Sunday, November 2, 2014

TFTD: Reflections on Brittany Maynard

News Article: Brittany Maynard, The 29-Year-Old With Brain Cancer, Has Committed Suicide.

The news has come out that Brittany Maynard has indeed committed suicide. It is a tragedy compounded by the fact that certain groups portray her action as heroic.

The Catholic position on suicide is as follows:

2280 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. (2258)

2281 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. (2212)

2282 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. (1735)

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 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. (1037)

(Catechism of the Catholic Church)

We cannot call her actions good of course. But when it comes to her moral culpability, we cannot see into her heart. We don’t know of her mental and emotional state to know whether she met the conditions for mortal sin. We don’t know to what extent her pain impaired her judgment.

We also don’t know what level of culpability she has for advocating suicide as a good (See #2282 in the Catechism above). Objectively, we must call it wrong.

However, God knows her heart, and knows of all the circumstances. When He judges her, it will be with mercy and justice. We can trust in Him and so we can continue to pray for her soul instead of despairing for her salvation.

What strikes me about this case however is there were people and groups who support legalized suicide who bear some level of responsibility—people who failed her by telling her her decision was good, people who stayed silent when they should have spoken out. People who thought that saying “goodbye” instead of “Wait!” was good.

Objectively, what they did or failed to do was wrong as well, and will need to be answered when they face God at the end of their lives.

So, when praying for the soul of Brittany Maynard, also pray for those who influenced her decision to do what was wrong that they may repent.

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