The City of God: Book 1: Chapter Seventeen

Chapter 17

Anyone with a sense of sympathy will make allowances for those unfortunate women who took their lives rather than submit to such dishonor. Yet, no person with sense will be scandalized at those who would not destroy themselves to prevent another’s sin. To be sure, if no one may kill on his own authority even a guilty man—no law grants such a power to kill—then, even a person taking his own life is, of course, a homicide. He is the more guilty in killing himself, the less responsibility he had for the cause that prompted his suicide.

We justly abominate the crime of Judas, and He who is Truth Itself judges that Judas by hanging himself heightened rather than expiated that crime of dastardly betrayal—because by despairing of God’s mercy he abandoned himself to an impenitent remorse and left no room in his soul for saving sorrow. Still, for how much greater reason must one who has nothing to expiate through such a self-imposed penalty desist from self-destruction?

When Judas killed himself, he killed a guilty man. Yet, he went out of this life with the guilt not only of Christ’s death but of his own upon his soul, because, though he died for one crime, he also died by the commission of still another. Why, then, should a man, who has done no wrong, wrong himself, and by killing himself slay a guiltless man? In order to escape the attack of a guilty man, why should one commit on himself a sin of his own—merely that another might not commit it on him?

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII

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