God ordering saints to commit suicide?


#1

I came across a disturbing story of a saint who killed herself in order to avoid getting rape. The church teaches that suicide is never permissible but some saints say it was permissable in certain cases as those saints might have received a private revelation from God that allowed them to do so. St. Pelagia was one of those saints who killed themselves.

Saints like Augustine and Chrystonom were some of the saints who said it would be permissable if they received divine and manifested orders from God…

Here is Chyrstonom: phatmass.com/phorum/topic/99350-saints-who-commited-suicide/#.UonHrtIWJX4

suicide is “a valid means of martyrdom” for ascetic women but a defeat for male martyrs.

Here is St. Augustine: newadvent.org/fathers/120101.htm

But, they say, in the time of persecution some holy women escaped those who menaced them with outrage, by casting themselves into rivers which they knew would drown them; and having died in this manner, they are venerated in the Catholic Church as martyrs. Of such persons I do not presume to speak rashly. I cannot tell whether there may not have been vouchsafed to the church some divine authority, proved by trustworthy evidences, for so honoring their memory: it may be that it is so. It may be they were not deceived by human judgment, but prompted by divine wisdom, to their act of self-destruction. We know that this was the case with Samson. And when God enjoins any act, and intimates by plain evidence that He has enjoined it, who will call obedience criminal? Who will accuse so religious a submission? But then every man is not justified in sacrificing his son to God, because Abraham was commendable in so doing. The soldier who has slain a man in obedience to the authority under which he is lawfully commissioned, is not accused of murder by any law of his state; nay, if he has not slain him, it is then he is accused of treason to the state, and of despising the law. But if he has been acting on his own authority, and at his own impulse, he has in this case incurred the crime of shedding human blood. And thus he is punished for doing without orders the very thing he is punished for neglecting to do when he has been ordered. If the commands of a general make so great a difference, shall the commands of God make none? He, then, who knows it is unlawful to kill himself, may nevertheless do so if he is ordered by Him whose commands we may not neglect. Only let him be very sure that the divine command has been signified. As for us, we can become privy to the secrets of conscience only in so far as these are disclosed to us, and so far only do we judge: No one knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him. 1 Corinthians 2:11 But this we affirm, this we maintain, this we every way pronounce to be right, that no man ought to inflict on himself voluntary death, for this is to escape the ills of time by plunging into those of eternity; that no man ought to do so on account of another man’s sins, for this were to escape a guilt which could not pollute him, by incurring great guilt of his own; that no man ought to do so on account of his own past sins, for he has all the more need of this life that these sins may be healed by repentance; that no man should put an end to this life to obtain that better life we look for after death, for those who die by their own hand have no better life after death.

WAIT…WHAT!?! I thought one of the rules for a false private revelation was if anything the revelation said went against church teaching or led someone to sin it should be ignored and detested…so what makes this case any different? We are told suicide is NEVER acceptable even to avoid death or sin from others…

If God told me to murder my family and friends, I would have to do it? How am I supposed to know if it is a demonic revelation or a “divine and signified” order from God?

I’m sorry but this is very disturbing and could lead many to dangerous territories


#2

I have been puzzling over something like this too. I could add something to your question, from a story mentioned above; what if God tells you to take your only son up on a mountain, tie him up, plunge a knife in his heart and burn the body in a bonfire? Why is this commendable, as the saint says?


#3

[quote="FrankLJ, post:2, topic:345533"]
I have been puzzling over something like this too. I could add something to your question, from a story mentioned above; what if God tells you to take your only son up on a mountain, tie him up, plunge a knife in his heart and burn the body in a bonfire? Why is this commendable, as the saint says?

[/quote]

Because God already knew the outcome -- that the knife would not be plunged into his heart, and that the body would not be burned up in the bonfire. It was a test, to prove to Abraham himself (and, perhaps, to Satan) that Abraham was a worthy blood covenant partner, and that this would authorize another sacrifice, 2000 years down the line, that would be carried out to the end.


#4

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:1, topic:345533"]

"But this we affirm, this we maintain, this we every way pronounce to be right, that no man ought to inflict on himself voluntary death"

WAIT.....WHAT!?! I thought one of the rules for a false private revelation was if anything the revelation said went against church teaching or led someone to sin it should be ignored and detested....so what makes this case any different? We are told suicide is NEVER acceptable even to avoid death or sin from others..

[/quote]

And that's exactly what Augustine is saying,too...!

If God told me to murder my family and friends, I would have to do it?

Now you're just making stuff up, aren't you? That isn't at all what Augustine is saying...!


#5

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:1, topic:345533"]
The church teaches that suicide is never permissible

We are told suicide is NEVER acceptable even to avoid death or sin from others..

If God told me to murder my family and friends, I would have to do it?

[/quote]

Most people who kill themselves do so under the sufferings of great depression. It means their minds are not functioning at a "normal" state. Their mental depression "depresses", "push down", "lowers" the working of their mental clarity.

God recognizes this dysfunction acting in their mental state. He sees they were not making this harmful decision with full knowledge and desire. God embraces those suffering and even if they break so far that they take their own life.

God will not call you to murder any one. If someone feels God is calling them to murder or suicide, they need professional help. They should seek care from a priest and from a health professional.


#6

There is a difference between suicide as we normally think of it--killing oneself because one is unhappy or angry or ill... but that is not the type of action we are discussing.

The type of action we are talking about here is more like self-defense. I know that sounds strange, but consider the analogy with killing someone else in self-defense. The intention of the act must **not **be to take the life of the attacker, merely to stop the attacker with an appropriate amount of force. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in the death of the attacker, which was not the intention.

Now, a saint is attacked by a man... back then they didn't have guns so she's basically at the mercy of this evil monster. She values perserving her purity above all else, she protects her purity, and in the process of protecting her purity, she dies.

We know that the Church does not object when soldiers are walking and one sees a mine and covers it with his body to protect his fellows. I would say this is similar. One dies by one's own action, bit does not commit the sin of suicide.


#7

[quote="Ben_Sinner, post:1, topic:345533"]
I came across a disturbing story of a saint who killed herself in order to avoid getting rape.

[/quote]

Perhaps you could identify this saint? You've found things before on the internet that turned out not to be true, so it would help if we knew who you're talking about.


#8

[quote="St_Francis, post:6, topic:345533"]

Now, a saint is attacked by a man... back then they didn't have guns so she's basically at the mercy of this evil monster. She values perserving her purity above all else, she protects her purity, and in the process of protecting her purity, she dies.

[/quote]

Good explanation.

I have been wondering, so I will post a question here since it seems like it is in line with the thread:
Is it okay that the woman in this example would go to such measures to protect herself from rape, or is it better for her to practice a spirit of detachment, even from her virginity or physical safety? If she prefers to die than let this happen, will she suffer more in Purgatory to rid herself of an inordinate attachment, even though the attachment is to something that is good in itself?


#9

[quote="SecretaryMonday, post:8, topic:345533"]
Good explanation.

I have been wondering, so I will post a question here since it seems like it is in line with the thread:
Is it okay that the woman in this example would go to such measures to protect herself from rape, or is it better for her to practice a spirit of detachment, even from her virginity or physical safety? If she prefers to die than let this happen, will she suffer more in Purgatory to rid herself of an inordinate attachment, even though the attachment is to something that is good in itself?

[/quote]

Her attachment to her purity would not land her in Purgatory unless it was due to pride. Many saints vowed their virginity to God, in which case it was not theirs but God's.

Do not take this to mean that not taking a possibly or even probably fatal action to avoid being raped is sinful. These saints were given a gift of heroic virtue in protecting their purity, which is an extraordinary grace, above and beyond what is necessary.


#10

From American Catholic.org - St. Apollonia
While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.
By leaping into the flames, she hastened her own death. Or perhaps, had she not begged them to wait, she would have died at the same moment at the hands of the mob. Either way, it seems that her death by burning was certain and imminent. I think her final act was righteous, committed not out of despair or pride, but as testimony to her faith in God.


#11

It is not clear to me that "throwing oneself into a river" to prevent yourself from being raped is in fact a "suicide."

The women may have had a reasonable expectation that they would have been raped AND killed (and desecrated in the process), so they chose the option that at least posed a hope (however slight) of being spared. This would be no different from throwing oneself from a burning building because of a hope (no matter how slight) of being spared from certain death remaining in the building.

The divine command, however, poses an even greater problem, however. On what grounds could we ever say that any alternative option is to be preferred over the command of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God? What possible moral judgement could ever supercede God's judgement?

The Euthyphro dilemma cannot apply to God as the ground of all existence. There could be no other higher source for determining "the good."

The problem, for us, obviously, is in determining whether any command is, indeed, a God command.


#12

[quote="SecretaryMonday, post:8, topic:345533"]
Is it okay that the woman in this example would go to such measures to protect herself from rape, or is it better for her to practice a spirit of detachment, even from her virginity or physical safety? If she prefers to die than let this happen, will she suffer more in Purgatory to rid herself of an inordinate attachment, even though the attachment is to something that is good in itself?

[/quote]

Happily, the Church doesn't command women to choose to be raped instead of dying or the other way around. As for women being punished in Purgatory because they "don't manage to detach themselves" enough, ever heard of St Maria Goretti?
If such "inordinate attachment" were something sinful, the God-given natural instinct of defense would be something condemned by God (which is absurd) and the human race would have been extinguished long time ago.


#13

[quote="Gorgias, post:4, topic:345533"]
And that's exactly what Augustine is saying,too...!

Now you're just making stuff up, aren't you? That isn't at all what Augustine is saying...!

[/quote]

My point was if we are to commit an objectively grave sin just because we received orders to do it in a private revelation such as suicide...what would stop God from doing it with something like murder which is also objectively grave.

This would seem like a great tool for the devil to use by coming in the appearence of God and deceiving someone into thinking it is a legit permission from God to do the act...because how can we be certain it is God if it the revelation permits one to commit an objectively grave act?....that alone would cause doubt and confusion and would not give me certainty that it was from God (at least if a revelation like that was revealed to me by God) and if we don't obey the command, we are guilty of disobedience...you see what kind of mind games that could play on somebody?

The devil could easily try to deceive someone in thinking their family is plotting to murder them so they need to do the "will of God" and protect themselves by killing the family members (even though they were not plotting at all, the person was just lied to by the devil), but since the person didn't want to "disobey" the orders of God, he decides to buy a gun and kill his family

I'm not saying that the St. Pelagia story was not a God-inspired revelation or that Augustine is a fool..I'm just questioning when something is a legit revelation by God or just a demonic temptation...it would seem almost impossible to tell the difference if the revelation permits one to commit an objectively grave sin.

Hopefully that made sense


#14

[quote="DaveBj, post:3, topic:345533"]
Because God already knew the outcome -- that the knife would not be plunged into his heart, and that the body would not be burned up in the bonfire. It was a test, to prove to Abraham himself (and, perhaps, to Satan) that Abraham was a worthy blood covenant partner, and that this would authorize another sacrifice, 2000 years down the line, that would be carried out to the end.

[/quote]

I understand the long-term plan, my question is about Abrahams motivation. HE did not know what was going to happen; he would have undoubtedly done it if not stopped. So, if you get a command contrary to what you know is the moral law, how do you know it is really of God, as the OP asks?

It goes to a larger question, does God command things because they are right, or are they right because God commands them? I always thought it was the first. Moslems ( I think) say the second, tho some Christians have too, like the Anglican Bishop Paley. So, if the first is true, where does that leave us with the Abraham story?

Well, this must have all been argued out many times over many centuries. Perhaps some of you serious scholars out there can enlighten people like me.


#15

God will not call you to murder any one. If someone feels God is calling them to murder or suicide, they need professional help. They should seek care from a priest and from a health professional.

So what would you tell Abraham when he told you about his conversation with God about the sacrifice?

Ok, maybe it would be too sensitive to bring up. Here is a situation where he certainly would bring it up with you: Genesis 17:23

“Hello, boss. What’s the knife for…God told you to do what?”


#16

[quote="FrankLJ, post:15, topic:345533"]
So what would you tell Abraham when he told you about his conversation with God about the sacrifice?

Ok, maybe it would be too sensitive to bring up. Here is a situation where he certainly would bring it up with you: Genesis 17:23

"Hello, boss. What's the knife for.......God told you to do what?"

[/quote]

I think there is a lot of consider here. First, God was speaking to Abraham in a special way, one which seems to be more like His conversations with Adam and Eve than His conversations with most of us now living.

Second, God had promised Abraham that his son with Sarah would produce many descendants, so how was that to happen if Isaac were dead? So Abraham showed his great trust in God by obeying Him.

And the whole story is a type of Christ: Christ is God's only-begotten son, Isaac is Abraham's only legitimate son. God permitted the sacrifce of His Son, as did Abraham. Christ cooperated with this, as did Isaac.

When we look with horror on the story of Abraham and Isaac, we should be thinking that this which horrifies us is precisely what God did for is with His Son.


#17

I think an important question must be asked when considering scenarios like these.

Would this person be contemplating dying or killing themselves under other situations? Would they be contemplating killing themselves if they were not being attacked, beaten, or other horrific treatments?

The answer is simply "No". So is it a fair description to label any of these examples as suicide?


#18

[quote="St_Francis, post:16, topic:345533"]
I think there is a lot of consider here. First, God was speaking to Abraham in a special way, one which seems to be more like His conversations with Adam and Eve than His conversations with most of us now living.

Second, God had promised Abraham that his son with Sarah would produce many descendants, so how was that to happen if Isaac were dead? So Abraham showed his great trust in God by obeying Him.

And the whole story is a type of Christ: Christ is God's only-begotten son, Isaac is Abraham's only legitimate son. God permitted the sacrifce of His Son, as did Abraham. Christ cooperated with this, as did Isaac.

When we look with horror on the story of Abraham and Isaac, we should be thinking that this which horrifies us is precisely what God did for is with His Son.

[/quote]

Yes, that makes some sense. With that kind of conversation, you would know - and knowing, you should then trust it would come out right.

It would also answer the question about Abraham's servants - they must have had confidence in him knowing. Well, they would have had to have, it happened.

It does not quite tell you if god commands right, or right is what god commands, so I need to study more - but I knew that much already.


#19

From what I recall Pelagia didn't commit suicide. They beheaded her. Maybe you could argue that some saints (like Ignatius) were over zealous or overly enthusiastic about their own death though.


#20

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