Sarah on Freedom and Suicide


We're close to the end of Robert Cardinal Sarah's book The Day Is Now Far Spent. Tonight we discuss his thoughts on freedom and suicide.

Sarah notes that in our fallen world, the moral law becomes destested, and individual freedom becomes the "only criterion" and "personal satisfaction the only objective." He asserts:

"The media high priests burn incense to impulses. If a man wants to put an end to his life, he can. If a man wants to become a woman, he can. If a girl wants to prostitute herself on the internet, she can. If an adolescent wants to look at pornography on the internet, e can. If a woman wants to abort her child, she can. It is their right. Everything is possible."

But this seeming utopia exacts a high price:

"The deeper we sink into chaos, the more obvious it becomes that when the primitive pleasures dry up, man prefers to have done with life. He prefers nothingness. There is no hope outside of this world. Man no longer looks to heaven. He struggles in his frustrations. Westerners have become the largest consumers of antidepressants. The offices of psychologists and other practitioners are always packed. Suicide among adolescents has become an ongoing phenomenon. . . There is a dictatorship of unbridled freedom . . Western culture, which ought to bring liberty to the world, no longer knows the meaning of it."

Sarah is certainly right on this score. Suicide rates and mental illness rates are highest in the freest nations. And, as he explains, it is not freedom itself, but the fact that we have set aside the moral law that gives joy to our freedom that is the culprit. We could have used our freedom otherwise:

"Men confuse liberty and libertinage. Is liberty not the daughter of truth, which leads her to do good and to seek beauty? . . . Liberty is a flame that lights up. It is the opposite of a blind feeling that draws us toward our abysmal passions. . . Liberty is achieved through detachment from sin."

Interestingly, Sarah then goes on to talk about how our environment does not support our efforts to realize true liberty. He speaks of the lack of silence in our new world, silence wherein the soul can seek and hear God. He speaks of the lack of in-person, embodied encounters with the sacred when all we see of the sacred is images on a screen. He also speaks of how the bearing of true witness must be done "with a body, with weariness and suffering." Sarah concludes: "We urgently need to rediscover the meaning of authentic Christian asceticism."

There is a lot of wisdom in these thoughts. The body is the site of our existence in this world, and it is only through the body that we approach Heaven or Hell. The spirits that are not embodied are already either in Heaven or Hell. Our life in mortality represents a choice--a choice we make with our body as the location of that choice.

To dissociate from the body, in any of the myriad forms of dissociation, will produce spiritual illness. This is easily seen in those who cannot get off their devices, whose minds are continually plugged in to the distractions offered and who never have a moment of silence to think or collect one's thoughts or to regain perspective. Such souls have no time to contemplate nature in more than a cursory fashion--taking a cellphone photo. Such souls cannot unbind themselves from what others in their social media group believe and hence exaggerate the influence of the judgments of the group.

We need to re-ssociate. We need to live in our bodies again and not "live" plugged into the stream. Living in the stream is not living . . . that is the path to madness and suicide.

Furthermore, we need to realize that the moral law is a therapeutic handbook to keep us from madness and suicide. It tells us what not to do in our bodies, and by denying ourselves that which would suck all joy and meaning from life, we can flourish.

Come back to the body in righteousness . . . this is the path.

I hope you all have a blessed sabbath!