Does the Church Pray for Those Who Died from Alcoholism or Drug Addiction?

It certainly does; and yet the parallel with the suicides suggests itself and requires a word of clarification. Refusing to carry out funeral services for suicides, the Church is guided by two things. First, it hardly makes any sense to perform clearly pointless actions. As you know, when praying for the departed, we ask for them “the mercy of God, the Kingdom of Heaven and the remission of sins”.  Without doubt, a baptized person can lead both a righteous and a sinful life, but we never really know what is happening in his soul as he enters eternity. Sometimes sincere, true, and potent repentance is expressed in one phrase, word, or even thought; and this may be enough for the salvation of a human soul. These things may easily pass unnoticed by friends, family or anyone else, but the Lord always knows about them. We have a good example of this in the person of the repentant thief. A man of an exceptionally sinful life, a robber and, most likely, a murderer, repented in his last hours. His repentance went unnoticed even by those who were very close to the place of execution. St Luke is the only Evangelist mentioning the dialogue between the robber and the Lord.  In the Gospel of Matthew, we read something different, “The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way” (Matt. 27:44). There is no contradiction here. While some standing at the cross could hear the words spoken in repentance by one robber, others were only able to hear the blasphemy belched out by the other. There is no doubt that the latter was spoken much louder than the former. So, not knowing the last thoughts of the deceased, we prayerfully ask God to grant him His mercy, accept him in the heavenly kingdom and forgive his sins.

But in the case with suicides, we know in what state their souls enter eternity. As trite as it may seem, first, absolutely anyone can repent and change, but only as he is alive.  Second, death ‘fixes’ a person in the state in which he meets it. With the loss of the integrity of human nature, which we call the separation of the soul from the body, the soul loses its free will. Due to that process the deceased becomes incapable of repentance, correction, or change.

Taking one’s own life is always an act of opposing God. A person dares to dispose of his own life and death, over which he does not and cannot have any power. Most importantly, once this is accomplished, he is no longer able to repent, even if he really wants to. As a result, a suicide ‘fixes himself’ in a state of resistance to God, predicting the invariability of his own sad fate in eternity. What can church prayer give such a person? What will it affect? What can it change? Answering these questions, the Church offers no prayer for suicides.

My second point is also simple and straightforward. The absence of church prayer for suicides has an edifying value for the living and teaches Christians to treat their lives responsibly.

However, all of the above concerns only those who deliberately took their own lives.

And now let’s answer whether those addicted to alcohol, drugs, adrenaline, fun, extreme games, self-affirmation, or otherwise tickling their nerves have the goal of taking their own lives? Of course not. Far from it, if a real danger arises, they will do everything to escape suffering. Clearly, an alcoholic is killing himself. But it is not death that he is after, but maintaining himself in a state of drunken ecstasy. The same is true for all other lovers of danger and speed, walking around abandoned skyscrapers and riding on train roofs. They all want anything but death.

Therefore, none of them, except those who deliberately take their own lives, can be classified as suicides. Consequently, we cannot deprive any of them of the right to funeral service and church prayer after death.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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  1. My understanding regarding praying for those who die by suicide is that our personal prayers are fitting and necessary as our love for the person continues but a funeral or a pannikida is not permitted as it is not sanctioned as it is a public service. However is there any structured order of prayer that IS permitted in the church ? Have any Fathers or Mothers composed a prayer for those in this situation ?

  2. Many who commit Suicide are terribly depressed and feel hopeless and helpless. The thinking and reasoning is faulty and one can assume these people are suffering mental illness. For a sin to be serious one must have full rational thought. In many suicides this is absent. God knows our hearts.

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