The following guest post was written by frequent contributor Fr. Donald Kloster, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The average life expectancy in the United States as of 2016 (the most recent year available) stands at 78.6 years. In 2015 it was 78.7 and in 2014 it was 78.9. This is the first time since 1962-1963 that the life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped two years in a row. If the numbers for 2017 drop again, it will be the first time in 100 years that the country has recorded a three year decline in life expectancy. At that time, however, the culprit was the Spanish flu.
Most experts blame the declines on the opioid crisis, but there are other significant factors as well. I’d like to focus on one of the major factors pulling down the average life expectancy in the United States: suicide.
The word suicide comes from the Latin sui (of oneself) and cidium (a killing). Tragically, the suicide rate is rising at an alarming rate:
- In 2014, the suicide rate in the U.S. was 12.93 per 100,000 for all adults.
- In 2016, it was 13.42 per 100,000 adults.
- In 2017 it was 14 per 100,000 adults.
- Men commit suicide 3.54 times more than women.
- Caucasian males committed 78% of the suicides in 2017.
- On average, there are 129 suicides in the USA each and every day.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that suicide is contrary to the love of self, neighbor, and God. It also breaks the fifth commandment.
When someone takes his own life, he is playing God because God alone has the power to call a soul from this life on earth. To be sure, there may be psychological impediments blocking a full cooperation in the individual, but there is still an objective evil involved.
Today’s society is too quick to pardon those who commit suicide. It used to be that a suicide funeral could not be granted a Requiem Mass in the main Church. Then too, most every Catholic cemetery would refuse the burial for a suicide funeral. These were Catholic moral warnings against the easy escape of a suicide for an individual who refused to seek refuge in the consolations of the sacraments. Suicide is the result of an assault against, or loss of, the theological virtue of hope. It is only common sense, therefore, that suicide rises when faith recedes.
The modern social mores have changed as well. The average Catholic and average Prelate of the Catholic Church put too much trust in the secular prevailing opinions on suicides. The mental health “experts” should not be given a free reign to the detriment of our 2000 year traditional view of the concept of suicide. It is as if many of the Church leaders and faithful have jettisoned the spiritual aspects of what happens to push someone over the edge and commit a suicide. All of us must admit to demonic forces at play. The demons are always interested in helping convince us that what was once a moral evil can now be justified.
Ultimately, the best deterrents for suicides are not toll free counseling numbers. Talking about or informing the public about suicide in general terms does very little to reverse a popularly perceived remedy to depression. There is almost nothing we can do to prevent a suicide when someone is determined.
While awareness is the best avenue to reigning in the rise in suicides, resisting suicide really rests on the spiritual foundations we build.The happiest people on earth are those practicing their religion and those who are married. Then too, celibates are the happiest when their religion is traditional and as authentic as possible according to the two Covenants revealed by God Himself. The Old Covenant was with Israel and the New Covenant with the Universal (Catholic) Christian faith founded on Kepha (Peter the Rock) and the Apostles.
Today, churches around the country are largely empty. It used to be that almost everyone you knew practiced their faith. Now the vast majority do not. Religion is not the opioid of the people; it is the balm.
More social workers, psychologists, and police do not the societal moral problems solve. The unjust killing of anyone destroys life. The juxtaposition of dying naturally in the Lord communicates firmly our trust in His Divine Providence. Only Jesus Christ carries the lost sheep to safety on His exceedingly broad shoulders.