To Pray for Tyler Clementi and his Alleged Perpetrators

   -Feast of Saint Mother Théodore Guérin

Tyler Clementi’s apparent suicide has become worldwide news. The 18-year-old’s body was found in the Hudson River this week, after he jumped off the George Washington Bridge, which is several miles from his northern New Jersey home. The allegation is his Rutgers roomate had recorded the teenager’s sexual encounter with a young man and transmitted it on the internet.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

My family lives a stone’s throw from the Rutgers campus, where Tyler had begun his studies weeks before. This morning, my parish priest took the unusual step of talking about a topical issue. Generally, he hews closely to the Gospel reading and speaks in general terms about how the words apply to our lives.

I’ve been praying for Tyler, a talented violinist who apparently was struggling with his sexual identity, and for the souls of all children, who are growing up at a time when the Internet, along with the fraying of social structures, have eliminated line between public and private realms. I’ve been praying for his parents, his family and all who loved him. What my pastor said this morning resonated with what I have been praying about all week. And so my ideas are inspired by his.

When God commands us: “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” He isn’t just talking about the taking of a human life through murder. We humans are capable every day of inflicting another kind of death : the death of a person’s soul through creating scandal and by holding others up to ridicule. Idle talk and vicious actions can kill a person’s spirit. The alleged perpetrators did not push this young man off the bridge. Whoever violated Tyler’s privacy in his dorm room, whoever stood by watching and laughing, stole his dignity and his personhood.

Today’s Gospel reading lets us know the Catholic vision of faith: It is both something God offers us and something we humans, through our own free will, accept. I pray we all increase our faith and live it out through loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our journeys need to last all our days, acted out in the encounters with every soul God places in our paths.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’” S

  • Elaine

    Lovely tribute.

  • Frank

    I'm saddened whenever I hear of a suicide, no matter what the circumstances.

  • Anonymous

    I too have been praying all week for Tyler Clementi and his family and friends. There is such a blurring of lines between privacy/civility and "public confession" via the internet these days. I find it tragic that Tyler went to the internet for advice on his roommate problems — got advice from virtual strangers in the 'virtual world.' Where were his friends, family, priest, mentor in all of this?? Have we let our children down? Has the Church distanced itself from the realities of social pressures in our secular society that a young person could not find solace in the Church? I am floundering in the wake of such a tragedy. Rest in Peace Tyler Clementi.

  • Anonymous

    When I was an adolescent — in the days before personal computers — the worst bullying took place on the bus or in the school lunchroom. I spent many days enduring emotional torment from other girls that started the moment I stepped on the bus and continued until the moment I stepped off. Bullying kept bank hours and during those times, my house loomed like an oasis. If I could just get back home, the pain would stop. At least until the next day. Now with texting and the Internet, home is just as excrutiatingly painful to those kids being bullied because there's no reprieve. How very sad – for the kids who are constantly belittled and for the kids who apparently have nothing of greater value in their lives than to bully others.

  • Shannon

    Anonymous #1, I'm curious about where you're getting your information about Tyler and "internet advice." In all the stories I have read, there has been nothing said along this line.

  • Anonymous

    I remain very confused about the overall response to this tragedy (not just this post). Surely, I understand the compassion. However, I’m finding very little realism, very little truth, evidenced by the amount of blame deflected toward the privacy violators. It was the same shame that caused Adam & Eve to hide from God in Eden that caused Tyler to jump – shame resulting from sin, from engaging in extreme selfishness instead of in self-giving love for our Lord. Judas experienced the same thing. I try to teach my children that once you fall into the clutches of sin, you become its slave. I also teach my children that sin is accompanied by death. Not just earthly death, but eternal death. I get the distinct impression that very few Catholics spend any time at all time reflecting on what eternal death would be like (start with n. 741 in St Faustina’s diary, if you need a recommendation). Only Jesus defeated death…ONLY in JESUS do we have the hope of victory over sin and death!! It is entirely possible that Tyler is at this very moment experiencing the first relative picoseconds of that eternal death. But no one seems to want to talk about that possibility. My heart breaks for the suffering that Tyler endured during those last hours of his life, and for the suffering his family is currently experiencing. But there is a much greater lesson to be learned from this tragedy than the evils of bullying and negative speech and violations of privacy!

  • Allison

    @Anon 6:53 We all sin. We pray for God's mercy. God's mercy is greater than any of us can imagine. And so I pray for Tyler's soul and ask God for mercy. We have no way to know what happened in his final moments on earth. For myself, I am grateful my entire life has not been videotaped. Not one of us could stand such scrutiny. Thank God the Church offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation and God can redeem us all. We all fall short of the splendor of God.

  • Allison

    I am reminded of this blog's mission as we all strive to live this way: “Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:29–32)

  • Shannon

    Here's a prayer worth praying:A Litany for children who have died from bullying–by Maria L. Evans O God of justice and mercy, we pray that no more daughters and sons in this world die as the result of bullying simply because of who they are; be it race, religion, sexual orientation, or social awkwardness. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer. That our schools become places of nurturing and hope rather than shame and derision. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer. That our teachers instill values of charity and acceptance in all children so there is no need for one child to feel superior over another. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer. That parents can put aside what they were sometimes taught, in order to promote tolerance and diversity at home. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer. That our communities support children who feel “different from the others” and show them lives that are theirs to claim, lives they cannot begin to imagine to see at home. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer. That all children can grow up feeling self-empowered and truly loved simply as themselves, and not suffer beatings and psychological abuse at home or school. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer. O Lord, you understand this above all others, for your only Son hung among thieves on a rough wooden cross on a barren hill, just as Matthew Shepard hung from a rail fence on a lonely road. Be our light in the darkness, Lord; protect our children and fill them with the love of your Holy Spirit; hold them in your Son’s loving arms in their most fearful hours, and be with them always.Amen.

  • Steven Riddle

    Dear Allison,Beautiful, and beautifully said. Thank you.shalom,Steven

  • Dee

    Allison That is a beautiful tribute.I wish I could have heard Father Bob's homily. I grew up with the Baltimore catechism so I kept thinking – is this what happens when we no longer talk about the lack of respect for life as being a sin? Monsignor at my new parish chose to talk about snobbery and how today people look down on those different from themselves. He challenged us as a community to be welcoming of all

  • Shannon

    Here's an article by Fr. James Martin, SJ, at America Magazine asking about a Catholic response to a gay suicide.;_id=3363

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous wrote: 'It was the same shame that caused Adam & Eve to hide from God in Eden that caused Tyler to jump – shame resulting from sin'.It seems very sad that people are so quick to blame Tyler for his tragic plight. How does anyone know what exactly caused Tyler to jump? How is it charitable to rush to such a negative portrayal of this young man? If his parents were to read such a comment, I suspect it would cause them great pain. The kind of attitudes it expresses may well have been a contributing factor in Tyler's deciding to jump. I appreciate that you wrote your words in a state of confusion – and it shows honesty that you said as much. And I appreciate also that the sin that you evoke is one in which we all share. But whenever a particular individual is explicitly linked to such sin, it is as if he or she is being singled out as especially sinful. The words do seem to me to be very regrettable.

  • Sandy

    Dear Allison,Your parish priest is a very wise man. For many years I have felt such soul murder has barred many people from a full embrace with God. Who are we to say with our limited minds who knows God or not, or in this case to ignore beloved children of God or mock them?Or, as someone said somewhere, God don't make no junk.