Do People Who Commit Suicide Go to Heaven?

I've always wondered this: Do you think people who commit suicide go to heaven? I know it's a weird question, but I just wanted your opinion. Have a great day.


Dear Friend,

Before I answer your question, I want to let you know first of all that it is not a weird question. I had a teacher when I was growing up who used to say, "The only dumb question is the one you don't ask." I think that the same thing applies to weird questions. Actually, I am proud of you for asking such an important question because you are seeking wisdom - and that is not weird at all!

I have a short answer for the question you asked - "I don't know...but there is always hope."

Now, here comes a longer answer to explain the short answer. I said, "I don't know" because, of course, God is the only one who can make that judgment. I don't think that any human being should ever say or even speculate as to who might go to Hell. Again, that is God's call. One of the things we Catholics repeat in church every Sunday is that "He will come again to judge the living and the dead." And there are some awesome Bible verses that caution us not to be judgmental, like this one - "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged..." (Matthew 7:1-2)

We certainly can have hope about those who have taken their own lives, though, for several reasons other than what I just wrote. Only God can make that judgment, and God is always kinder and more loving than we can even imagine. To illustrate this point, I want to share with you one of my favorite Bible verses, which says, "...equal to his majesty is the mercy that he shows." (Sirach 2:18) To me, that means if we think of how big and glorious and powerful God is, His mercy is just as big and glorious and powerful. And that should give all of us hope!

Another reason for hope is that God is omniscient, which is a big word that just means he knows everything. Everything. He knows the condition of every human heart, which means He knows perfectly why someone contemplates suicide, and He alone knows if there was some form of mental illness or even temporary insanity that may have played a role in the decision. I suspect that many of the people who take their own lives really do not totally know what they are doing and are not totally in their right mind - in other words, they don't fully grasp the seriousness of the decision and the impact that it will have on those they leave behind. Our church actually teaches that a person's level of guilt is related to how much they knowingly and willfully do something that they know to be wrong. And only God can judge such things.

Finally, our church teaches us to have hope. There is a line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the topic of suicide that says, "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." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 2283)
So we should have hope.

I do have to ask you, though - are you asking just because you are curious, or because someone you know has committed suicide, or is suicide something that you have considered or attempted? I'd like to know, if you don't mind writing back. If you are struggling, help is always available. There is a national, toll-free suicide hotline with counselors always available. The number is 1.800.SUICIDE.

Peace,

Paul Masek

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PS As I mentioned, the Catechism of the Catholic Church deals with the topic of suicide - there is actually an entire section devoted to the topic. (If you happen to have or are able to obtain a Teen Catechism, I encourage you to look up the topic of suicide in it). I want to share that section of the Catechism with you, since it is so good and clear and thorough - pointing out how serious this act is, while offering hope, as I mentioned. This section comes from the part of the Catechism that is an explanation of the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Here is that section on suicide, in its entirety...

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.
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.
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.
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.

(sections 2280-2293)