As I was reading Phatcatholic Apologetics this morning, I read through a post about suicide. One of the links toward the bottom of the post caught my eye: Did Samson Commit Suicide?
Clearly he intentionly meant to end his own life by destroying the temple and the Phillistines within. He even prayed to God that he may "die with the Phillistines" (Judges 16:20). The meat of the response was in two paragraphs:
For what it is worth, the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Louis Hartman, C.SS.R., had this to say: “Samson’s death in the Temple of Dagon at Gaza, which he brought down on himself and the assembled Philistines (16:23-30), was not an act of suicide, but rather a return to his mission, to which he had been unfaithful when he betrayed the secret of his strength to Delilah, but which he in conscious response to his call and with a prayer to God on his lips, now fulfilled, even at the cost of his own life.”...
The moralist Heribert Jone, O.F.M.Cap., calls this indirect suicide and says that, while in itself it is forbidden, it may be permitted for a proportionately grave reason. Jone writes: “One kills himself indirectly if, without the intention of committing suicide, he knowingly and willingly does something which not only has an intended good effect, but from which death also follows.”
They cite the example from Ancient Rome of Christians who leapt to their death rather than be sexually violated. I think a more poignant example would be St Maximillian Kolbe who took a man's place while in Auschwitz knowing the man had been condemned to die, even though St Maximilian might have possibly survived Auschwitz.