By Dick Kunnert
Board Member, Yeshua Institute
Recently a young high school sophomore committed suicide. He was a student at a local Catholic high school. Reportedly one of the causes of his decision to kill himself was he was being bullied by students at his school.
What a tragedy. A young man loses his life while being a student in a pro-life environment, among fellow teens who are expected to love one another as themselves.
Part of the school’s stated mission is to form saints. I guess it is to be expected that not every student has made a buy-in on the standard of loving God with all one’s heart and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. The big questions are whether the bullies are truly outliers and what and how are others in the student’s culture dealing with these bullying people?
Father Ronald Rolheiser, in his beautiful little book The Holy Longing, has a line that seems appropriate to this sad occurrence. He writes, “Whenever there is violence, disrespect, emotional chaos, lack of community, bitterness, cynicism, and sexual irresponsibility, there is a lack of chastity.”
Bullying, of its nature, is disrespectful. It creates in its subject emotional chaos and drives the person from the community of potential support. When bullying plays a part in someone’s suicide, it has surely become violent.
Again, I quote Father Rolheiser: “Thus, we are chaste when we relate to others in a way that does not transgress their moral, psychological, emotional, aesthetic, and sexual boundaries.” He adds, “Ultimately, chastity is reverence – and sin, all sin, is irreverence.”
Since we Catholics hold that we are made to the image and likeness of God, one would assume bullying is sinful since it is never chaste. It doesn’t recognize another’s God-given dignity. It doesn’t respect boundaries.
I hope this young man’s death causes this Catholic high school and all Catholic schools to be introspective about their student culture and to promote the virtue of chastity – a chastity that promotes reverence and mutual respect for each and every person who is part of the school community.
Chastity is a counter-cultural virtue. It is not appreciated in the broader culture in which we all live. In fact, it is ignored to our peril. So the virtue will not be inculcated into the lives of students unless the administration actively makes it part of the Catholic culture that parents are hoping the school promotes.
The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus has much in its content to address chastity issues. We teach Jesus is our life model and that we are to serve one another and not exploit one another. We challenge people to develop a mission statement that commits them to loving God and one another.
We remind them that they need to develop habits that keep them on a spiritual journey that is chaste. We share the importance of grace in their lives. And finally, we emphasize the importance and respect for each person on the planet.
Would that all Catholic homes and organizations teach this basic Christian principle.
We pray for the repose of the soul of the young man, his grieving parents, for his school mates and for those who in their stupidity may have hurt a potential friend. Lord have mercy.