The Catholic Church does not condone suicide; in fact, it is considered one of the gravest of sins. However, the Church also recognizes the right of a faithful believer to receive the same funeral rites as anyone else. As a result, in modern times the Catholic Church will conduct a funeral for someone who took his own life as long as a priest is willing to perform the service.
Catholic Funeral Rites
Catholic funeral rites include a proper Mass, which is officiated by a priest, in a Catholic church. The priest will read passages from the Bible, and he will also offer positive and comforting words about the person who has passed away. A special communion will often take place as well. This communion, also called a Requiem Mass, offers up words of prayer to the deceased's soul.
Although the Church has never had an official religious law against funerals for parishioners who commit suicide, in previous centuries people who committed suicide were sometimes denied a funeral unless the local bishop specifically approved it. This was not due to a biblical requirement, but rather to spare the Church any embarrassment. In addition to the concern over public scandal, it was also thought that denying a funeral to a person who committed suicide might reinforce the Church's position that suicide is a grave sin.
In modern times, the Catholic Church no longer worries about the stigma of granting a funeral to a victim of suicide. Rather, the Church believes that the deceased is still subject to God's love and mercy and therefore entitled to a proper funeral. Furthermore, the Catholic Church has come to consider the mental health factors that often contribute to suicide, and understands that a person is not necessarily in his right mind at the time he decides to take his life.
Mentions of Suicide
The priest officiating the Catholic Funeral Mass doesn't necessarily need to mention that the deceased took his own life. However, the book, "Order of Christian Funerals," does provide two prayers that can be offered in the case of a suicide death. Otherwise, the individual who has died is entitled to the exact same Mass as anyone else.
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images