Suicide...

Hello, I’ve just been wondering a few things.
So first off, suicide is not allowed (it goes against the commandment not to kill and against the dignity of the human person). I know that; but now I have some questions.

  1. Is it morally acceptable to “take the bullet for someone else”? That is, is it good to sacrifice your own life to save someone else’s? I mean we’ve heard that ends do not justify means, but what can we say here?

  2. If it is okay to do the above, can we apply it to a broader spectrum and justify types of suicide warriors/bombers/pilots (provided, unlike current or previous ones, that they are doing it for a just reason - i.e. to protect a loved one at home and provided that they are fighting a just war.)?

Thank you in advance to anyone who can clarify this.

Pax.

As with many things, I have found the Catholic Encyclopedia illuminating on this topic, which says (and this, of course, is an argument from authority):

Positive but indirect suicide committed without Divine consent is also unlawful unless, everything considered, there is sufficient reason for doing what will cause death to follow. Thus, it is not a sin, but an act of exalted virtue, to go into savage lands to preach the Gospel, or to the bedside of the plague stricken, to minister to them, although they who do so have before them the prospect of inevitable and speedy death; nor is it a sin for workmen in the discharge of duties to climb on roofs and buildings, thus exposing themselves to danger of death, etc.

I think that, although both of the examples you give are examples of “positive suicide,” yet they are or can be virtuous acts. Witness also the deaths of the martyrs, who could have avoided such deaths by agreeing to worship other gods, or by agreeing to cease worshipping Christ.

-J.

Suicide is never justifiable. Taking a bullet for someone is not suicide. You do it to protect the other person. This is called the Principle of Double Effect. You are not trying to kill yourself, but save the life of another person.

I doubt anyone could give a justifiable reason for suicide bombing etc. Who are we to decide who should live an die.

Suicide bombers and war are completely different. Then there is just war and unjust war. There are four things necessary for a just war. You can find those catholic.com/library/Just_War_Doctrine_1.asp.

For your first question that is not suicide. There is a verse that says that “there is no greater love than this, than that a man lay down his life for his brother”

As for the second question I am not sure that gets into the “just war” concept that I am not totally clear on, but I think it would depend on the situation in large part.

I think I get where you’re coming from. Let me create two situational examples:

  1. I’m being mugged with my family. The mugger points the gun at my child and pulls the trigger. At the last second, I throw myself in front of my child and “take the bullet”. An instantaneous result is that my child’s life is spared. Should I do this?

  2. I’m in the military. I’m ordered to charge up a hill as part of an effort to clear a position. I know charging up that hill will probably be fatal. Everyone around me is charging up the hill too. If I die, the instantaneous result is not the saving of anyone in particular’s life. Should I go?

For case 1, yes, a life can be laid down in service for the cause of saving another life.

For case 2, also yes. A great cause doesn’t necessarily have to be the direct and instantaneous result of a life saved. It is permissable to lay down one’s life in service of a great cause whether or not direct or immediate results are an effect.

First, thanks to everyone who responded! My “1” is cleared but I’m still having a little trouble with “2”…

I am actually rather familiar with the doctrine of just war. My question was, in a just war, can a good Catholic be a suicide bomber/pilot? So I think the two are related… Do you see where I’m going? Or am I still not being clear?

Case 2 is similar to what I was asking but also different… As I just now answered PeterMuz above, I’m asking if in a just war, suicide for the cause of the war i.e. being suicide bombers/pilots (like kamikaze) is morally acceptable. Thank you very much for your second scenario though. It’s helping me to sort through some stuff…

Pax.

I get what you’re saying. That would be situational. Again, it comes down to cause, but nothing done in service of a cause can be inherently evil. So a suicide bomber blowing up a civilian market would be inherently sinful, whereas a kamikaze pilot flying a marked plane (ie, not violating laws of warfare) into a warship in a declared state of hostility would NOT be inherently sinful.

Thank you for helping. So, just to clarify, being a suicide pilot/bomber isn’t inherently sinful but could or could not be based on the specifics. And in war, in service of a just cause, and following the laws of war, it is not inherently sinful. Right?

Thank you for answering.

Pax.

Remembering that I’m not an authoritative source for the church, I’d say that sounds like a reasonable assessment to me.

I can’t see how driving a kamikaze plane into a military target is inherently different than jumping on a grenade except insofar as direct effect vs indirect effect of the results… though yes, the laws of war would still apply to such an attacker.

Of course. And, although I know you’re not authoritative, thank you very much for answering.

Pax.

St maximilian took the place for another man who was set to die during WW2. Taking a ‘bullet’ for another person is heroic and selfless act; suicide is cowardly, and selfish act.

Suicide cowardly? I have a bit of a problem with that idea. Why? Because I attempted suicde three times in my life, do you judge me for that? At those points in my life, I was in great emotional and mental pain. I only wanted the pain to end. There was not “light at the end of the tunnel” for me. There still isn’t. At least, not in this life. Not in the way it is understood.

I am now on medication and in therapy. I have been for several years. Will I ever be able to cope alone, without pills and therapy? Without the pills, highly unlikely. Without therapy? Maybe. But I’m not holding my breath. Yes, I trust in God, and I know He can heal. But it must be understood that it is in his good time, and not ours.

I don’t judge anybody, just their actions. It seems like you have or had a mental condition, with all due respect. Those who are mentally impaired probably aren’t in grave sin if they happen to kill themselves, however only God could truly discern that, not I.

I too go through a lot of emotional stress, especially right now with my family. I pray this will be the worse cross I am to bear in life. Even so, I know enough not to hit the end button on my life. Yeah it sucks from time to time, but ending it now would be cowardly. There is so much I have to offer and know there is plan for just as there is for you. :slight_smile:

No. This is not right. The key is what is in the intent. Yes, in war there may be a very likely chance of death. But it is not certain. The example of a kamikaze pilot is inherently sinful. You do not have the right to say that you should live or die. The only one who can make that decision is God. Thou shalt not kill! Remember?

Now killing someone in self defense or in a just war, even if there is a chance( strong or not) you will die. Being a suicide bomber you are without a doubt taking your own life.

I understand you are asking about being a suicide bomber in service of a just cause… But when would that even be necessary??

This is not church teaching. The church teaches that one can sacrifice one’s life in service of a just cause. By your argument, a troop could not throw themselves on a grenade to save their compatriots, because they are assured they will die.

Ultimately, striking a military target whilst following the laws of war is not an inherently immoral act, even if it leads to one’s death. People, Christians included, have gone on “suicidal” missions since the dawn of time.

I understand you are asking about being a suicide bomber in service of a just cause… But when would that even be necessary??

What if we were losing against germany and hitler had aircraft carriers that could be damaged or destroyed by kamikazes? Would it have been worth it to lose Europe under Hitler’s “final solution” simply because we were unwilling to enact such a plan as people willing to lay down their lives for a cause? At how many untold millions of deaths would that decision have been worth.

The military in a just war is a little different than going to a grocery store when it comes to morality… people get called on to die, it’s a fact of life.

Right. Thou shalt not kill. But if I take the bullet for someone else, I am still killing myself. So, the law does not quite apply here. The question now is, is the same principle of ‘taking the bullet for someone else’ applicable to kamikaze etc?

I’m sorry. I don’t understand this sentence. Could you clarify?

I am a very hypothetical person; I like to take things out of the practical realm and put them into the theoretical for a ‘what if…’ kind of scenario. For an extremely unlikely but suitable scenario, say I’m a pilot and I’m flying near the coast. I see an enemy aircraft flying towards a skyscraper on the shore which holds many people and if it crashes would kill many more. Because of a blackout the city cannot activate any defence systems and no other military craft or less damaging solution can be taken than me crashing straight into that plane. Is it morally acceptable to do so?


Can you give an example, please?

Ends don’t justify means. The question is, like I just asked PeterMuz above, is the same principle of ‘taking the bullet for someone else’ applicable to kamikaze etc? Given a more abstract sense of ‘taking the bullet’…


Question for both of you:

We have agreed that to ‘take a bullet for someone else’ can be a good deed to do.
Let’s say, again hypothetically, that I take the bullet for my child when we are approached by a gangster. There is no guarantee that he will not shoot my child after I die. Is it still moral to jump in front and why?

Pax and thank you both for your responses.

We have agreed that to ‘take a bullet for someone else’ can be a good deed to do.
Let’s say, again hypothetically, that I take the bullet for my child when we are approached by a gangster. There is no guarantee that he will not shoot my child after I die. Is it still moral to jump in front and why?

Of course it is. The motive was you did it to save your kid; a completly selfless act. You don’t know whether or not he will shoot your kid after you die, but wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to save your kid. St Kolbe didn’t know for sure if nazis would’ve still killed that other soldier, yet he stilled layed down his life for the guy.

Sure. Peter turned around and walked back to Rome. Paul continued his ministry knowing he would die for it. During the Crusades, knights locked themselves outside the walls of jerusalem to defend the city long enough for reenforcements to arrive, this was nearly 100% fatal as the muslim army outnumbered them 20 to 1.

Ends don’t justify means.

Sure don’t. That’s why I included the caveat that just war doctrine as well as the laws of warfare have to be followed. Namely: proportionate force, proper targeting, identifiable markings on the vector of attack, not using weapons of mass destruction, etc.

The question is, like I just asked PeterMuz above, is the same principle of ‘taking the bullet for someone else’ applicable to kamikaze etc? Given a more abstract sense of ‘taking the bullet’…

Yes, let’s weigh down both.

  1. I’m in world war II as an ally, I jump on a grenade to save my compatriots. Direct Effect: my compatriots live. Indirected Effect: more enemy troops die (because my compatriots continue to fight), possibility of victory for my cause increased, more people live as a result of the holocaust ending.
  2. I’m a kamikaze pilot flying against a german aircraft carrier (in my hypothetical situation from my last post). I fly my plane into the bridge of the ACC, thereby disabling it for months and allowing the allies to gain the upper hand in the naval battle. Direct effect: enemy troops die. Indirect effect: less of my compatriots die fighting an operational ACC, possibility of victory for my cause increased, more people live as a result of the holocaust ending.

The only difference between the two is that one of the direct and indirect effects is switched. The act itself nor the effects or morally negative, thus as long as the means employed are acceptable, this doesn’t present a moral negative.

Question for both of you:

We have agreed that to ‘take a bullet for someone else’ can be a good deed to do.
Let’s say, again hypothetically, that I take the bullet for my child when we are approached by a gangster. There is no guarantee that he will not shoot my child after I die. Is it still moral to jump in front and why?

Pax and thank you both for your responses.

Sure is moral to jump in front. You aren’t responsible for the fact that the gangster pulled the trigger the first time, all you are is virtuous for choosing to jump in front of it and die for the cause of protecting your child’s life. Likewise you would not be responsible for the gangster choosing to pull the trigger a second time, that is solely his moral choice and his culpability.

The troops who died in WWII weren’t responsible for the fact that the germans had conquered paris, and they certainly weren’t responsible for the fact that germany was choosing to continue on and try to take england either.

Thank you.

And the reversal of the effects doesn’t have any play in the morality of the act?
There seem to be three requirements to justify these (upon lookup of ‘Double effect’).

  1. the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself;

I think we’re okay here because in all situations, specifically in a just war, we don;t want anyone to die but it is a side effect, and if I somehow survive - good; i was not trying to kill myself.

  1. the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm.

I think we’re okay here due to the extreme circumstances.

  1. the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral.

How can I justify this one? I would say that the act is ‘attacking enemy craft’ in a state of just war so that’s okay and that we are intending neither to kill ourselves or the enemy but it will probably be a side effect and hope that both of us will live.

Is that a sound logical argument?

Thank you for your well-thought-out responses.

Pax.

I’m going to forgo quoting for this one. I’d say that in a normal situation your logic would be correct: killing people couldn’t be the prime motivation of an action and still have it be moral. However, a just war is an exceptional case whereby that method sometimes gets thrown out. In a just war, soldiers HAVE to die.

Where we can, we should avoid unneeded death (as I said above, proportionate force is a consideration in the laws of warfare), but we should not shy away from killing enemy troops if the cause would fail as a result. As such, if the situation became dire and something like a kamikaze pilot were NEEDED to reverse the result or have the world fall into tyrany (ie, hitler’s final solution), then the idea that enemy troops are going to die as a direct result is irrelevant (otherwise you couldn’t ever fight in the first place, whether or not you’re going to die as a result of the mission)

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