Church ‘contributed greatly’ to taboos on suicide - Martin

Catholic Archbishop speaks at Mass marking 10th anniversary of support body Pieta House

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the respect and recognition Pieta House enjoys “is not so much about an organisational structure, but about the extraordinary role it has played in the intimacy of the lives of the many men, women and children who have come into contact with it”. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the respect and recognition Pieta House enjoys “is not so much about an organisational structure, but about the extraordinary role it has played in the intimacy of the lives of the many men, women and children who have come into contact with it”. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The role of the Catholic Church in promoting taboos surrounding suicide has been criticised by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Speaking at a Mass in Lucan Co Dublin marking the 10th anniversary of suicide support organisation Pieta House, he said it would not be right not to accept the church’s role in fomenting such taboos.

“It would not be honest for me to stand here this afternoon and not recognise that the Church in Ireland and farther afield contributed greatly to the level of taboo which surrounded suicide,” he said.

‘Trapped in a priority of rules’

He continued that “a Church which loses the sense of the priority of mercy gets trapped in a priority of rules, and loses the meaning of those rules. The preaching of Jesus was constantly directed against those who imposed burdens on others and never lifted a hand to help.

“That rigidity and hypocrisy remains always a temptation. It will not be combated simply by homilies and critique, no matter how important they are.

“It will be combated by the witness of people who show what compassionate care really means and who passionately believe that compassionate care heals and restores.”

It was, he said, “the compassionate care of the Pieta House family that we recognise and celebrate”.

Pieta House was founded in Lucan by psychologist Joan Freeman and has since established eight other centres in Ireland, at Ballyfermot, Tallaght and Finglas in Dublin, as well as at centres in Limerick, Cork, Tipperary, Galway and Kerry.

It aims is to have a centre within 100km of every person in Ireland.

Suicidal ideation

To date it has helped over 20,000 people in suicidal distress or who were engaging in self-harm, with in excess of 5,000 people coming through its doors suffering from suicidal ideation or engaging in self-harm in 2015 alone.

Its flagship fundraising event is the Darkness Into Light walk, which last May involved an estimated quarter of a million people at 100 venues across Ireland walking towards the dawn.

Archbishop Martin said the respect and recognition Pieta House enjoys “is not so much about an organisational structure, but about the extraordinary role it has played in the intimacy of the lives of the many men, women and children who have come into contact with it”.

“It is about how these men and women and their families have been helped to regain meaning and hope in their lives after the tragic experience of darkness and despair and often of feeling abandoned in their struggle.

“What was achieved within the intimacy of those troubled hearts is something that will never be captured in cold numbers and statistics.”