The story in today’s Telegraph about a young New Yorker, Jamey Rodemeyer, is so very sad. It seems to me there is a whole complex of issues which lead to such a tragedy, not least the “culture of death” which kills the life of the mind and the opening of the soul to beauty and truth and instead turns the young towards mind-numbing “music”, medication (or illegal drugs), and loneliness and isolation. But, in this case, one of the predominant reasons we are told may help us to understand the inexplicable decision of this apparently sweet and kind 14 year old taking his own life, is what is termed (I think rather loosely) “homophobic bullying”. I do not know how this can be repaired; it is not something entirely new, but with the advent of the internet and the higher-profile of sexual orientation in society and culture, it is becoming increasingly dreadful. In the mind of the secular atheist, the answer is, of course, more education, more knowledge about how being “gay is okay”. I do not trust that as a solution. The question of homophobic bullying cannot be answered by more and bigger doses of the psychological genesis of the bullying mindset. What must be captured, or recaptured, is that respect for human persons is an absolute value, not something which depends on anything the person is or is not, does or does not. It can never be right to deride someone, to humiliate him. In this case, those who have bullied and abused because Jamey Rodemeyer had the ‘temerity’ to wonder about his sexual orientation, are little less than murderers.
Here the teaching of our Holy Mother Church can, as always, assist us. The Catholic Church (some may be surprised to learn) teaches that bullying, and in particular any abuse directed at people because of sexuality, is to be abhorred. The Catechism says that those who are same-sex attracted, or who think they might be, or who even consider themselves to be “homosexual” ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity’. Respect, compassion, sensitivity – important teaching which, in the furore which surrounds the issue of homosexual “rights”, is often forgotten or put to one side. Some who report this story will, no doubt, even seek to blame the Church, the Pope, Catholic parents, teachers, priests, laymen, who advocate the Christian understanding of sexuality, for this tragedy. But the Church, as always, is clear: abuse is wrong, abuse on the basis of sexual orientation is a grave violation of human rights, which contradicts the explicit teaching of the Church.
For myself, I will remember Jamey Rodemeyer in my prayers, and, pray that, as with all things, the world – so quick to judge and to condemn and to abuse of the basis of superficialities – will learn to listen to the wisdom of our ancient Christian patrimony.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei