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Kristin wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What is the Church's official position on accidental death?

Whenever I hear or read that the Church Respects life from conception to natural death in churches, I always wonder why accidents are omitted.

According to coroners, this is a separate death category, different from natural causes and homicide. Freak accidents can happen, such as:

  • a single vehicle crashing because of a slippery road
  • mechanical failure, or
  • someone simply falling and suffering fatal injuries.

Finally, is accident prevention part of the general pro-life movement?

Kristin

  { What is the Church's official position on accidental death and is it part of the pro-life movement? }

Mike replied:

Dear Kristin,

Thanks for the question.

The Church, to my knowledge, has no official position on accidental deaths, so my answer is based purely on theological, personal opinion and not Catholic doctrine.

The why of any accidental death is outside the scope of man's knowledge, and is known to God alone. What we can say is:

  • We are all created for a specific purpose in life, and
  • The Lord will always take us from this earthly life to the next at the highest point of grace in our lives.

This second point is just based on common sense about who God is.

As you stated, the goal and purpose of the pro-life movement in the Church is to protect all human life from the moment of conception in a mother's womb to a natural death.

While not really part of the general pro-life movement, one could possibly see accidental deaths as the natural death part of the pro-life movement in the sense that an accidental death is a fulfillment of God's will for the departed loved one.

My colleagues may have varying replies to this, but that's my two cents.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Richard replied:

Hi, Mike and Kristin —

It's not unusual to see references in Catholic moral teaching about our responsibility to protect life from foreseeable dangers. For example, this Examination of conscience, as a preparation for Confession:

includes various questions for reflection, including:

  • Have I endangered the lives of others by reckless driving or by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
  • Do I show contempt for my body by neglecting to take care of my own health?

For another example: drunk driving is also mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a case of foreseeable risk, which implies moral responsibility:

"For a bad effect to be imputable it must be foreseeable and the agent must have the possibility of avoiding it, as in the case of manslaughter caused by a drunken driver." (CCC 1737)


The web site of the US Catholic bishops also has an examination of conscience which includes broader issues, such as how we treat the environment:

Examination of Conscience In Light Of Catholic Social Teaching

— Richard

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