Is suicide still sinful if it is coerced?

Say someone is held as prisoner, and their captor gives them a cyanide pill and tells them “kill yourself or I’ll kill your whole family”. Would the persons suicide be sinful in this scenario?

i would say yes because you are the one responsible for the death by an act of will regardless of the factors involved. the end does not justify the means. however the greatest thing a man can do is lay down his life for his friends so… there might be some way to justify it.

Remember the three pillars of a mortal sin…

Grave matter

Know it’s wrong

Do the grave, wrong act willingly.

The answer would be no to a mortal sin.

Remember hell is a place that sinners choose in rejecting God and his laws.

Where there is coercion, there is not choice.

But of course, might want to run it by a priest, or the usccb, or Vatican.

One clarification too, the scenario you presented would not be suicide, it would be murder. That is the coercing person’s sin.

I would say yes, because they are still the one killing themselves. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

However a truly “coercive suicide” would not be sinful because it’s really not a suicide at all. Just the term “coercive suicide” is kind of an oxymoron.

Yes, this is a mortal sin. One may never commit evil (killing oneself), that good may occur saving (saving one’s family).

The coercive nature may reduce one’s culpability, but there is no heroic virtue in such a scenario. Killing oneself is an act of cowardice. The sociopath is trying to save himself from the sin of murdering by coercing yourself into committing the sin of suicide. You would only be doubling the amount of sin in the world.

How about the marine who jumps on a grenade to save his whole platoon?

I’m pretty sure I agree with this. “I’ll kill your family” is obviously coercion, and something isn’t a mortal sin unless it’s chosen freely with full consent. I don’t know whether it’s a sin, but I don’t think it would be mortal.

This reminds me of that thread a while ago where we compared heroic sacrifice to suicide. The classic example is a soldier jumping on a grenade- he’s willingly doing something that he knows will kill him in order to give his comrades a better chance at life. I think most people would agree that this is heroism, not a sin of any kind.

If we leave prudence out of it (whether you can believe the captor, etc.), this seems similar to me. For those who say that taking the pill would be mortally sinful, how is it different from jumping on the grenade? Would the situation be different if a different sin were involved (if you don’t steal this, I’ll kill your family)?

I thought of this same scenario.

We must use Faith and reason.

I should have been more clear as kamaduck pointed out - the third pillar includes ‘full consent’.

Calling this scenario suicide, rather than murder is like telling an unmarried victim of rape that they fornicated.

Under these circumstances, the will of the person is not totally free. So no, it isn’t a mortal sin.

The coercive nature may reduce one’s culpability, but there is no heroic virtue in such a scenario. Killing oneself is an act of cowardice. The sociopath is trying to save himself from the sin of murdering by coercing yourself into committing the sin of suicide. You would only be doubling the amount of sin in the world.

The man is laying down his life for his family? How is there no heroic virtue in this action? It would be cowardly to let your enter family be slaughtered, when you could have saved them. This isn’t a typical case of “suicide”…it seems more like martyrdom to me.

Its not suicide - unless your jumping on a gernade when no ones there to be killed - if your jumping on a gernade your doing it to save the people who may be killed - you are sacrificing yourself for the sake of others - thats not suicide. In fact its the greatest sacrifice a person can make - to give ones life for others. That person would be called a hero…

This does sound like laying down one’s life for others. But let me throw a wrench in this. What if the command was, “Deny Christ or I kill your family.”? Now we are talking suicide of the soul. But for the former question it sounds closer to martyrdom, though I could be wrong.

If one denies Christ to save his family, has he really denied Christ? He may be saying that he denies Christ, but in his heart he does not. In fact, by letting his family be killed, he is more so denying Christ by not coming to the aid of those in need. So in this case it would seem like “pretending” to deny Christ is the prudent and moral decision.

This is a tough one. Certainly we would hope that we would die ourselves rather than deny Christ, but having to give up the lives of others complicates everything.

Either way, there’s still coercion- so I say even if it’s a sin, it’s probably not mortal. Probably.

If you are coerced, then there is no “consent of the will” involved and so no sin.


Nice twist.

This is exactly why the Church is so great, the answer doesn’t change…

My words and my intent can be conflicting.

God will know my heart - to save my family. Which follows God’s instruction.

To be clear again because I don’t want folks to get confused -suicide of the soul is not what is happening because mortal sin does not exist due to the coercion.

Suicide is always gravely sinful. It is an intrinsic evil. No circumstances will ever change that.

However, as others have noted, there are three conditions necessary for something to be mortally sinful. The first requirement (grave matter) is present. The second (full knowledge) may or may not be present, but probably would be. That killing yourself is wrong is something most people know. But the third condition (complete consent) would not be met by the very definition of coercion.

It seems likely to me, then, that, though the action is definitely a grave sin, it would not be mortally sinful in such a case.

I, too, wonder at the whole thing being an oxymoron. “Coerced sucide” is really just another name for murder. :shrug:

Seems odd to say the act is a ‘grave sin’, then follow it up with the murder point.

Obviously, we have the scenario here to play with, and as presented it is not suicide. Using the word suicide or not, the scenario is one of murder.

Blame can’t be thrust on a victim. In this case, to take the cyanide pill is not a grave sin.

That is not suicide, but homicide. The soldier who tossed the grenade would be responsible for the death of the marine (such soldier might not bare any personal culpability for the death, however under the just war doctrine.)

Saving others from the actions of an aggressor is both reasonable and honorable.

“No greater gift is this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend”.

Laying down means allowing oneself to be killed, whether by an aggressor or by nature. Directly killing oneself is sinful and dishonorable, no matter what the samurai may have thought.

Not mortally sinful (ie, not morally damning) might be an appropriate way of expressing the situation. Lack of consent diminishes one’s culpability for an otherwise mortally sinful action.

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