wayward" included rape victims and girls who were flirting with boys. I personally know a girl who was sent to the Magdelenes because she accepted a boy's invitation to a movie. The boy went on with his life with no interruption or reprimand. She spent three years doing laundry. Not in 400AD. Not in 1620AD. This was going on into the 1950's.
Times change. They don't always change for the better. But 'the good old days' aren't always so hot.
Thanks for your response. The heart of my question (and it was mostly rhetorical) was to imply that we should be very careful in how we use language TODAY so as to not cause further alienation, pain, separation to those who HAVE been wounded by attitudes about suicide, rape, etc. Whatever people thought in the past, I believe we have a moral obligation as we speak TODAY to speak with the gentleness of faith and not let our words deceive people who are already in pain. And I speak as one who has stood with those who have survived a loved one's suicide, who have survived sexual assault, etc. I am not so naive as you believe. I am just not fond of cavilier language in the "service" of "pure" faith.
The Magdalene Laundries and an "honest days work" are words that should never be put together. You should watch the Irish made documentary "The Forgotten Maggies" to get an accurate account of what went on behind closed doors in Ireland. It is attitudes like this and the latest Cloyne Report scandal that has many Irish people turning away from the church and making others like myself question do I still wish to raise my girls as Roman Catholics. I generally find you very honest and funny, but I was really saddened when I read that comment about the Maggies.
hi--i am a fairly new catholic. i guess iam not really a true catholic because i question everything and believe only what God tells me is true. the rest i put aside till later--but i do love my local church--St. Pats. and am a member there. i wish i could write to you personally and communicate that way--is this possible? i love the way you write and i love the things you say. so either way--i will keep reading and loving your blog. and such a wonderful idea this blog is!
i did make a comment before--i took the same vows as a nun on my last birthday--and now i will soon be wearinga modern nuns habit for when iam working in my ministry. i am an independant nun--if such a thing exists--the Lord Jesus is my "covering" something i have been told by pastors, that women ministers need. i would love to "chat" by email with you now and then when i can--would you consider this? iam soon to be 64 (but i lie about my age--i say--"close to 70")i run around town in a elect. wheelchair--i pray for my town--the local shops and anyone who will let me--and life is good!
i thought i would like to do a blog--but reading yours has satisfied that need.i have very little knowledge (first hand) of catholicism or nuns or saints--but i have great first hand knowledge of MY LORD and SAVIOR and HIS Loving FATHER! and i do know a lot about the Bible--but my memory is so bad i cannot tell anyone where a certain scripture can be found--but iam working on that.
my email add is--
and I will sign off as, "Sister Karen-Elise" who would love to hear from you! God has blessed me when i found your blog! please do not stop--you are great at what you are doing! i send you LOVE! and a hug! Karen
Because I have no idea how anyone is asking you questions I'll ask you through here & cross my fingers you'll see it. On the suicide question I have a friend who lost her mother during 9/11. Luckily here body was found but not in very good condition the official report was that she jumped to her death. My friend a Catholic was absolutely destroyed her mother was one of the most devout Catholics I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. At one point in her life she even considered being a nun. Till this day my friend prays a rosary to her mother's soul & our local church always mentions her when they ask to pray for the dead. So my question is could she really be in hell for all eternity facing should horrible conditions? & also could you add her to your prayers. Much Love from NY.
this is in response to Elenas comment about her friends mother leaping to her death--it sounds to me like this woman was trying to save her own life--not knowing what was going to happen.
i have an answer for you and wish i could talk to your friend--i have personally been dealing with suicidal thoughts for about 20 yrs. i got very sick mentally and maybe it was a physical sickness that caused it--no one knows for sure. but i can almost promise you that God would see it this way--a woman jumping to save her life. picture yourself in this position--"if i stay will i die?" "if i jump will i die?"--i think she only thought the first question--so, in reality she jumped to possibly save her life--not to take it. i think someone needs to look at this at another angle. especially if the woman had not been suicidal before that.--i think she is more then likely in a good place now. you must remember just how much God loves us all. this is his promise to us, his children. God is Good all the time--to everybody--he has to be--its who HE IS. i would suggest to Elena's friend to stop praying for the woman the same way she has been and start thanking God for His goodness and kindness and understanding that knows no human understanding. God is much bigger then that.
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