In late March, The Christian Post blogger Dr. Rita Hancock summarized the results of a recent study with this sensationalist headline: “Protestants are three times more likely than Catholics to commit suicide!”
In fact, that is the finding of researchers at the University of Warwick in England, after studying cause-of-death data from 19th- and 20th-century Prussia.
They said that lined up with data from 2000, which found that predominantly Protestant countries had double the suicide rate of predominantly Catholic countries.
What gives? That’s to be the study of future research, but the authors offer three possible reasons:
First, maybe it is because Protestants tend to view religion more indidivualistically, whereas Catholics have a greater sense of community, or universal Church.
Second, maybe it is because, in their theology of grace, Protestants discount the rewards and punishment for good or bad works, so Catholics have a greater built-in aversion to committing an act like suicide.
Third, Catholics have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in which they can confess sins, and Protestants don’t.
Hancock isn’t sure what to make of these theories, but she doesn’t like the implication that “Catholicism has an edge over Protestantism.” She discloses that she grew up Catholic before becoming Protestant (she lives in the Bible Belt and is married to a Methodist), and wonders if — despite the suicide data — Protestants might actually live happier, less guilt-ridden lives.
“I’d like to know which religious viewpoint helps you live better, not just longer,” she says.
If she’s open to the answer, it sounds like the Catholics in her orbit have some witnessing of joyful, peaceful, Christ-led reaching out to do.