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Dear Father,

My name is Lorenzo, I have written to you before and I thank you very much for your answers and for the very useful service you have been carrying out for years.

Also this time I have several questions to ask you that I honestly cannot answer, in particular: how can the Lord allow some of his children to be afflicted by various kinds of mental illnesses?

In particular, how can he allow some people to develop depressive states where life is perceived as a tremendous burden to carry  and one would just like to fall into an eternal sleep? What sense do they make?

Often these people are completely unable to fulfill their duties in everyday life including religious ones such as keeping holy the Lord’s day… 

Will little be required of the person entrusted with little? Furthermore, what exactly does it mean to offer up one’s sufferings to God? How do you do it?

I confess that I find this concept really terrible because I think offering up one’s sufferings it is just not natural…

How can God expect us to offer Him our sufferings?

Also, I would like you to clarify the concept that it is men who condemn themselves to hell and not God who condemns…

How can a man freely choose eternal hell?

The last question is this: If a person suffering from severe depression commits suicide, does he condemn himself to eternal hell? After the hell he lived on earth, does he also have the eternal one?

I apologize in advance for the many questions I have asked you and for their banality.

I thank you in advance for the answers you may want to give me, I authorize the publication of the questions if you consider it useful and I kindly ask you to pray for me… I absolutely need it.

With affection. Lorenzo

Priest’s answer

Dear Lorenzo,

1. Apart from the generic but precise answer that God permits evil in order to derive a greater good from it, it is difficult to say why He permits this or that particular evil.

For one thing, it should be noted that the good that God obtains is in the supernatural order and therefore is generally invisible to us.

We will see everything clearly only at the end, in Heaven.

Next Sunday (23rd Sunday, Year C) we will hear these divine words in the first reading: “For what man knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what our LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.” (Wis 9:13-14).

2. Above all in the field of the first questions you asked me, we advance in faith just like Abraham of whom we read that: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. (…) For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.” (Heb 11,8.10).

3. We can conjecture different answers: God permits psychic illnesses so that those who are well do not take credit for it and remain humble.

Or God permits them to free those subjects from particular evils in the present life or even in the future one.

Or to give some people the grace and the merit of being able to dedicate themselves to those in need.

But these are all uncertain answers.

What we are sure of is the Lord’s general plan of love for all.

4. You ask me what exactly it means to offer up one’s sufferings to God and how to do it.

The sufferings pertain to the sacrifice of Jesus, being aware of what Sacred Scripture says: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).

Psychic suffering, when combined with that of Christ and offered to God the Father, has the power to forgive many sins and prepare an immeasurable amount of glory: “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).

5. You tell me you find this concept truly terrible because you believe that it is unnatural offering up one’s sufferings…

Here we must not misunderstand: it is not a question of offering up sufferings so that others suffer with us.

Rather, the merit of suffering is offered, the love with which it has been brought to the benefit of many, so that they may be spared from other and more serious sufferings.

6. For those who condemn themselves to hell, we can say that they do so in the same way that a student does not study and inexorably meets his own failure. Here we can say that he sought it out, built it day after day.

7. You ask me how a man can freely choose eternal hell.

He does not choose it directly, but indirectly in the same way that a serial killer freely chooses a life sentence.

8. The last question: would a person suffering from a terrible depression and committing suicide condemn himself to eternal hell, so that after the hell lived on earth he would also have the eternal one?

Well, on this point we can only say that the suicide is an objectively grave sin because the matter is grave.

And we can say it with the same meaning with which we say that an insane person killed four people: he committed a fourfold murder.

Even if committed without personal responsibility, it does not become for this reason alone a good work. It remains a fourfold murder, that is, a sin that as regards the matter is objectively grave.

9. The degree of personal culpability, that is directly related to the full knowledge of the mind and the deliberate consent of the will, is to be judged by the Lord, the only one who has the power to search hearts.

We certainly know that “with the LORD is mercy, with him is plenteous redemption” (Ps 130: 7).

The Latin text says “copiosa”, that is, abundant.

We trust that it is divinely abundant.

I gladly remind you to the Lord and I warmly reciprocate your affectionate greeting.

I bless you and I wish you well.

Father Angelo

Translated by Chiara P.