Martyrdom versus suicide


Why was it considered virtuous for those who were anxious to see God to go into places where they knew almost certainly that they would be martyred, but considered a mortal sin to commit suicide - even if it is for the same motive?


In suicide the person takes the final action, and makes the actual decision to end his life. His action is for the explicit purpose of ending his life. In martyrdom, the person may take an action that eventually leads to his death, but his action is not for the purpose of ending his life. It is for some other good purpose. Someone else usually makes the final decision, and is culpable for his death.


I understand about secondary effect, but isn’t that effectively negated when/if it is being treated as a loophole? What I mean is, given that some of them admittedly prayed for martyrdom and repeatedly sought it out, was the primary effect really their heartfelt intention?

In a similar fashion, is “suicide by cop” officially/morally considered suicide, just because the law enforcement officer was required to pull the trigger?



Suicide by cop (or suicide by execution, which has been known where mandatory death sentences exist; someone commits a capital crime in order to be executed) is still suicide because the deceased has deliberately taken an action toward his death in order to die.

Martyrdom is never motivated by a desire to die; but rather a desire to witness to the faith. Death is an unavoidable side effect. The root word for “martyr” means “witness,” not someone dead.





Let’s consider two instances of suicide by cop. One of them really is suicide and the other is actually martyrdom.

In the first instance the person takes a hostage and threatens to do great harm to the hostage. He deliberately puts himself where police snipers can shoot him, and he gets shot. The only purpose of the hostage taking was to precipitate his own shooting through deception.

In the second instance a civil rights marcher in the 1950s enters a town where it is known that the police are corrupt, expecting he might be shot. In this case the purpose of the action was to demonstrate for civil rights. Even if he prays for such an end, that is not the immediate objective purpose of his actions.


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