Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A suicidal lack of clarity

No one (I hope) would seek to defend tasteless and insensitive remarks about those who commit suicide, particularly if they refer to specific cases and individuals. Yet the outcry over the recent attention seeking remarks by Jeremy Clarkson (yes, him again) about those who throw themselves in front of trains, and the twittered comments of a professional footballer in the wake of the tragic death of the manager Gary Speed, gives rise to very serious concerns. It would seem that one is now required not only to feel acutely sorry for the mental state of the person who feels driven to suicide, but in some way to respect the choice itself.

The Church does not for the most part fall into this trap; while our attitude to those who commit suicide is that that we withhold premature judgements about the eternal destiny of  individuals with often overwhelming pressures upon them, the act itself is always morally and societally wrong and,theologically, a rejection of the love and mercy of God.
Anyone who has ever known or ministered to families of those who have committed suicide, all of whom remain life-long victims, knows their utter desperation, despair, horror and guilt, the consequences of which can last for generations. To say that suicide is an act of selfishness is simply a description of the familial and social destruction left in its wake. It is not for us to condemn but to have compassion and pray for the souls of those who have resorted to suicide, but neither is it ours as a society or a Church to excuse.

I worry greatly that this essential lack of clarity in refusing to distinguish between the censure which should be accorded to the act and the compassion due to the actor, is tied up with the very mixed signals our society is sending out with regard to assisted suicide and the growing culture of death which we seem to be encouraging more and more by this reluctance to condemn anyone's choices, whatever they may be - providing, that is, they fit contemporary philosophical fashions.

The traditional and sensitive (but much ridiculed) coroner's verdict "while the balance of his mind was disturbed" has far more to recommed it than many people today seem to think. It's when we begin to believe it is perfectly possible and desirable for someone to take his or her own life as a clear, conscious and logical action that our culture is in desperate trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments will not be published