The Definition of Suicide, High-Risk Behavior, and Immorality

Can certain behaviors, which for most people may be thought of as a form of “slow suicide,” be regarded as immoral on this basis, even though the intention to commit suicide may not be present? I’m specifically referring to substance abuse behaviors such as smoking, drug taking, and overeating. And, by inference, I’m also asking the question how the Church defines suicide.

I would have to think that the intention to end ones life by an action that has no other result (or benefit) other than death. Substance abuse, or in my case, pain management, is not intended as having a result of death attached to it but it is not a healthy activity. The addiction, dependance, or necessity mitigate the act as to the culpability of the individual acting, but the morality of the act is defined by the direct intended result, the object of the act.

Deliberately eating my moms cooking is not suicide unless I intend to die by eating it! :frowning: Just like it would not be murder unless she intended to kill. :stretcher:

Excesses and addictions to smoking, drug taking, and overeating are not considered anything to do with suicide (slow or otherwise).

Definition from the Modern Catholic Dictionary:

SUICIDE. The direct killing of oneself on one’s own authority. It is a grave sin against the natural and revealed law. The suicide offends against the divine precept “You shall not kill.” One causes grave injury to the welfare of society and violates the virtue of charity to oneself. God is the supreme and exclusive owner of all things, so that exercising ownership over life is lawful only to God. He alone can take human life when he wills. The one who directly takes his or her own life violates the rights of God. (Etym. Latin sui, self + cidium, a killing.)

I think that suicide must be defined specifically by the intention to kill oneself. This particular intention is generally not in play in the “recreational” use of drugs, legal or otherwise. The behaviours in question may in fact be mortally sinful, but they are not specifically suicide. (although the moral nature of using marijuana has been debated here several times in the last year, reaching, IMO, unsuccessful resolutions.

Such behaviours may be a co-morbidity of depression. And overall this can be a form of despair which is a mortal sin. The Church does embrace treatment as well as support from the Church.

But be careful not to confuse the secular definition of despair with the Church’s usage. In secular usage, one despairs of ever having happiness again. In the Church’s usage, and the one that is a grave sin, is despairing of God’s mercy.

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