I would like to clarify a couple of things in my recent column on Suicide and Despair – and offer an apology/retraction a misquote:
- The reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church should not be in quotes. It is not a quote but a commentary (and partial quote) of two articles in theCatholic Catechism.
- 2091 The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption: By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to his justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises – and to his mercy.
- 1864 “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.
- My text read this way: “DESPAIR is the most serious sin a person can commit! … Like presumption, despair is a sin against the First Commandment. It steers us away from hope, which is an infused virtue received at Baptism together with sanctifying grace and having the possession of God as its primary object. In Mark, 3:28-29, we read that: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
- I apologize for the quotation marks around the text. That was a mistake, pure and simple. I took it off the internet without checking it against the text in the Catechism itself and found out too late (when people questioned me) that it was a commentary on the Catechism and not the text of the Catechismitself. I am sorry, that was a mistake for which I now publicly apologize.
- However, that being acknowledged, the text itself, I submit, is a pretty accurate commentary on the substance of what the Catechism teaches and what the Catholic Churches teaches. There is nothing in that text that a Roman Catholic might challenge, except the quotation marks enclosing it (and for those I apologize – this is one of the hazards of doing one’s research on the internet instead of in a library).
- Further … This line has caused some confusion: “Many church people still see suicide as an act of despair and as the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholics sometimes reinforce this notion by their reading of the Catechism of the Catholic Church …”
Two things I want to clarify here:
- I say “by their reading of the Catechism“. This is not the same thing as saying that this is what the Catechism says. There is a popular notion that is pretty common both inside Roman Catholic and other religious circles that believes: i) Suicide is an act of despair, and ii) this is a sin which cannot be forgiven. The Catechism of the Catholic Churches teaches neither of those beliefs.
- I was not trying to disparage the Church’s teaching on either despair or suicide – I was trying to teach it more accurately. The same holds true for people who still believe that suicide is an act of despair and an unforgiveable sin. I am not disparaging their belief but trying to free them from a false fear (based upon a misunderstanding of church teaching) which surely must cause them some deep grief and anxiety vis-à-vis loved ones who have died by suicide.
I am sorry about the misunderstandings -and take full responsibility for the misquote.