Is Suicide Always A Mortal Sin?

One of the elements of a mortal sin is that the person is aware that what they are doing is a grave or serious offense. There are validly baptized protestants who do not believe that suicide is a sin at all, let alone a mortal sin.

Since these Christians would be unaware of the gravity of the offense (or that it is an offense at all), would suicide be a mortal sin in their case?

The fact that they are Protestant would have little if nothing to do with it. As far as knowledge is concerned, it would be more a question of, like you said, whether or not the person truly believes it’s wrong, or even has any doubt about it not being wrong.

If you are not referring to euthanasia, then knowledge is usually not the primary factor in determining the culpability of the sin. The culpability is usually lessened, or reduced to zero, by a lack of free will in the individual’s decision to commit suicide. Even in euthanasia there can be impediments to the use of the free will; such as seeing no other way out, or overwhelming pain that clouds reason, or phycological impediments such as a mental illness.

The Catholic Church has hope for the salvation of those who have committed suicide. And as you noted, full knowledge is part of requirements for mortal sin. Full consent is also required. So those who, due to mental issues, commit or attempt suicide are not fully cupable and could therefore not be in mortal sin because they have neither full knowledge nor full consent.

Now the natural law to preserve one’s life would still apply to those that are mentally competent and knowledgeable, but there is hope for those that do take their own life.

Suicide is almost never a mortal sin because the third condition (deliberate consent) is usually missing. Suicidal Depression is a severe mental illness, and arguably it makes deliberate consent impossible.

Let’s use another example:

There are validly baptized protestants who are unaware that contraception is a sin. There are even some who don’t believe that abortion is a sin. Would these offenses be mortal sins in their case?

Mortal sin requires grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. Any taking of innocent human life is always grave matter. Persons contemplating suicide often have severe depression and may lack full knowledge and deliberate consent.

The Catechism:


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.

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.

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.

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.

Mortal sin according to Catholic teaching needs knowledge and full consent, so suicide wouldn’t always be a mortal sin.
However, I wouldn’t try to say how often it is or isn’t a mortal sin. Only God knows such a thing.

Maybe this link will help:

What if we replaced suicide with homicide?

Most Protestants don’t differentiate mortal and venial sin; an act is either sinful or not to them. Pardon my poor word choices here, but the Church, in her wisdom, doesn’t get too overly concerned in the status of Protestants in this regard, because Church has less influence with them (other than we pray for them). What good will classifying and labeling their sins do them if they don’t heed your guidance?

It is a grave offense, but the person is not always culpable. There must be three factors present to be culpable.

Ignorance can excuse from some guilt, if the ignorance itself is not the function of neglecting one’s conscience or neglecting the learning of morals period. How exactly does a person come to form the opinion that taking his own life is “not a sin”? Certainly, this is one of those “written on the human heart” things.

Romans 1.

I don’t think we know it is almost never a mortal sin. Certainly, especially in the past cultures, you do have purposeful suicides not acting out of any mental illness. I had a family member commit suicide. They had been hospitalized for mental illness prior to the suicide. I certainly hope that wasn’t a mortal sin but I still can’t definitively say it wasn’t. Also with this family member a lifetime of decisions, particularly an emphatic rejection of God, might have contributed to their mental condition. I think we can only hope and pray for such folks.

We have many such threads asking if a person who commits suicide dies in mortal sin. In the first place only Gods that. Second, everyone who asks this never seems to think that even if the suicide wasn’t considered a mortal sin the person might anyway be in a state of mortal sin from others sins committed prior to that so asking about the suicide is rather academic.

I’m an evangelical Protestant currently checking out other sects of Christianity to, hopefully, pull together the bigger picture of God’s truth. In regards to the Catholic church, there are a few big barriers to me considering it, and this is one of them. I really appreciate those who point out in the Catechism how suicide should be viewed. However, in real life I have found Catholics to be more like those respondents on here who are cold, compare it to murder, blame a mental illness on the person’s past sin (Is that what causes cancer? the flu? That’s how illness comes to be?). My question to those who are Catholic would be be this: What is the general attitude that the average church member at a Catholic church takes towards mental illness? How is this attitude influenced by Church teachings and tradition?

First of all, welcome to the site.

I don’t think that asking about the average Catholic’s attitude toward mental illness is helpful. There are tons of Catholics, some of whom have brilliant insights, and some of whom have outrageously stupid ideas. I would never recommend drawing any conclusions about Catholicism or Christianity based on the beliefs of a random sample of its members.

However, in my experience, some Catholics I know see mental illness as any other illness, while others blame the person who has it for their condition. It really just mirrors the beliefs of general population, which is a mixed bag. I don’t think the average Catholic knows the Church’s teaching or tradition on the matter.

Suicide is murder. It is self murder. Earlier Christians buried suicides apart from everyone else. It is a very grave sin.

I would think the average Catholic is very compassionate to those with mental illness. But compassion doesn’t mean not identifying something as sinful. The judgment of individual souls for a sin isn’t ours to determine. When someone dies having committed suicide we can’t say whether they committed a mortal sin or not. They may have had a mental illness that removes culpability.

I can say for me the Church’s teaching influences my thoughts on the matter. It’s constant teaching that suicide is a grave sin influences me. And it’s teaching that the culpability for sin can be lessened due to things like mental illness influence me. I pray for the souls of all those I know who commit suicide.

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