Insight helps explain priest’s tragic death

Recent attempts to explain Catholic theology on suicide following the tragic death of Father Joe Moreno bring to mind the insights of Father Ronald Rolheiser on this painful topic. Rolheiser is president of the Catholic School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He says this: “A person who falls victim to suicide dies, as does the victim of a terminal illness or fatal accident, not by his or her own choice. When people die from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, AIDS or accidents, they die against their will. The same is true of a suicide, except in that case, the breakdown is emotional rather than physical – an emotional stroke, an emotional cancer, a breakdown of the emotional immune system, an emotional fatality. Such reasoning goes against the commonly accepted view, but not every self-inflicted death is voluntary.”
Rolheiser speaks of people who fall “victims to suicide” and places the great, great majority of suicides in that category. He distinguishes them from those “who kill themselves” such as suicidal terrorist bombers, Kamikaze pilots or murderers who out of anger and jealousy kill others, and only then kill themselves.
God’s healing love, understanding and forgiveness are reaching into the dark sickness that led Father Joe to take his life. But as we read this, a good and gentle God is welcoming him into the mystery of eternal life.
Daniel O’Rourke