Monday, May 11, 2009

Scandal and suicide

Not sure if I've addressed this topic before.

The general tendency of various religions, including the Catholic, has been towards allowing funerary rites in cases of suicides on the basis that one can not know the state of the person at the time of suicide, etc. Thus allowing funerary rites is both merciful and helps the family with the process of grieving.

Having both a suicide in my close family and some suicidal individuals in my life, I would like to call attention to the fact that the granting of funerary rites to suicides can actually have the effect of encouraging suicide - the logic being somewhat along the line that if funerary rites have been granted, the sin must not be very bad, and so I can kill myself and still go to heaven.

Now it very well may be true that the value of the funeral may outweigh the scandal, but I don't think I've ever seen a discuison of this effect in my perusals of the literature. Indeed it has been quite ignored as people rush to find any reason or excuse not to prohibit a funeral:

In one famous case, when Rudolph, the heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, committed suicide in 1889, the medical bulletin declared evidence of "mental aberrations" so that Pope Leo XIII would grant a religious funeral and burial in the imperial crypt. Other similar concessions were probably quietly made in less sonorous cases.

Just something to consider.


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