Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Suicide of Razis

Some time ago, I posted an article on suicide in the Bible, specifically with reference to the story of Samson and why Samson is a hero of faith if he committed the sin of suicide. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion - the same many commentators have come to over the centuries - that Samson's suicide was not a suicide in the proper sense because his primary motive in pushing over the pillars was not to kill himself, but to destroy his enemies and the Philistine temple. Per the principle of double-effect, he was willing to accept his own death as an inevitable but unintended consequence of his actions.

Following this article, a reader brought to my attention the question of Razis in 2 Maccebees, which had escaped my attention when I was putting together the Samson article. Razis was a Jewish elder who committed suicide in order to escape being captured by the Greek soldiers of Nicanor during the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes; his gruesome death is recounted in 2 Maccebees 14. In the case of Razis, we are presented with a greater difficulty because, unlike Samson, it is very hard to discern any principle of double-effect at work. Let us look at the passage in detail from 2 Maccebees chapter 14:

"A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a patriot. A man highly regarded, he was called a father of the Jews because of his goodwill toward them. In the days before the revolt, he had been convicted of being a Jew, and had risked body and soul in his ardent zeal for Judaism. Nicanor, to show his disdain for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him. He thought that by arresting that man he would deal the Jews a hard blow

But when the troops, on the point of capturing the tower, were forcing the outer gate and calling for fire to set the door ablaze, Razis, now caught on all sides, turned his sword against himself, preferring to die nobly rather than fall into the hands of vile men and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. In the excitement of the struggle he failed to strike exactly. So while the troops rushed in through the doors, he gallantly ran up to the top of the wall and courageously threw himself down into the crowd. But as they quickly drew back and left an opening, he fell into the middle of the empty space. Still breathing, and inflamed with anger, he got up and ran through the crowd, with blood gushing from his frightful wounds. Then, standing on a steep rock,as he lost the last of his blood, he tore out his entrails and flung them with both hands into the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and of spirit to give these back to him again. Such was the manner of his death." (2 Macc. 14:37-46).

So we clearly are dealing with a suicide here. As in the case of Samson, it appears to be affirmed as the morally appropriate course of action. Unlike the case of Samson, Razis' actions are apparently done solely for the purpose of ending his own life; there is no external end to his actions (such as destroying the Temple of Dagon in the case of Samson). He is simply killing himself to avoid being shamed.

It is amusing that the NAB tries to get around this problem by calling Razis obvious suicide a "martyrdom." If that were the case, it is a completely novel definition of "martyrdom." By that definition, St. Agnes could have just slit her own wrists to avoid the impure intentions of her persecutors, or St. Cyprian could have taken cyanide in his villa and both still be considered  martyrs. Clearly this is an attempt to just skirt the issue by the NAB editorial staff, who are not known for their erudition.

Presuming we are working under the assumption that the moral law is universal and that it is not acceptable to suggest that Scripture contradicts the Church's moral teachings, it seems there are three possible ways we can look at this passage:

1) The Bible merely reports Razis suicide without affirming it as morally acceptable.
2) The Bible affirms Razis suicide as morally acceptable, but in fact it is not.
3) The Bible affirms Razis suicide as morally acceptable, and in fact it is, because it is not suicide in the proper sense.


Option 1 would have us take the position that the suicide of Razis is not actually being affirmed at all; the Bible is merely reporting that it happened without making a judgment upon it. This is a common interpretive principle when dealing with morality in Scripture. For example, the Old Testament merely reports the existence of slavery and polygamy without ever morally affirming them as positive institutions. If this principle applies in the case of Razis, we have no difficulty; it is in the same category as the polygamy of Jacob or the slavery Solomon imposed upon some of his subjects.

The problem with this position is that the text seems to actually affirm Razis; it says he acted "nobly", "courageously" and was "gallant." The presence of these descriptors makes it difficult to say that the Scriptures are not affirming Razis' actions.

Of course, one could save this position by noting that while affirmative language is used, none of it is used with reference to Razis' suicide directly; rather, it is used with reference to the way he runs, jumps, and refuses to allow himself to fall into the hands of his captors. While this might be technically true, no language really allows for this sort of thing in practice. For example, can you imagine describing how a bank robber "courageously" leap out the window, "skillfully" ran down the street from the police and "dexterously" handled his firearm? Even if these descriptors did not apply to the act of the bank robbery itself, anyone reading such an account would naturally presume the author was affirming the deeds of the robber. It would be difficult to suggest that the presence of such affirmative language did not constitute an affirmation of the robbery itself. Therefore, if affirmation, silence or condemnation are our only options, it seems that Option 1 is not tenable. 

Option 2 would solve the difficulty by appealing to the differentiation between Jewish and Christian thinking on the problem of suicide. The ancient Jews had a society in which shame was a considerable disincentive to certain actions. Because of this, the ancient Jews viewed suicide as a licit way to escape situations that were considered extraordinarily shameful. In this case, Razis is fears the shame that would follow if he were to "suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth." Therefore, he prefers suicide. This was acceptable in Razis' time, but today it would not be acceptable. Christianity, in contrast to Judaism, fears sin much more than shame, and Christians from the New Testament on have frequently allowed themselves to be shamed and debased by their persecutors but would refuse to do anything that might lead them to sin. Therefore, we are dealing with two different moral systems, and this explains the difficulty.

This is a very common solution to the problem of Razis' suicide, but it assumes that there are two distinct moral systems for the Old and New Testaments. While Catholic Teaching affirms that the New Testament revelation is more complete than the Old, it is not permissible to posit that Old and New Testament moralities may actually contradict one another. This is why Christ makes a point to emphasize that while the Old Testament tolerated divorce, it was never affirmed as good (cf. Matt. 19:8). It is one thing to say the New Testament completes the Old; it is another thing to say it contradicts the Old. To say the suicide was noble in the Old Testament but a sin in the New is a blatant contradiction. Jewish culture at the time of Christ may have viewed suicide as a noble option, but Divine Revelation never has. Since Divine Revelation in the New Testament teaches unambiguously the immorality of suicide, we must affirm this as true in the Old as well. Therefore, we cannot seriously consider Option 2, since it presupposes that natural law can change from one age to another. It is a modernist solution to the problem.

In Option 3 we have the pretty straightforward solution that the reason Razis suicide is presented positively is because it was a morally acceptable act. Like the "suicide" of Samson, Razis' suicide was not suicide in the strict sense. The principle of double-effect means no suicide actually happened.

The principle of double-effect is a moral concept from Catholic Tradition which states that it is permissible to cause harm as a side effect (or “double effect”) of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such harm as a primary means to bringing about the same good end. St. Thomas Aquinas explains it this way:

Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (43, 3; I-II, 12, 1). Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one's life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor” (II-II, Q. 64, art. 7).

As mentioned in the original article on Samson, Samson's primary goal is to bring down the Temple of the Philistines and defeat his enemies; he accepts his death as a predictable but unavoidable "double effect" of his primary act, similar to the way a soldier falls on a grenade to shelter a comrade. He knows the action will cost him his life, but the purpose of the action is not to take his own life, but to save his comrade.

Similarly, so one could argue, Razis did not fall on his sword, jump off a building, disembowel himself and hurl his guts at his oppressors because he wanted to end his own life; rather, his purpose was to avoid having to "suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth." Therefore, this act was not suicide and hence does not present a problem.

If you have a difficulty with that line of thinking, you are not alone. I don't buy it either. Here's why.

When the principle of double-effect is invoked, there is a primary end that is intended and a secondary effect that is tolerated. Typically, the primary end is something extrinsic to the agent. Samson's primary end is the destruction of the temple, which is something extrinsic to himself, as is the situation with the soldier who falls on the grenade - the end goal of saving his comrade's life is extrinsic to himself.

Why is this distinction important? If we allow that double-effect can be invoked if the primary end is intrinsic to the agent, then almost anything becomes permissible. For example, consider all the ways this could be twisted as applying to the question of suicide:

"His primary end was not to end his life, but to escape his mental suffering."
"His primary end was not to end his life, but to get out of the punishment he was afraid of."
"His primary end was not to end his life, but to spite his enemy."
"His primary end was not to end his life, but to escape the pain brought on by his terminal illness."
"His primary end was not to end his life, but to end the boredom of his existence."
"His primary end was not to end his life, but to get out of the heartache brought on by his unfaithful lover."

Catholic Tradition has never accepted any of these situations as valid applications of the principle of double-effect, for the simple reason that all of them are intrinsic to the agent. To admit otherwise would be deny the fundamental unity of human action. When the primary end is intrinsic to the agent, the primary end and the double-effect are too difficult to distinguish, especially when the primary end is supposed to be morally desirable while the double-effect is not. This is similar to the reason why, according to Aquinas, a man may not commit a sin whilst simultaneously repenting of it; repentance must follow sin sequentially because a man might not at the same time will evil while willing to repent of the evil he is committing. 

There is also the matter of proportionality. The unintended consequence must not be out of proportion to the primary end; a man may not blow up his city in order to destroy a single hornet's nest, nor may he take his head off in a wood chipper in order to give himself a hair cut. In the example of Razis, it is questionable whether it is proportional to commit suicide in order to avoid being shamed in a manner not befitting one's noble birth.

So none of the three options present above are acceptable. Have we been totally stumped here? Fortunately, no. I believe there is an Option 4, and that the solution is found in the text itself, in conjunction with an important caveat on the Church's teaching on suicide.

4) The Bible neither affirms nor condemns Razis, but sympathizes with his plight; while neither affirming the objective evil of his suicide, it acknowledges it was a very difficult position for any man to be in and holds out the hope that Razis' culpability for this act may have been diminished or even eliminated by virtue of the difficulty of his circumstances.

It has always been understood that nobody takes their own life unless something is gravely wrong, either with themselves or in their circumstances. That Catechism states that certain circumstances can mitigate the guilt of one who has committed suicide:

"Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide" (CCC 2282).

The Catechism mentions fear of suffering or torture as factors that can diminish responsibility. The persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes chronicled in 2 Maccebees was exceptionally brutal; the tortures inflicted on obstinate Jews were horrendous, as anyone who has ever read the text of 2 Maccabees 7 of the widow with her seven sons knows. Because the persecution was so harsh and the tortures inflicted by the persecutors so horrible, the sacred author goes beyond a mere cold recitation of the facts; he clearly sympathizes with the plight of Razis, who through fear of what might be inflicted upon him, seems driven to a course of action he never would have contemplated in normal circumstances. Because Razis was so noble in character, the Scripture mentions his bravery, gallantry, etc. His suicide is recorded neither affirmatively nor with condemnation, but as a tragedy in the life of a man who was put into a moral dilemma no person should have to endure.

Can we say for certain that in this case the culpability for his suicide is wiped away? The Scripture text stops short of explicitly affirming the moral acceptability of Razis' suicide, as we have seen above. There is no doubt, however, that Razis believes he actions are pleasing to God. This is clear because it says that, after flinging away his entrails, he called upon God to return them to him again at the Resurrection. Were he conscious of committing a grave sin, he would not have done so. That is, he ends his life with a clear conscience, and the Scriptures seem to affirm that he was a just man and that we can have hope for his salvation.

Therefore, the ultimate solution to the problem is that Razis provides us with a example of a suicide where culpability may be diminished. If Samson is an example of the principle of double-effect as relating to losing one's own life, and Saul and Judas are examples of culpable suicide, Razis is an example of a suicide which remains a malum but where the culpa is mitigated, a hypothesis the Church has always acknowledged possible.

This is different from the double-effect hypothesis we looked at with Samson; in Samson's case, due to the principle of double-effect, there is no suicide in the formal sense. In Razis' case, there is a formal act of suicide, but the Scripture seems to hold out the possibility that Razis' culpability for this act was diminished due to his circumstances. This is also different from the "Scripture is merely recording, not affirming" argument, because the Scriptures are in fact sympathizing with Razis, though they stop short of affirming the act of suicide itself. It's affirmative language and statements about the Resurrection give us grounds for hope; it's silence on his act of death itself leave the traditional condemnation of suicide intact.

It is an admittedly difficult problem, but not insoluble given a background in Catholic moral theology.

29 comments:

Jeffrey Coogan said...

Fascinating article. Thank you for your hard work and research.

Charlotte B said...

Thank you for a very interesting article.

Some observations.

I am not sure how Option 4 escapes the objections faced by Option 3. Couldn't one say that even Euthanasia is justified then because of the reduced culpability due to the extraneous circumstances facing the patient/caretaker?

Boniface said...

The Catechism is pretty clear that it is not simply pain as such, like pain from a terminal illness, but actual torture, which is a type of injury inflicted with the purpose of giving as much pain as possible. The Catechism seems to suggest that such torture, or fear of it, impairs the reasoning. I don't know that Catholic Tradition has ever extended that to terminal illness.

Also, with euthanasia, as I mentioned, the primary end remains intrinsic to the agent. That's really all I could tell you. Catholic Tradition has never viewed euthanasia as something where culpability might be reduced, although it has made this allowance, hesitatingly, for suicide. The immediacy of a suicide like Razis versus the prolonged planning involved in euthanasia probably have something to do with it, as well. It is one thing if a man jumps out a thirty story window to avoid being burned to death in a building fire; it is another thing if he deliberately plans to end his life because of terminal illness.

Boniface said...

Also, people's discomfort with this idea stems in part from the fact that there is no clear cut, black and white, yes or no way to distinguish when and if external suffering is sufficient for culpability to be reduced. Can the concept of reduced culpability be used to justify things that should not be justified? Sure can. But that does not mean the principle is not true. It is most certainly true, but where the line is drawn is subjective within each person. No one but God knows, so we must remain content with suggesting that it is possible without asserting with certainty that it happens in any given case.

Charlotte B said...

Hmm, I still feel some reservation toward option 4 as with option 3.

In the textual translation you quoted it says

"Razis, now caught on all sides, turned his sword against himself, preferring to die nobly rather than fall into the hands of vile men and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth."

Cannot it be understood as merely stating Razi's perception on the matter? That he saw it as a noble thing to do but not something that God would actually consider noble?

Because in defending it as Scripture making an objective statement indicating it to be "noble", is there no contradiction in resorting to a notion of subjective culpability as it's defense? Because you do have to defend the act itself rather than the context, no?

So any defense you offer would have to present a defense that any takings ones life in such circumstance is objectively the noble thing to do. But the defense you offer is based on subjective culpability...

I am not sure if I communicated my question well.

Boniface said...

I'm not sure I understand your point...but it is not Razis that says it was noble, but the Bible itself that affirms that it was 'noble', 'gallant', etc. The Bible, not Razis, if affirming the "nobility" of Razis. But it never uses those words with regards to the act, though.

All I am saying is that the Bible seems to sympathize with his plight while stopping short of affirming the act itself, leaving room for hope. Challoner, is his commentary on this passage, says that Razis was a good man, but that this act is "not to be imitated." There is no way to arrive at an objective answer here beyond Challoner's I think - sympathize with the man and his plight, but admit that this was not the best answer, while leaving room for hope.

I'm not going to debate more about the point. Judging from our previous thread on the post on vengeance, a discussion with you will just go on and on and on. Pax.

Charlotte B said...

So ok, let me try and rephrase my question because I don't know if it was clear in my last comment.

What I am asking is.

If we consider the Scriptures to be stating that Razi's act was objectively a noble act, then the proof must proceed to show it as being objectively noble, no? But Option 4 is based on subjective culpability. So it cannot support the notion that the text is stating it as objectively noble. It seems more correct to understand it as the text affirming the subjective notion that Razi held on the matter.

This is why I feel it is probably more appropriate to go with option 1. The term "nobly" could be explained away as the subjective view of Razi. The term "courageously" can indeed mean what it means. A courageous act is not always a moral act. For an example, it can be courageous to stand up to a prophet of God but it would be foolish and immoral. The word "gallant" is also an adjective that does not necessarily speak of any moral goodness. The only term that speaks of moral goodness, "nobility" can be explained away as simply stating the perception of razi.

Boniface said...

That could be viable I suppose, but it seems odd that Scripture would use such affirmative language if it meant to depict only Razis state of mind. If I say "The burglar gallantly robbed the woman," it would be absurd to suggest that what I really mean is "The burglar thoughthe was gallantly robbing the woman when in reality his actions were evil." Normal people don't use language that way. That is why I ultimately rejected Option 1.

I also think it is important to make a distinction - I do not say the Scriptures state his act was objectively noble. They affirm he as a person was of noble character, and that several of his deeds leading up to his suicide were brave, but they are silent on the act itself. This is why I do not say the Scriptures affirm his act, but they sympathize with it.

Charlotte B said...

Aww, I just saw your post stating "
I'm not going to debate more about the point. Judging from our previous thread on the post on vengeance, a discussion with you will just go on and on and on. Pax."

I guess I can only say that I appreciate your bluntness and prejudice. I merely debated on the other thread because I felt that Noah was in significant error regarding his premises. I still do consider him to be as I made clear on that thread and I explained my reasons to both of you. You of all people should know what it gets people to "debate" on and on considering your entire blog is a debate with the church of today vs. church of pre-Vatican II.

Anyway, if this is how you feel about me, I don't feel welcome to comment further.

Sorry for upsetting your sensibilities and thank you for tolerating me even this much.

God bless you and all the best!

Boniface said...

Charlotte, I appreciate your comments, and in this particular case, I think you have a good point - not sure if I agree with it though. You are free to say whatever you want, I am only saying I do not have time for endless threads that just sprawl and never conclude.

Boniface said...

Sorry I shouldn't have worded it that way. I just didn't want to be going back and forth forever.

Charlotte B said...

Sorry on my part for overreacting. I got a little too upset after reading your comment.

I understand what you mean about too much back and forth as well. It is not like a discussion one has in person and these online discussions can be tedious and perhaps not the best place to discuss disagreements. Sorry about going on a bit too much on the other post.

Paul C. said...

Razis motive is not intrinsic to himself. He is described as "a man who loved his fellow citizens and was very well thought of and for his good will was called father of the Jews", and also "for Judaism he had with all zeal risked body and life". Razis' aim is to benefit the common good of Judaism (i.e. the Jewish people's obedient relationship with God).

Razis' action in falling on his sword is to prevent Nicanor from being able to arrest him. We can reasonably presume that Nicanor had some plan of treating Razis to some kind of pollution (such as described back in chapter 6), thus dismay many of the Jews (to whom Razis is a father), and thereby hurt the common good. And this is what "suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth" refers to.

So, Razis' action in falling on his sword accomplishes two things: (1) it prevents Nicanor from being able to diminish the common good, and (2) it results in the death of Razis. (1) is the extrinsic effect, and (2) is the secondary effect to be tolerated.

Boniface said...

Well, I disagree. Even though Razis death would have accomplished those things you mention, the primary motive says he doesn't want to suffer outrages, so it seems the act is intrinsic. I can see your viewpoint though - you would then categorize this in the same category as Samson via principle of double effect.

But I think if this solution is adopted, it is problematic - Agnes nor Barbara nor any of the Virgins did not kill themselves when they thought they were going to be exposed to outrages. This does not seem consonant with Christian morality.

Paul C. said...

"This does not seem consonant with Christian morality."

I agree. But the events take place in Jewish pre-Christian times, when there was much more of a focus on physical things being intrinsically linked to the spiritual. (E.g. one couldn't eat certain things, or touching a dead body made you impure.) So, Nicanor capturing Razis and then being able to pollute him would (to many) seem as a spiritual loss.

But in Christian times we do not see things that way, and understand that Nicanor could not pollute Razis by physical means. Razis understanding was imperfect, but not his faith.

The word translated into English here as 'noble' can be misleading. The underlying Greek is something akin to 'well-born'. Other books of the Maccabees show that it was the fact that people were born Jewish was what made them 'well-born'.

Boniface said...

I noted that issue about the word "noble" when researching this, but did not feel enough of a Greek scholar to discuss it.

While I do think Christian morality is more perfect than Jewish, I do not think there are two moralities, that the Old and New can contradict each other. I don't feel comfortable with a position that suicide is acceptable in the Old but not in the New, and as long as it seems Maccabees portrays this positively, I can't take the position that it is simply reporting what happened.

Paul C. said...

"...I do not think there are two moralities, that the Old and New can contradict each other."

I'm not sure what you mean. There were numerous laws in the Old that no longer apply in the New, so behaviors could, depending on the circumstances, be quite different.

"I don't feel comfortable with a position that suicide is acceptable in the Old but not in the New..."

I don't see it as acceptable in either morality. Though, both moralities require that there are things that must be avoided, even at the cost of one's life.

"...and as long as it seems Maccabees portrays this positively..."

What I see Maccabees portraying positively, and very emphatically, is the idea that there are some circumstances in which abandoning your life is necessary -- when bodily life is of secondary importance to obeying a divine requirement. The Old and the New may differ on the circumstances when this is necessary.

Titus said...

I would like to develop the concept raised by Paul C.

If Razis is an important figure in the Jewish community, his capture and subjugation to various profanities can reasonably be expected to have widespread ill effects on other Jews, including on the military position of Judas Maccabaeus (whose renewed conflict with the Seleucid governor Nicanor is the major subject of Chapter 14).

Those consequences, then, would be external to himself, rather than merely internal. That seems to distinguish the case from that of the Roman martyrs, who were principally subjected to personal deprivations. Because there was no military context to the Roman persecutions, the risks attendant upon the apprehension and torture of a given individual (even the pope) were less than may have been the case with Razis.

Now, maybe that's not a winning position. But it's a permutation that didn't make the original list and probably deserves at least some consideration.

Boniface said...

Paul and Titus,

I can see your points. I am not 100% satisfied with my own explanation, but I think the line of thinking you are taking is problematic as well.

For one thing, you guys are both going on this argument about the reason for his death being not wanting to scandalize or damage the community. But the Scriptures never cite that as a reason for his suicide. The only reason we have to go on is that he did not want to "suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth." That's it.

Second, even if the "didn't want to do harm to the community" argument was true, it would still be a problem. To go back to the correlation of the Roman martyrs, wouldn't the martyrdom of a pope do a lot of damage to the integrity of the Christian community in Rome? By that reasoning, a pope or eminent bishop could commit suicide to get out of martyrdom in order to spare the flock the damage that their death could do.

Boniface said...

I'm not sure what you mean. There were numerous laws in the Old that no longer apply in the New, so behaviors could, depending on the circumstances, be quite different.

Those were ceremonial laws. The moral law is always the same, because the moral law is part of natural law. This means everything affirmed as morally good in the Old Testament must, in some way, be affirmed now as well.

That's not to say there is not development. Some things - divorce, polygamy - are tolerated in the Old but not in the New (though they are never positively affirmed). Other moral teachings are not revealed until the New. But we cannot have a situation where something is affirmed as a positive good in the Old and as an evil in the New. That would mean the moral law is relative, which is impossible.

Paul C. said...

"To go back to the correlation of the Roman martyrs, wouldn't the martyrdom of a pope do a lot of damage to the integrity of the Christian community in Rome?"

In the Christian view, the manner of the martyrdom could not be sinful, nor as a sin counting against the Christian community of Rome. Rather, it would seen as evidence for the sinfulness of the Roman rulers. But the OT Jewish view was much more physical than that -- a view which Jesus has to teach against in Luke 13:1-5.

The law against suicide is consistent between Old and New. But because of other different laws (whether food or ceremonial), actions in obeying the Old or the New may have to be different. If someone were to say that they would kill me if I did not eat pork, I would sin by refusing to eat. But that was not so under the Old Law -- as happens in 1 Maccabees 6:18-28.

So Razis acts consistently with faith in his OT Jewish beliefs -- but it does not count as suicide.

Boniface said...

I can't see that stabbing yourself, jumping off a building and then throwing your guts out are not suicide. By your definition, Saul's suicide would be "not suicide" since he did the same thing for the same reason - to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies.

What ancient Judaism affirmed and what Divine Revelation teach are two different things; I don't deny you may be right about the cultural attitude towards suicide, but that isn't the same thing as saying God affirms the practice.

Here is the comments from the 1859 Haydock commentary:

He struck himself, &c. St. Augustine (Epist. lxi. ad Dulcitium et lib. 2. cap. 23. ad Epist. 2. Gaud.) discussing this fact of Razias, says that the holy Scripture relates it, but doth not praise it, as to be admired or imitated, and that it was not well done by him, or at least not proper in this time of grace. (Challoner) --- Whether he was thus inspired or not, we dare not decide. The Jews infer form the conduct of Samson, Saul, and Razias, that suicide is lawful when a person fears being overcome by torments, or giving occasion to other's blasphemy. But Christianity lays down better maxims; (Romans iii. 8.) and St. Augustine, (contra Gaud. i. 31., and ep. 61 or 204) St. Thomas Aquinas, ([Summa Theologiae] ii. 2. q. 64. a. 5.) and others, disapprove of this action, observing that it is recorded and not praised, though other virtues of Razias be commended. (Calmet) --- It was either not well done, or not to be imitated in this time of grace. (St. Augustine, ii. 23. contra ep. 2. Gaud.) (Worthington) --- Yet this holy doctor excuses Samson and some Christian virgins, by saying that they acted by the direction of the Holy Spirit. (Sup. and City of God i. 21.) (Haydock) (Lyranus) Tirinius) --- This seems to be here the case, as the fact appears to be commended. (Menochius)

We are just going to have to agree to disagree. Good conversation though, and I think a reader could benefit just as much from perusing these comments as from the original article.

Paul C. said...

"I can't see that stabbing yourself, jumping off a building and then throwing your guts out are not suicide."

But when using double effect, it is never sufficient to merely describe physical events and then conclude that some moral law has necessarily been broken. It is always the case that the internal mental intention of the actor must be taken into account before deciding.

Boniface said...

But when using double effect, it is never sufficient to merely describe physical events

That is totally not true. I grant it may not always be a factor, but it certainly can be.

Double-effect has to do with intentionality, what is positively willed and what is merely tolerated. Now, intentions are manifested in concrete actions - this is why, for example, the intention necessary to confect a sacrament is manifested by doing the actions the Church requires. Intentionality is manifest in concrete deeds.

Self-defense is a classic example. In lethal self-defense, one positively wills self-preservation and tolerates the death of the aggressor as an unintended but unavoidable consequence. But if, say, an aggressor was found killed with nine bullets in the back of the head, it would render the argument that the aggressor's death was 'unintended' and 'unavoidable'a little silly. The fact that the defender went so far to ensure the perpetrator's death would preclude such a defense.

Similarly, in the case of Razis, it is difficult to say that he did not intend to terminate his own life when he went so far out of his way to ensue that he did in fact die.

Paul C. said...

Paul C. "But when using double effect, it is never sufficient to merely describe physical events"

Boniface: "That is totally not true ... the intention necessary to confect a sacrament is manifested by doing the actions the Church requires. Intentionality is manifest in concrete deeds."

I think you've misconstrued my meaning. If a priest performs the actions required by the Church, but (e.g.) does them while he is sleepwalking, or does them for trainee-priests after addressing them with the words, "I will now demonstrate for you the actions necessary to confect the Sacrament, but this is not for real", then the appropriate intention is missing. The actions may be there, but not the appropriate intention. I.e. it is never sufficient to merely describe physical events.

Boniface: "But if, say, an aggressor was found killed with nine bullets in the back of the head, it would render the argument that the aggressor's death was 'unintended' and 'unavoidable' a little silly."

Unless the defender were to say: "I was sleepwalking". Or, "I only intended one shot, but I forgot that the gun was on automatic," Or, "After the first shot he fell into a crouching position, and I thought I somehow must have kept on missing, so I kept on shooting."

Just the description of physical actions by themselves never conclusively shows what the intention was. And double-effect needs intentionality to operate on.

In the case of Razis, he may have simply been thinking: "I have a moral obligation to make sure that the Jewish people are not polluted by the uncircumcised. It's unfortunate that I will lose my life because of this, but that's a secondary issue." (Just as the self-defender may legitimately say: "It's unfortunate the attacker will lose their life, but that is secondary to me saving mine.")

Boniface said...

Sleepwalking? C'mon!

I still think you're wrong here...sometimes action can be evaluated to disprove even something like "sleepwalking."

IN war, a naval commander sometimes blows up an enemy ship though he knows there may be non-combatants on it, whose death he does not will but tolerates. However, if he were to torpedo the enemy ship, then have his men blow up a raft of survivors then ignore the pleas of others floating in the water asking for help, those actions alone would make it implausible that the death of the non-combatants was unintended or that he was not killing them intentionally (i.e. sleepwalking).

Paul C. said...

Nothing in your reply contradicted what I claimed when I said: "Just the description of physical actions by themselves never conclusively shows what the intention was."

The most you showed was that some actions plausibly show what the intention was. I agree with you there. But the standard I referred to was "conclusively".

In the case of Razis, you seem to be claiming that because Razis performs some actions on himself that end up in him being dead, that therefore we must conclude that it is somehow the only possible intention. However, Scripture has put some information out there that leads in a different direction (by its overall theme of the defense of Judaism's requirements; by other stories within the same books that describe the extreme lengths that the Jews would go in obeying the moral requirements placed on them; by indicating the Jews' fatherly opinion of Razis; and by describing Razis' actions in a positive way). This points at a different intention.

Boniface said...

Well, no, that wasn't my main argument...that was just me getting hung up on something you said.

My main point was, as I said in the article, the ultimate solution to the problem is that Razis provides us with a example of a suicide where culpability may be diminished. If Samson is an example of the principle of double-effect as relating to losing one's own life, and Saul and Judas are examples of culpable suicide, Razis is an example of a suicide which remains a malum but where the culpa is mitigated, a hypothesis the Church has always acknowledged possible.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a saint who jumped off a building to avoid 'losing her purity' and was proclaimed a martyr.

Certainly, St. Maria Goretti died to preserve her purity, though that death was not self-inflicted. Blessed Alexandrina da Costa also jumped out a window and seriously hurt herself in an effort to prevent her being raped, but she did not die from her injuries.

I cannot remember the name of the saint who leapt to her death instead of being ravished, so I may be mistaken.

But, accordingly, we are talking about Greeks here, so couldn't those "outrages at the hands of vile men" be something just a bit more offensive to heaven than just torture and death?

No offense to Greeks of course, but could there not be a Sodom-like connection?

Paul