Attacks on churches pass under the media, the political radar of Catholics frustrated because
DENVER – Their places of worship have been set on fire and hit by gunfire, their statues shattered and disfigured several times over the past 18 months, but Catholics are struggling to stand out.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has reported 93 incidents as of August 24 in 28 states since May 2020, including “arson, beheaded statues, severed, broken and painted limbs, gravestones disfigured by swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned.
This figure may be low. CJ Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, said the list omitted 12 of 15 incidents that occurred during that time in Massachusetts, including a Molotov cocktail thrown at a church door last year. in Weymouth.
“Seeing the disappointing response to these crimes, I begin to understand how Coptic Christians in Egypt feel,” Doyle said, adding that none of the attacks resulted in arrests.
At a time when the attention to hate crimes against racial, ethnic and religious groups has never been greater, conservative Catholic leaders are frustrated by what they describe as a lack of attention from national media and citizens. politicians to the alarming rise in attacks on the Church.
Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, attributed the disconnect in large part to the church’s well-known opposition to abortion, a position at odds with the Democratic Party and the Progressive movement, as well as many prominent figures in the media.
“Can you imagine if the type and number of attacks we have seen against Catholics have been against mosques or Jewish places of worship? ” He asked. “The answer would be overwhelming, and yet there is virtually silence, in part because the media is auctioning off the pro-abortion movement.”
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan recently sought to draw attention to the issue by citing examples of recent vandalism in New York City, including graffiti at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and shattered statues at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish.
“These troubled months in our city and country have been made even more painful by the rise in hate crimes. African Americans, Asians, Muslims and most disturbingly, our Jewish neighbors, have been targeted in a nasty and disturbing manner, ”Cardinal Dolan said in a June 2 editorial in Catholic New York. “We Catholics too. “
Certainly, the incidents were not lacking in drama. A Florida man was charged in March with a federal hate crime for driving his vehicle past the doors of the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, pouring gasoline in the lobby and setting it on fire.
In January, a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe outside the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Houston was found strewn with half a dozen bullets.
In March, St. Charles Parish School in Spokane, Wash., Was set on fire with Reverend Esteban Solar asleep inside the building, but he escaped unharmed after being woken up by police. A suspect has been charged with arson, according to the Spokesman-Review.
In the costliest attack, an arsonist set the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel on fire in Los Angeles County, causing millions of damage. A suspect was charged but later released, although prosecutors are considering re-filing charges, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.
FBI hate crimes data for 2020 shows 74 incidents of bias against Catholics, fewer than 134 anti-Islamic hate crimes and far fewer than 951 against Jews.
Statistics also show that most episodes of property damage against Catholics involved attacks on churches, while most anti-Semitic damage occurred at “unknown” or “residence / domicile”.
An interfaith group that included Catholic bishops asked Congress in June to increase funding from $ 180 million to $ 360 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s nonprofit security grants program, citing “l ‘growing extremism and antagonism towards different religious groups’.
The Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s death in May 2020 fueled a spike in activism that included vandalism against a multitude of targets, including churches and religious icons, but Mr Burch said the attacks had not faded yet.
Last weekend, for example, St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville, Colorado, was vandalized with pro-abortion graffiti in what police described as a prejudice-motivated crime.
Worshipers arrived for mass “to find abortion graffiti degrading the church sign, the entrance doors to the shrine, the garden sign and the walls surrounding the building,” the police department said in a press release Monday.
The spray-painted messages included “My body, my choice” and “Forbidden our body”. Vandals also sprayed the word “Life” on a garden stone “Respect life” to make it read “Respect bodily autonomy”, as shown in photos released by the department.
“The actions of these individuals are not representative of the people of Louisville, nor do they reflect our city’s mission,” Louisville Police Chief Dave Hayes said in a statement. “The true representation of the Louisville community is the one that surrounded St Louis Catholic Church and helped remove graffiti on Sunday after mass. “
The episode led to speculation that Texas law prohibiting abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically at six to eight weeks gestation, may have been responsible for sparking a new wave of animosity. anti-Catholic.
“We expect this to continue and possibly increase as a result of legal advancements made by the pro-life movement,” Burch said.
He and others urged President Biden, the second Catholic President of the United States, to speak out against the attacks, as he did in condemning violence against Asian Americans when he signed in May the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
“We said last year that it was shocking that then candidate Joe Biden did not comment on the rise in vandalism against Catholics, especially since he presented himself as a devout Catholic,” Mr Burch said. “And of course, he hasn’t said anything since.”