Monday, December 15, 2008

Catholic Teaching on Self-Harm

Q: Hi, I am a sophomore at at a Catholic high school. I was wondering if you could possibly send me some information about the Catholic Church's teaching and thoughts on eating disorders or any kind of self injury. I am doing a project on eating disorders in my Christian Relationships class. If you have any information it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: Though the Church doesn’t have a specific teaching on eating disorders and self-injury (that I can find), there are principles on the respect of self and of the human body. In CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) #2288, it says: “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good.”

If someone is knowingly and deliberately abusing himself by doing things like cutting, burning, etc., it is gravely going against the will of God. 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20 says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Cutting and self-mutilation is an undignified way to treat your body—the temple of the Holy Spirit—along with going down the path to becoming anorexic. God created us in His image, and our body is meant to glorify Him. The idea that hurting and starving ourselves is the cure to the pain inside, or something that will lead to happiness, is of course a very twisted and sick idea.

People who have anorexia nervosa, and who are addicted to cutting, drugs, and forms of self-injury, are not necessarily culpable for their actions, because many have forms of mental illnesses; therefore, they may not be committing a sin. But only God knows what’s in their hearts, and their reasons for doing it.

I hope this information helps you out with your project!


To find help with self-injury:
To Write Love On Her Arms
Teen Hope Line
Befrienders: Self-Harm
Catholic Therapists Online