NEW JERSEY, NEWARK: Bishops decry Clementi suicide, 'invasion of intimacy'
In a joint statement issued Oct. 8, the bishops said "intimacy is a holy place within every human being; an innermost sanctuary where we develop our ultimate beliefs and values, nurture our closest relationships and maintain our deepest commitments."
"No one has the right to disclose that intimacy for someone else without consent. Such a violation is tantamount to the desecration of a sacred space," they said. "It is, in fact, a sacred space. It is the territory of the soul."
Clementi, 18 and a freshman at Rugters University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and Ravi's friend, Molly Wei, both 18, allegedly set up a camera in a dorm room and used it to watch and transmit a live sexual encounter between Clementi and another man. Ravi and Wei are each charged with two counts of invasion of privacy.
Rutgers is a state school located within the Diocese of New Jersey and the clergy of the diocese recently discussed appropriate responses to the incident during their annual clergy conference. A fledgling effort will be aimed at offering support, education and advocacy around the issue of bullying of young people, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. The working title of the effort is the Red Door Campaign, meant to evoke the centuries-old understanding of painting a church's doors red to symbolize sanctuary and safety found in Christ's sacrifice.
A meeting to consider further the diocese's efforts will be held Oct. 14 at New Jersey's Diocesan House in Trenton.
"We join with other Christian and religious leaders, with the LGBT community and with all people of good will who take their stand against hatred, bigotry and bullying; against every expression of physical and verbal violence; and against any violation of the dignity of LGBT persons," the bishops said in their statement. "When the rights of any -- especially the members of vulnerable groups who have so often been scapegoated -- are threatened, the rights of all are endangered."
Highlighting the Baptismal Covenant's vow to respect the dignity of every human being, Councell and Beckwith warned that technology now "provides tools to record, seize and disclose the most intimate matters of our lives without our consent."
"Tyler Clementi's death certainly poses some important legal issues, but it also raises some critical moral concerns," they said. "Hubris has outstripped humility."