The Tyler Tragedy

Since initially hearing the news, I have been praying about how to respond to the horrific story of Rutgers Freshman Tyler Clementi and his tragic suicide.  Let me first of all offer prayers for the repose of Tyler and for his family and friends, who can know no greater loss than the death of a loved one.

As the mother of teenage sons, my first reaction to this story, and the one that has stuck with me since first hearing the news last Wednesday night, is a deep sense of incredible sadness.  I immediately called my son Eric — a college freshman who is only a few months older than Tyler.  We had a long conversation, and I’ve repeated many of the points of that chat with Adam, my sixteen year old.  The two main points of these conversations were the following:

1.  Your life is a precious gift from God.  Nothing that you could ever say or do, no “mistake” you might make or situation you feel we could not comprehend could ever justify you taking your life.  If you feel at any time that you may do harm to yourself, please immediately stop, say a prayer and then call us.  If you feel you can’t speak about the problem with us, please talk with a priest, a friend, a teacher, your RA or anyone who might be able to help us help you.  We would be utterly lost without you.  Secondly, if you feel any of yours friends are teetering on the edge, may do themselves harm in any way, or are battling depression, please seek immediate help for them.  You may think they will be “mad” at you, but you could be saving their lives.

2.  Think before you do something you think is “funny”. Scripture admonishes regarding practical jokes: Like a crazed archer scattering firebrands and deadly arrows is the man who deceives his neighbor, and then says, “I was only joking” (Proverbs 26: 18-19). It’s likely that Tyler’s roommate thought he was being “funny” by broadcasting Tyler’s private life on the Internet but that joke was like a deadly arrow. The roommate — and the other friend involved — likely couldn’t have imagined that Tyler would commit suicide directly because of their incredibly horrible actions.  But he did.  Cyber bullying, whether it’s via text message, on Facebook, via webcam or just by plain old gossiping about someone is an unspeakable sin that needs to be avoided at all cost.  It can, and has had, deadly results.

In addition, cyber bullying and all other kinds of bullying are not only sins but many times against the law. Two of Tyler’s classmates are now facing years in prison for causing his death. Waht a tragedy for their young lives.

I hope that all of us with children old enough to understand the basics of this tragedy will have frank, open and honest conversations with our children not only this week, but often enough that we begin to stem the tide of some of the insanity that is happening.  And let me just put in my two cents also and say that not allowing technology in your home is — in my opinion as a geek — not a sufficient answer.  At some point, our children will leave our homes and will need to be equipped with well-formed moral consciences that will guide their use of technology.  If we simply vow to turn off these devices in our homes and don’t ever talk about them, when our kids go off to college and into the world and use these tools, they may be ill-equipped to make the right decisions.

Adam likely wondered last night why I had tears streaming down my face when I conversed with him about Tyler Clementi — I never knew Tyler, but I mourn for his loss, and for so many children who are being harmed across our country.  I don’t have the answers that could have kept this situation from happening.  I’m just one mom, trying her very best to guide her children.  But I hope that if each of us, in our homes and parishes, begin beating the drum for moral, responsible, and humane use of technology, perhaps we can make a bit of a difference.

In the mean time, please join me in praying for Tyler and his family.


Lisa Hendey, Catholic wife and mom, is the founder and webmaster of and the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul and The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and hosts the Catholic Moments Podcast. Visit her at

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  • I’m sure Lisa would agree that the problem wasn’t the technology itself but rather the age-old desire on the part of those two boys (who should have known better) to mock somebody else. I’ve been guilty of that sin myself, committed toward people who are different, and it’s an easy one for a young person who is very concerned about belonging to the right crowd to fall in to. Pray for Tyler and his family, but also pray for those two boys who will need the strength of Christ to repent of their sins and face the grievous consequences they have set themselves up for.

  • cbalducc

    A young man and woman, not two boys, have been charged in this case.

  • Christopher Fish

    It is horrible for someone to commit suicide.
    It is wrong to violates someone else’s privacy.
    Is it always bad for people to be ridiculed for there sins?
    Isn’t ridicule part of the natural way human being seek to correct others?
    Christ ridiculed the Phrases did he not?
    Would a married man who’s privacy was invaded while having sex with his wife have committed suicide?

    The guilt here is not wholly one sided.
    People who commit suicide commit a horrible sin and are not guiltless in what they do either.

    This seems a good case to be careful to to extent false compassion.
    compassion should be for the Vitim of violence ( not the aggressor) , but in the case the victim and the perpetrator are in some way the same. Because this person committed suicide and no matter what anyone else did , they didn’t ’cause’ him to commit suicide, at best the unknowingly encouraged it.

  • Without suggesting that the individual who committed homosexual acts is guiltless, I still think we can mourn his tragic death. This is a person who at a very young age was fed a steady diet of lies about his so-called “sexual orientation,” and who probably believed that he had to act on his feelings in order to be happy. He was lied to about his sexuality, and then believed the lie that suicide was the way out.

    I stand corrected that one of the perpetrators was female, but I believe that for young college students the terms “boy” and “girl” remain appropriate. These are people who don’t have the full development of their brains, are given to acting on impulse, and who do plenty of stupid things (I know I did) that they would never do if they were older.

  • Christopher Fish

    I think it is always good to recognize the loss of any human being as the loss of a unquie and irreplacible image of God and as such pause and morn the passing of that person.

    On the other hand, I think the fact that “boy” and “girl” are applied to people who have reached physical and should have reached spiritual adulthood shows one of the deep rooted problems in our society. It is in fact a partial cause of this situation, that people , who by all rights should be expected to act as adults, because they have the privilege and power of adults are not expected to act to.

    I did a lot of stupid things at 20 as well. I would have done quite a few fewer stupid things hand the adults around me had different expectations and a closer watch over me than they did. The process of becoming mature from a brain based perspective starts at 12 and isn’t completed until 80 so I don’t think it makes a good excuse for lowered expectations. Children and adults tend to live up to what is expected of them.

    The other problem is this though. Suppose that instead of having sex , the boy had been selling drugs out of his room. Suppose the result had been the same, that he committed suicide when the truth was discovered. Would anyone have written an article?

  • Kevin G

    Christopher Fish, your analysis is hard but truthful. It seems that Rutgers is complicit in this tragedy. Rutgers University paired these two roommates. The heterosexual roommate was likely uncomfortable or even repulsed once he discovered that his roommate was homosexual. I wonder if this was reported and if Rutgers tried to resolve the situation.

    Yet Rutgers and the secular media use such tragedies to blame and demonize heterosexual students and condition our youth to condone homosexual behavior.

  • gmstevens

    It is difficult when you have a situation like this where bullying has caused a young person to take his life. Some I have told me, after a period of depression, that when they felt suicidal, they felt that there situations would not improve and that death was the only way out. Thankfully, they survived and were able to see that they could get better. I also wonder how many young have taken or nearly taken their own lives as the result of other types of bullying.

  • Thank you, Lisa.

  • Mary

    I’m finding it difficult to read comments that defines a person who commits suicide as beyond hope of redemption. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to judge one another. “Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks upon the heart.” I would rather depend upon a merciful God, who alone knows the intent of the heart and the desperation that drives a person to take that final path. Therefore, we can pray not only for the ones who caused the intense pain, but for the one who endured it – and leave the rest to a loving God. “Blessed are the merciful . . . “