I have finally learned to say someone “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide.” While the Catholic Church does teach that taking one’s own life is grave matter, we now recognize that those who die by suicide are often in such an altered mental state, they may not capable of acting with deliberate consent. Therefore, it is our obligation to pray and hope for those who died by suicide, just as we may hope for the salvation of all the dead.
But that only speaks to the culpability of the dead. Can we not also hope that fewer people will die?
The cliché is true: Depression lies. Despair lies. They tell you that your dark ruminations are insights, not delusions: that life is good, but you are not worthy of it, or that life is meaningless, and you are the only one willing to admit it.
Depression and despair tell you that every day you wake up and decide to live, you perpetuate the pain and peril of those you love. Depression and despair tell you that your troubles will not and cannot end, and the only escape is death.
It is our obligation to pray and hope for those who died by suicide, just as we may hope for the salvation of all the dead.
It is like being in the bottom of a hole. Stay down there long enough, and you stop craving fresh air and sunlight. Instead, you doubt that such things exist; and if they do, you cannot ever have them. Depression tells you that death is the only answer, and death feeds on those lies.
Those looking from the outside can readily see that severely depressed people do not actually need or deserve death, no matter what they say. Instead, they need and deserve to be rescued from the dark lies that call death their only choice.
There is no easy answer to intense human suffering, but one thing is sure: We do not show love by enabling despair, by affirming the lies that make death attractive, by keeping other humans in a dark hole. Love is truth, even painful truth. Love never affirms lies.
But if we see this so clearly in the case of senseless, tragic suicides, why do we hedge when it comes to abortion?
Choosing death only seems like the answer to those mired in lies.
I know what it sounds like when I say that. I am weary of the knee-jerk “but abortion!” response that comes like an involuntary reflex from some quarters of the Catholic world. If I say we should worry about immigrants or gun violence, someone pops up to yelp, “Worry about abortion!” If I show concern at the suffering of the poor, someone hollers, “What about the suffering of the unborn?” It is a counterproductive bit of rhetoric that makes it too easy to dismiss pro-lifers as shallow and manipulative.
But at some point, we really do have to think about abortion. We really do. We cannot always say, “Not now.” We cannot always say, “This issue is nuanced.” We cannot always stuff uncomfortable truths back down in the hole where the light cannot reach them because someday the Light of the World will come again, and that Light will reach down into every dark hole, and the secret thoughts of many—and their lies—will be laid bare.
Choosing death only seems like the answer to those mired in lies. Suicide seems reasonable to those who have been deceived by despair, and abortion seems reasonable to those who have been deceived by a systemic derangement of the heart.
Abortion and suicide join hands in the dark, feeding off the lie that some lives are not worth living.
If it is a tragedy when panic, fear and despair lead to suicide, then how can we twist ourselves into contorted forgeries of compassion when panic, fear and despair lead to abortion? We must excoriate our own hearts and search out the dark holes where lies find shelter. We must not allow ourselves to make cover for death. If we reject suicide as an answer to sorrow but cannot bring ourselves to always reject abortion, then we must ask ourselves why. Why?
Don’t all lives matter?
Every abortion signifies that some woman was not rescued from the dark hole of lies—lies that insist the tiny spark of life in her is worthless. That she and her baby are nothing but a burden, that she is not worthy to bring life into the world. That she is unlovable while pregnant; that her child is unlovable altogether. That her worth lies in productivity. That her child’s worth lies in self-sufficiency. That the power to bear humanity is something to be ashamed of. That her child is not good enough to live.
There are times when we must accept death. There are times when we must make peace with it and allow it to come. But to chase after it, to deliberately court death and take it as our own, to call it good, necessary, even compassionate—this choice only makes sense after we abandon ourselves to lies.
If we have read the headlines and felt the heavy sadness of brilliant lives lost to the lies of depression and despair, then we must challenge ourselves to be consistent. We must think thoughts that can withstand the light. Choosing death is choosing death, and that choice always comes from within a dark hole. Abortion and suicide join hands in the dark, feeding off the lie that some lives are not worth living.
But all lives matter. If it is true for some, it is true for all.