Typically I try to take in the #1 new release of the weekend for Aleteia, but when that movie was going to be Think Like A Man Too… I just couldn’t. Instead, for reasons I explain in my review, I decided to watch Jersey Boys instead. It’s not terrible, but not what I really wanted in a movie about early 60s music.
You know who had a pretty good handle on the music of that time period? Paul Williams. His parody of late 50s/early 60s pop from Phantom of the Paradise is spot on, mostly because he nails the music itself so authentically. Of course, his lyrics probably aren’t quite what you would expect to have heard coming out of your AM radio back then…
Alright, so it’s a goofy song, but there’s actually an interesting moral and philosophical dilemma buried in the lyrics. As Fr. William Saunders notes, “Objectively, suicide is a mortal sin. (Moreover, to help someone commit suicide is also a mortal sin.) Here though we must remember that for a sin to be mortal and cost someone salvation, the objective action (in this case the taking of one's own life) must be grave or serious matter; the person must have an informed intellect (know that this is wrong); and the person must give full consent of the will (intend to commit this action).”
Based on those criteria alone, Eddie would definitely appear to be risking hell with his decision as he’s both informed AND consenting in his own demise. Now, of course, the Catechism qualifies things some by pointing out that “grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.” So, the fact that he’s being driven by the circumstances surrounding his little sisters health could possibly lessen Eddie’s culpability a little bit.
But what about the fact that Eddie is setting up his own death so that the profits from the resulting increase in record sales (a pretty common phenomena) can pay for his little sister’s life saving operation? Does his death still count as suicide under those circumstances, or does Eddie’s motivation move it into the realm of self sacrifice in order to save the life of another? After all, as we read in John 15:13 where it says, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends,” God looks pretty favorably on such selfless actions.
Sadly, the answer is probably no. Though there appears to be nothing in the Catechism or anywhere else that directly addresses rock stars offing themselves to help out a sick sibling, we can extrapolate the likely solution from other Church teachings. For instance, in the document entitled Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, it tells us that “the transplantation of organs from living donors is morally permissible when such a donation will not sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm done to the donor.” In other words, you can’t donate something needed by someone else if it might result in your own death. This position is derived from one of the core philosophical underpinnings of Christianity, the recognition that we are not to commit an evil act even if we expect something good may come of it.
So it would seem the best we can hope for Eddie in this scenario is that God takes pity on him by taking into account the mental anguish he was suffering due to the terminal illness of his sister. And considering that God is a pretty decent fellow, I’m pretty sure he will.