chapter  1
18 Pages

Defining Suicide in the Catholic Context

ByRobert L. Barry

This chapter deals with the important issue of how one defines an authentic suicide, and it has been argued that an accurate definition of suicide must be neither too broad nor excessively narrow. Defining suicide too narrowly or broadly would not only be detrimental to Catholic theology, but it could be quite damaging for others as well; for if it were defined too narrowly, then many of the deaths people bring upon themselves from despair, emotional turmoil, or immaturity could be seen as permissible and morally upright. The value of the definition of suicide proposed in this chapter is that it neither condemns morally legitimate acts of self-sacrifice nor morally permits suicidal acts of despair and irrationality. Making this precise sort of definition is necessary to understand not only the morality of suicide, but also to understand the Catholic response to claims that some suicides can be truly called "rational" self-killings.