As many of you may be aware, there have been some heated discussions regarding the controversial issue of suicide and the consequent fate of Judas with respect to his own suicidal actions.
The crux of the problem as I see it, is that many choose to make themselves an authority such that their opinion becomes elevated above that of the Church. This is, strictly speaking not Orthodox. A healthy debate on doctrinal/moral/spiritual issue, is one which involves Church tradition and which appeals to the Church’s authority; a superfluous debate is one which neglects Church tradition and opposes Church authority.
I will thus now put forward the Church’s opinion on this matter, and if others would like to engage with the following authorities then please feel free to do so. If someone would like to share other Church traditions or authorities that need to be taken into consideration, then by all means, please feel free to share them with us.
To summarise the Orthodox Church's position on this issue as established by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, His Grace Bishop Youssef, Fr Tadros Malaty, the Church Canons, the Church Fathers, and the views of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, as shown in the material pasted below:
1) Suicide is murder, and a direct contravention of the sixth commandment.
2) Suicide means that one dies in their sin, and hence is incapable of repenting; as such the Church refuses to perform a proper burial and even refuses to pray over the deceased.
3) Suicide is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, for one has resisted God's Grace and died in sin without repentence.
4) The only exception to all of the above, is if the suicide victim commited such an act due to serious mental illness or disorder.
5) God alone knows all the facts of the suicide victim's circumstances, and thus He alone judges according to His infinite wisdom, mercy, and justice. As such, we should not conclude upon the fate of a particular suicide vitcim, we only speak in general according to Church tradition and authority.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++His Holiness Pope Shenouda III states in his book The Ten Commandments Volume III, in Chapter 6 Committing Suicide:"Suicide is a form of murder. Man does not own his own life nor does he have the liberty to do anything he likes with it. It is owned by Christ, for when He redeemed our lives by His own Blood, He bought man's life which then became His. He created it from nowhere. It is a gift that cannot be thrown away, but should be used for the glory of God's name. That is why the Church does not conduct a funerary mass for an individual who commits suicide, simply because death takes place after the commission of a crime of murder. Such a person dies after committing a sin which he does not give himself a chance to repent for. Still, we can make an exception to this rule in the case of a person who proves to be completely insane when committing suicide, since an insane person should be absolved from whatever wrongdoing he does.
In addition to the crime of committing suicide, we also have other crimes such as losing hope and getting filled with despair...Hope is one of the three major virtues mentioned by St Paul in: "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor. 13:13). A pious man should never lose hope for God's mercy. So, if ever one commits suicide, this means one has lost all hope and has fallen to the pit of despair which in itself is a sin. It also signifies that one has lost hope for God's mercy and for His power to interfere and to dispose of desperate situations. All this is nothing but lack of faith in God's love, care and attention.
Committing suicide also signifies lack of endurance. It also signifies disbelief in life after death. A person committing suicide believes that death is going to help him put an end to all his trouble, which is not true, for if he ever believed in life after death, he would be aware that by killing himself he would go to hell where he is liable to find endless torture. Therefore, committing suicide does not end one's problems, but rather brings up worse problems and more complicated dilemmas. It is as if one came out of a pit to fall into a deep well! The one who commits suicide never thinks of life after death, for if he knew about it he would be afraid to kill himself.
Committing suicide is neither a spiritual nor a practical solution for problems. A person who commits suicide often has a nervous or mental health problem and is unable to think
properly. His mind may get perplexed or stagnate before a problem. He is unable to think but gets confused and incapable of finding a way out. Thus, he commits suicide. Suicide is an actual destruction of the soul.His Holiness reiterates and makes explicit the Church’s position on those who commit suicide in his book Many Years With People’s Questions, in Chapter 33 Those Whom The Church Does Not Pray For, pages 151-153:Who commits suicide has lost faith in the other life thinking that death will end his troubles. He does not believe that death opens before him another life in which he is received as murderer and will go to Hades and will suffer torments harder than his troubles on earth. If he has such a belief he would fear death instead of seeking it as a solution.
And:The only exception for not praying for the person committing suicide is the case in which his madness is established.
If the person who commits suicide has complete mental disorder, he will not be responsible for his behaviour. Likewise, if he has no will nor freedom, because responsibility requires that one be wise, free and willing.
And:We leave the matter concerning the person who committed suicide in God's hands who is the Most Merciful. We should trust that when God judges anyone, He takes into consideration all his circumstances; whether the mental, psychological or nervous. God judges according to His limitless wisdom and knowledge. This is beyond our responsibility as Church.
According to this last paragraph as quoted from His Holiness; there are many factors to take into consideration which God alone according to his infinite wisdom may know, and hence justification of the proposition that we cannot conclude on matters regarding anyone’s eternal fate, even if they have committed suicide, for to put it bluntly, we are not God.
As His Holiness stated above, the Church does not pray over the one who commits suicide. According to the Church canons
, purposeful suicide and the assistance of such an act are depicted as grave sins. According to Canon 14 of St Timothy of Alexandria
, the perpetrator of calculated suicide who “has done so as a result of human offense or for any other reason due to weakness of will”
i.e. performed out of despair, resentment or any other incident of faintheartedness, should not be granted a proper Orthodox Christian burial or even a liturgical ommemoration .According to Fr Tadros Malaty in his commentary on The Epistle of St John (2001), page 54:“The tradition of the Greek Fathers stated that the sin which leads to death is the sin which one deliberately commit and with no repentance. That is why the church does not pray for those who commit suicide, for they insist to be in despair.”His Grace Bishop Youssef of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, states in relation to the matter of suicide:1. Suicide: This is not a simple sin but a compound one . It includes breaking of more than one commandment given to us by the Lord our God. A person who commits suicide has rejected life and thus rejected God's love. He has lost trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Suicide involves committing a double murder or killing; not only his own body but also his soul. The Holy Book of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit., therefore, damaging this Temple is a sin.
Suicide is an act of despair and loss of hope. St. Paul says, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom 5:5). So losing hope is rejecting the Holy Spirit and His work in us, which is really a sort of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Source: http://suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=632&catid=372His Grace Bisho Youssef elaborates upon his position in his article titled Suicide:The Church teaches that all life is sacred, that through His death on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ had transformed suffering so that all people could draw closer to God and others through it, and that people who killed themselves prematurely are rejecting the power and love of God. Further, the Orthodox Church purports that people who take complete control of their lives are blocking out God and every other human being. One who commits suicide is completely self-absorbed and denies the possibility that God can take care of their difficulties and transform them into something positive and meaningful. A person who commits suicide has rejected life and God's love.
The sixth commandment states, "Thou shalt not commit murder." The Holy Bible strictly forbids murdering anyone. Those who commit suicide will be judged as murderers (of themselves). Suicide is actually worse than murder for in killing another human being one is killing only the body, whereas in suicide one is killing both the body and the soul. Suicide prevents the possibility of repentance thereby jeopardizing salvation. This is contrary to the will and authority of God. The seriousness and permanence of suicide has to always be remembered.
I Corinthians 6:19-20 states that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, thereby damaging this Temple is a sin. Broadly applied, anything that damages this Temple, smoking, drinking, and suicide, all are considered sinful. Galatians 6:7-8 states "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Suicide is a violent act against the teachings of the Church. Matters of life and death are not ours to control. The exception to suicide being an "uncontrolled" act of violence against God, is the mentally ill person who cannot reasonably assume responsibility for his actions. A mentally ill person is responding to hallucinations, delusional thoughts, or other bizarre thought processes.
With this blatant disregard of life, and the lack of conscious repentance associated with suicide the Orthodox Church cannot pray over the body of a suicidal individual who has induced his own death.
;St. Augustine along with many other early Church Fathers
, determined that the act of suicide was an unrepentable sin, and hence blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He viewed the forbiddance of suicide as the natural implication and extension of the fifth commandment. Augustine condemned five different motivations for suicide: 1) guilt over sins of the past, 2) a desire to go to heaven, 3) to escape from or avoid temporal earthly difficulties and problems, 4) to evade the sinful actions of another, and 5) to avoid committing sin.
Though not a canonised Saint of the Orthodox Church, Thomas Aquinas had later defended the prohibition of suicide in Augustine’s footsteps, upon three grounds: 1) Suicide is contra to natural self-love, which has the aim to preserve us, 2) Suicide damages the community which the individual was a part of, 3) Suicide violates our very duty to God, for God has given us the gift of life and in taking our lives we interfere with and violate His right and prerogative to determine the duration of our earthly existence.
The early Church Father St Jerome categorically stated that Christ would not receive the soul of one who commits suicide. [Saint Jerome, Letters 39:3, translated by Charles Christopher Mierow (Newman Press: 1963)]. St Ambrose and St Jerome make however an interesting exception to their otherwise absolute and inclusive condemnation: those who commit suicide in order to preserve their chastity.It should also be noted that the Coptic Orthodox Church’s stance on this issue is the same as that of the Eastern Orthodox Church. According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:Suicide is the taking of one's own life. The Orthodox Church has, over the centuries, taught that we do not have the right to take our own lives, since life is a gift from God which we are called upon to preserve and enhance. Hence, the Church considers direct suicide, when a person destroys his or her life with his or her own hand, to be the most serious kind of murder, because there is no opportunity for repentance. The canons and practice of the Church thus prohibit a Church burial to a person who has committed suicide. However, if it can be shown that the person who has committed suicide was not mentally sound, then, upon proper medical and ecclesiastical certification, the burial can be conducted by the Church. In cases, however, where the deceased held a philosophical view affirming the right to suicide, or allowed despair to overcome good judgment, no such allowance can be made.
And:The Orthodox Church denies a Church funeral to a person who has committed suicide, unless a doctor certifies that such a person has lost his or her sanity. Physician-assisted suicide is considered the same as suicide.