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The reality of bullying: A pro-life perspective

Like other evils, bullying is a product of sin, bad choices, and a broken society. But the apathy that allows it to continue is also a product of those same things.

(Image: Zhivko Minkov/

In 2017, a 12-year-old little girl named Mallory Grossman took her own life after nine months of incessant bullying at school and on social media. She repeatedly received messages such as “When are you going to kill yourself?” and “You have no friends.”

Though Mallory’s parents contacted the school “numerous” times, administration never took action to help the child. Her parents recently won $9.1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit—money they say they will use to bring awareness about bullying to schools through their nonprofit called Mallory’s Army.

Awareness is vital, but it is useless without action on the part of administration and parents. This requires effort to not only pay attention to children who are bullied but to children who bully. Once a situation is identified, it must be corrected rather than dismissed under the guise of “kids will be kids.”

Like other evils, bullying is a product of sin, bad choices, and a broken society. But the apathy that allows it to continue is also a product of those same things.

Bullying is not a new concept, yet with the rise of social media, the ubiquitousness of cell phones, and the anonymity that comes from online communication, it has taken new forms. Whereas years ago, children could find a reprieve at home from the bullying they faced at school, they now find themselves attacked across numerous platforms and venues.

I address the issue of bullying because being pro-life involves more than saving preborn babies or fighting against assisted suicide. It means helping and taking care of people throughout the entirety of their lives because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This tragic situation of bullying is one we must talk about and work to stop—and it begins at home with parents. Parents are children’s first teachers. Children watch and absorb how their parents treat both them and others. Of course, they then emulate this behavior. And we all know that children who have been hurt tend to hurt others.

To end bullying, we must teach our children to have moral courage and to stand up for those who are persecuted. We must teach and demonstrate empathy, love, compassion, and virtue. We must build up our children so that they can build others up rather than joining in as another child tears them down.

The aforementioned article about Mallory did not mention what happened to her tormentors. We can only hope that the children who pushed Mallory to suicide are remorseful and that they are receiving help.

But the bigger social picture has increasingly become one where people can say anything they want to anyone they want with little fear of repercussions. We see this not only with children but with adults. Bullying is not just an issue faced by children in school. It can be found everywhere—in government, in Hollywood, and by organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

How can we expect children to behave well when the adults around them are screaming and yelling and bullying? It’s difficult, if not impossible.

Change starts at home. That means that we refuse to glorify the bullying actions of others, no matter who they are. We refrain from laughing at someone’s ideas or thoughts. We exhibit proper respect for all people. We demonstrate how to effectively talk to others and to get a point across without shouting or name calling. We talk to our children about morality and about standing up for what is right, and we teach them to stand firm in their beliefs without denigrating another for his beliefs.

Bullying comes in many forms. Today, I challenge you to look around you—at social media, at work, in your marriage, in your kids’ schools—and to identify the places where bullies have gotten a stranglehold on those around them. I then challenge you to do something about it. Speak up; take action. Having moral courage requires us to stand up to bullies. It’s a known fact that courageous acts can cause a bully to back down, as they only want to target those they can intimidate.

When we exhibit moral courage and teach our kids and others to do the same, we are creating fewer targets for bullies, and we are helping create an environment where bullying is not tolerated. This is how we will reduce this devastating maltreatment of others. This is how we save lives.

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About Susan Ciancio 28 Articles
Susan Ciancio is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and has worked as a writer and editor for nearly 19 years; 13 of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently, she is the editor of American Life League’s Celebrate Life Magazine—the nation’s premier Catholic pro-life magazine. She is also the executive editor of ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program—a pre-K-12 Catholic pro-life education organization.


  1. Both of my sons were in Middle School in Ridgefield CT – a very upper middle class town with superb schools. Our older son came home obviously upset one day and was reluctant at first to explain why. He finally told me that some kids on the school bus were bullying him by taking his knapsack and tossing it from one kid to another. There was an obvious instigator who lived about 1/4 down the road from us. I proceeded to knock on the kid’s door (his parents were not at home), I explained to him why I was there and spelled out to him the consequences if this were to ever happen again. It never did.

    As I’ve said many times in many different venues, men/fathers need to step up to the plate, defend their families, not walk away from their marriages, practice sexual self control both prior to and after their marriage and stop wimping out. Mothers are nuturers; their role is not to defend the family.

    • I agree Deacon Edward but knocking on doors is less risky in upper middle class neighborhoods.
      In my son’s middle school teachers were physically threatened in the classroom by students’ parents when a suspension was disputed.
      I agree that working things out face to face is best & it’s recommended in scripture but you do have to be cautious these days.

      • I hear you. This was 30+ years ago. I would have preferred to speak to his mother or father and let them take it up with their son. But, if I were raising my sons in NYC as I was, I doubt that I’d be knocking on doors these days. I guess I count myself as having been fortunate to raise a family in a relatively safe area. Others have fewer options.

    • “…[M]en/fathers need to step up to the plate…”
      It would be interesting to see how many of the “bullies” and the “bullied” are in fact from fatherless families, as opposed to those whose families are “intact.”

    • I absolutely love what you did regarding sticking up for your kid! I agree also that the father needs to step up to defender role. So many people these days chose to not speak up due to “making things worse possibly”. I am so glad you did and I bet your son is proud too.

  2. “… being pro-life… means helping and taking care of people throughout the entirety of their lives because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ” I think Ms. Ciancio should be careful here. Being pro-life means standing up for the dignity of human life as it relates to life per se. Pro-life issues are strictly life issues – those that present directly to the taking/preventing of human life: contraception, abortion, IVF and embryonic stem cell research, suicide, assisted suicide, capital punishment, genocidal projects, etc. This being said, bullying should be on every Catholic’s radar of human justice issues, more so than, say, climate change (which is really about stewardship of God’s creation including man). Further, we should prevent the bullying of all peoples as Ms. Ciancio seems to be note. Catholics may be against gay marriage and atheism, but this does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to the bullying of homosexuals or atheists. However, can we call an atheist “a brother or sister in Christ” which Ms. Ciancio seems to imply or equivocate here?

    • I think you’re missing the point. Being pro-life IS taking care of people through all stages of life. Standing up against bullying is pro-life as much as protecting the elderly or protecting the sick or babies. It is pretty cut and dry. Pro-life people protect others. And of course it is never right to bully homosexuals. That would be terribly unChristlike. They are people too. People we should love. And yes they are our brothers and sisters in Christ because that is the way God made it. He did not say some people are our brothers and sisters. All are. Why would anyone be left out?

      • I worked with developmentally disabled adults for 9 ½ years, worked 20 years with elders (mostly with elders-a- risk and in protective services) and was a caregiver for my parents for over 30 years. These are acts of justice and piety (I hope) and of course, of love, but I would not be pro-life if I did not stand out at the 40 Days for Life, fight against assisted suicide legislation, write letters to the editor protesting IVF and the destroying of embryos, etc. I asked the author of this article to be “careful” because her statement (the quotation I used) may invite a person who is a caregiver to call themselves pro-life even if that person is pro-choice on abortion. I am not missing the point, but making the point that we have to be very careful with our use of terms. Progressives love to twist terms so we should not give them more opportunities. Reminding pro-life people to be more charitable to all their neighbors is of course excellent advice.

        • Read this article. All people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It doens’t matter if they don’t believe in him.

          A sister or brother in Christ is who we are as God’s offspring. Christ Jesus spoke of God as “my Father” and “our Father,” because we share one divine Parent.

          To be “in Christ” describes the joy of sonship with God that Christ Jesus possessed and expressed every day in his contact with people. His love for both friend and foe sends a message to us: that we can love others because we are the children of divine Love, God. As the son of God, the Savior was more conscious than anyone else of the relationship of God and man as creator and creation, or divine Mind and divine idea.

    • Ms. Ciancio doesn’t imply at all what your are claiming as you mentioned above in your comment, “can we call an atheist “a brother or sister in Christ” which Ms. Ciancio seems to imply or equivocate here? You are an example of reading way to far into something.
      This article brings out the truth of bullying and how it starts in the home by the example of parents and we need to stick up for those getting picked on for no reason at all. I have been bullied by adults in my own neighborhood. Out of 7 neighbors only one came forward and stuck up for us. They will be rewarded in heaven for their actions.

      • Jennifer – Equivocations are sometimes hard to entangle, but I didn’t create the tangle – only pointed it out. I did not contest anything in the article which brings bullying to light. I would not have made any protest against the quotation I cited if the article simply reminded all Catholics that we should unite against bullying. You say that I go too far. Let me go farther. By equating the meaning of pro-life with “taking care of people…” the author reduces its meaning by leaving out all the other things which are necessary to what it means to be pro-life. Like the Seamless Garment it sets forth a consistent standard (“caring for others”) for valuing the sanctity of human life, which falls short of its complete meaning. I believe that the author is pro-life and I honor her for the work she does. I am just asking her (and all others) to consider the implications of their statements (which after Dobbs v. Jackson many pro-lifers seem they feel they need to make – “we care for people too!”)

    • You ask if we can call an atheist a brother or sister in Christ. Since Jesus didn’t make any distinctions about the beliefs of those with whom He identified in Matt. ch. 25, I think that we can. He identified with those who were hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, in prison, but without saying what their beliefs were. Also, in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus in chapter 3, he traces Jesus’ ancestry back to “Seth, son of Adam, son of God.” This certainly sounds like He identifies with all human beings. You are certainly free to disagree, of course.

      • Dear Sister – thank you for your service to God. I have been drawn lately to all things Carmelite – so God bless you – please pray for me. I don’t agree that Mt 25 can be used to prove that all men and women are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ in Mt 25, while speaking of our treatment others, is instructing us more about our mystical treatment of Him and how this will relate to His judgment. It may seem the same, but it is not. “Brother and sister in Christ” has always been reserved for the common believers, and I don’t think my atheist or Jewish friend would like me to introduce them in those terms. A better example of caring for others who do not share our faith is that of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Yet, here Christ wants us to understand that a non-believer is our “neighbor” and that we ought to treat the outcast as our neighbor (no mention of “brother in Christ”). Of course, as you say, Jesus identifies Himself with all human persons. (One great theme of St. Theresa of Avila is the Sacred Humanity of Christ). However, Jesus said in another place that his “brother” (mother etc.) is he who does “the will of my heavenly Father.” At the very least, being a brother or sister in Christ appears to require more than just being another human being. While John 6:40 makes it clear that belief (faith) in the Son, is the will of the Father.

  3. I’m so sorry. May this poor young girl rest in peace.
    Why does a 12 year old need a smartphone & social media in the first place? I don’t know the particular circumstances of her family but why would her parents allow her to continue to use her phone after 9 months of abusive messages?

  4. To end bullying, we must teach our children to have moral courage and to stand up for those who are persecuted. We must teach and demonstrate empathy, love, compassion, and virtue. We must build up our children so that they can build others up rather than joining in as another child tears them down.

    We must punish bullies. A “two strikes and you’re out” expulsion policy is warranted. I was bullied mercilessly during my junior high school years, and my way out was learning boxing and pumping, but that’s not an option for many victims. It is a living hell for those who are bullied, and the shame and humiliation I experienced stayed with me for years. The thugs who engage in it should suffer the consequences.

  5. Having spent twenty years in Catholic Schools and having multiple threats and accusations leveled against me, bullying can go in many directions.

    Allowing children constant internet access at school and home before they ever learn how to have Christ-centered friendships is simply child abuse. Even so-called orthodox Catholic Schools force students to have technology that further isolates them and disposes them to victimhood. The children are not prepared to navigate these raging waters.

    Further, an education that has canceled God and virtue is not education at all… it is the worst form of child abuse.

    When will we give up the monumental failure that is public education… not a day too soon. Bullying is evil , but the greatest evil is a denial of the Truth and keeping that Truth from children while claiming to be educating them.

    As long as 95% of children in this country are indoctrinated with wokeness and religious indifferentism in government schools, these instances of the culture of death will increase and hopelessness will pervade.

  6. I was bullied as a child in the early 1960’s. From the fourth to eighth grade. I had no friends because the girls were afraid to be shunned if they talked to me. My parents tried to help but also thought that I may have done something to my bullies to have them attack me. So not only did I feel distressed by their bulling I also searched my mind to see where I asked for it! I know now that I did nothing to be bullied. I did feel like I wished I was dead to ease the emotional pain. What was wrong with me I had no friends. What did I do wrong!. This was a Catholic grade school.I went to a public high school and made friends there. All my friends were Protestants.They treated me well.So I often thought that the nuns and priest saw how I was treated and did nothing to stop it. So all these teaching of loving one another wasn’t lived or practice in the Catholic Church so the teaching of the nuns did not ring true to me. I lefted the Catholic Church for nearly three decades! I am 72 and still there is pain in remembering the bullying. So my heart goes out to that young girl and her parents. What a senseless tragic unnecessary loss. I am thrilled that they won demages and started Mallory’s Army. Bullying must stop at all levels.I still feel the pain when reminded of it. I still have to forgive over and over all those involved at my age. When I was in my thirties when my mom had an awakening brought about by talking to a woman her age one day. They talked about bullying this woman’s child had been bullied at the same Catholic school that I had gone to. She was several years younger. During there discussion on bulling my mom was made aware the the victoms don’t ask for it to happen to them. So my mom apologized to me for having up to that day thinking I may have done something to be so mistreated. She finally realized not only did I not take part in causing it, but also the additional pain I carried by being told that by her. She truly understood the additional pain it caused me.

    • Large classes in the 60’s; not sure the teachers and principals always saw bullying as a problem. I was b in the 70’s and understand, to some extent, what you may have gone through. I think the world was still recovering from the war and the continued threat of Communism and some of the relief valve was picking on other people (just a guess). Unfair treatment of students by faculty and staff was certainly an issue that didn’t get the attention it gets today. You wouldn’t think it would have happened in the Catholic schools system but we know what happened with the worst cases of abuse, so the idea of lesser bullying is certainly plausible

      • I agree to some extent that “bullying” was not on the minds of Catholic teachers and principals (50s-60s) outside of egregious physical attacks. We also often forget that then many Catholic families boasted numerous children. Sibling “torment” was common in pecking order. It was a training field is some ways in how to cope and respond to unjust ribbing and even physical tussling. Today, it is not uncommon for families to have one or two children often with a false sense of entitlement if not superiority over others. Place them in a social environment of twenty or more peers, and there is opportunistic situations for rivalry and pseudo banding of groups against targeted individuals. Essentially, we must return to the basics of catechetical formation, especially emphasizing the growth of virtue, starting with the very young (developmentally). The Dominican Sisters have some excellent programs in this respect. As for public school settings, parents can still “home school” to overcome those environments, yet always be approachable by their sons and daughters and aware of their children’s vulnerability in what may be basically a godless, if not anti-Christian setting. No easy task, and the rest of us can be sensitive, too, in our church families.

  7. My oldest son was about 5 years old when subjected to ongoing bullying from a neighborhood child. Constant taunts and shoving and the like. One day after being shoved down into the water by the bully at a local pool several times in succession, my son stood up and punched the kid in the mouth hard enough to loosen a tooth. The boy never came near him again. Problem solved. I am no pacifist. There is absolutely an appropriate place to physically defend yourself from physical attacks. Failure to do so teaches the bully there are no consequences for his actions. And I think the constant talk, talk talk, when there is a problematic situation is itself part of the problem. Bully kids are not unlike bully nations. What is needed is someone to say no in absolute and clear terms.

  8. The “life spectrum issues” folks are unable to differentiate pregnancy moral considerations from those attending other life aspects, properly. The issues are not the same because they all have their own characteristics. Drawing out from scripture the “seamless garment” image in order to group them together in some kind of generic does injustice to the specific moral considerations in each and to scripture while the generic adds no merit or useful insight.

    The generic I would identify instead, is the false wisdom of the mentality of destruction. This can be understood easily in the story on Naboth. They know a) he is good, b) what he has is good, c) he has done good and d) more good will come through him; yet they outright kill him and take his property.

    That is, the culture of death which JPII circumscribed already. It is an evil spirit that can prey on anyone and any social group. Unfortunately there is an impiety that does not want to build on JPII; and so is it any wonder that they drew on the “seamless garment” image! Jesus Christ is dying on the Cross of Salvation but their attention is upon what value they may “through fair play” claim for themselves. In the context of today, they want to show to outdo JPII not build on what he generated; and scripture was to hallow it for them.

    Or, consider the false wisdom demonstrated in another of its self-contradictions: people professing dialogue who deliberately avoid dialoguing certain topics and fitfully censor them when they are brought up – they mean to keep up a control that is in reality and in essence, rigid, backwardist, incurvatus, deceptive, judgmental, fundamentalist, ABUSIVE AND BULLYING, etc, whether or not named or recognized for what it really is. Truly developing JPII would zero in on the CULTURE OF SCANDAL.

    I read Ciancio or Inigo and this is the thrust of the message I was perceiving or seeing as promising; or, at any rate, what concentrates my reflections. But what I would like to have as said, is, that it is PRO-LIFERS WHO HAVE UN-KNOTTED THIS.

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