Friday, 6 April 2007

Blood on Ratzinger's hands

Last Tuesday, a sixteen year old boy in Turin threw himself from the window of his fourth floor flat. We shouldn't know his name, because Italian law is supposed to protect the identity of minors. But now that he's dead, and doesn't need protecting, we've been told he was christened Matteo.

Matteo was the best student of his year in one of the most prestigious schools in the city. On Monday evening, he came home - in the words of his mother - "very tired and very sad", and went straight to bed. The following morning he told his mother he wanted to stay at home and study. Her oldest son telephoned her at work later that morning to tell her that Matteo was dead.

He left two suicide notes, one to his parents - his mother, of Filipino origin, his father, Italian - and the other to explain why he'd decided to kill himself. He said that he was tired of not being accepted by the other students, who treated him as "different".

They called him gay. They said he liked boys. They called him Jonathan, the name of a camp Big Brother winner two or three years ago. According to one report, the school principal knew and had tried to help, but without success; in another, she knew nothing.

Matteo couldn't take it any more. After writing the letters, he climbed onto a chair in the kitchen and threw himself out of the window. He hit the drying rack on the balcony below and hurt his chest, but it was the 15-metre fall that killed him.

His mother said. "Why did they do this to him? He hadn't done anything wrong. He was a human being just like them." She also said the accusations were unjust. As though that mattered.

The Ministry has ordered an investigation at the school. Meanwhile, psychologists are worried that the students who drove Matteo to his death might be overwhelmed by a sense of guilt. It's hard not to feel they deserve that, and more.

But the people finally responsible for the suicide of a sixteen-year-old are those who - day in, day out - stigmatise gays as deviant and disordered; who use the florid vocabulary of homophobia that all languages provide to insult and demean; who use their magister to deny basic human rights.

They're celebrating Holy Week at the moment. Let's hope they find time to think about their own role in the death of Matteo.

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