I want to comment now on a story in the news that has caught my attention in the last couple of weeks. For those of you that don’t know, a young woman named Phoebe Prince, only 15 years old and a freshman in high school, committed suicide on January 14th of this year after relentless bullying at the hands of some of her peers.
We have heard these stories before, of teens driven to self-mutilation, extreme acts of violence, and suicide as a result of bullying. There was something exceptionally tragic about this case, however, and something exceptionally cruel about the “bullies” – who really ought to be referred to as murderers. I say this because, so devoid of humanity were these “children”, these teenagers, that they defaced their victim’s facebook profile after she was deceased, one of them writing “mission accomplished” on her memorial wall. Whether or not this was thought of after-the-fact or it was a pre-meditated plan really doesn’t matter in my view, though of course it will matter when these devils are brought to trial for their crimes.
Some of the commentary I have read focuses on the culture at Phoebe’s high school. Of her death, Kevin Cullen writes for boston.com:
You would think this would give the bullies who hounded Phoebe some pause. Instead, they went on Facebook and mocked her in death.They told State Police detectives they did nothing wrong, had nothing to do with Phoebe killing herself.And then they went right back to school and started badmouthing Phoebe.They had a dance, a cotillion, at the Log Cabin in Holyoke two days after Phoebe’s sister found her in the closet, and some who were there say one of the Mean Girls bragged about how she played dumb with the detectives who questioned her.
As with so many other high schools where tragedies such as this have occurred, there is a culture of indifference to bullying and more generally to emotional and spiritual suffering. Part of the problem lies in the very nature and concept of the modern “high school”, which is a four year holding tank for what are physically young adults, and which can more resemble a prison or a factory than an educational institution. Think of what little seriousness, for instance, prison rape is taken by the political, media, and prison establishments; it finds an equivalent in this indifference to bullying, which can be a kind of psychological rape.
By all accounts I’ve read, and pictures I have seen, Miss Prince was a thoughtful, intelligent, and beautiful young woman who could have gone quite far in life, though I grant that I don’t know anything more than what the media reports. I couldn’t read the excerpts published in the press from some essays she wrote for school without wishing that I, or someone with the power to help her, could have been there for her. And though the Church teaches that suicide is a mortal sin, I believe that – especially in circumstances such as these – we must pray for her soul, and for God’s infinite mercy upon her. I ask that you please do.
What about the “bullies”, her killers? We can pray for them as well – though I would be dishonest if I said wasn’t more fervently hoping that justice is done, and that each and every one of them is sent to prison for the rest of their lives. They have no remorse for what they have done; they do not ask for forgiveness. They continue to torment their victim even after death. They damn themselves by their own hatred, and prove themselves sociopaths too dangerous to live in society.
I will not argue this point with anyone, because there are no words to convince me otherwise. If you want to argue with me, make your own post on your own blog.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.