Almost 100 Attacks On US Catholic Churches Experienced Since May Last Year: Report

Catholic church

A report released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reveal that there were at least 95 attacks experienced by its churches since May 2020.

Aleteia said the lack of media attention nor investigative result on the said attacks that span 29 states has made many leaders of the Catholic church frustrated. The 95 incidents involve some cases of attempted murder, damage to church buildings, vandalized statues, and arson.

"The various attacks on Catholic properties range from the benign to the truly troubling. In most instances, parishioners or clergy have awoken to find statues destroyed, buildings defaced with graffiti, or windows broken. The more serious cases, however, have been life-threatening," Aleteia highlighted.

The figure has constantly risen the last months since July where the incidents were recorded at 75. The number jumped to 93 on September 7 and in just three days two more were recorded by the USCCB.

"At least 95 incidents occurred across 29 states since May 2020. Incidents include arson, statues beheaded, limbs cut, smashed, and painted, gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned, and other destruction and vandalism," the USCCB said in the Summary of the Backgrounder on the attacks.

On a month-on-month basis, July 2020 recorded the most number of attacks at 11 incidents involving parishes in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York , and Tennessee where sacred spaces where desecrated through vandalism and the decapitation of the images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints.

May 2021 follows with the most number of attacks at 10 incidents in California, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington involving arson, burglary, and vandalism. Earlier reports say one of these incidents that is said to be the result of a hate crime involving the St. Athanasius Church in New York City where a large crucifix was broken into pieces by an unidentified individual. The attacker also burnt the American flag that was outside the church.

A grave incident reported in April 2021 involved the Benedictine Abbey of Mary, Queen of the Apostles that is also known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri. The nuns reported hearing gunshots on three occasions. Two bullet holes were discovered by the abbess in her bedroom wall on March 22. That same day the St. Charles Catholic School in Spokane, Washington was set on fire almost killing Fr. Esteban Solar. Fortunately, the priest escaped the fire before suffering any harm.

Of the incidents recorded, the most extreme also involved arson that took place on July 11, 2020 at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida. A man rammed his minivan "through the church door, poured gasoline on the foyer, and lit it on fire" while the congregation was preparing for Mass.

Next to this incident in gravity happened the same day and involved the 249-year-old Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in San Gabriel, California that was burned. The church's "roof, pews, and more" was destroyed by the fire.

The USCCB released a statement on these incidents as early as July 22, 2020 through its Committee on Religious Liberty Chairman Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development Chairman Archbishop Paul Coakley. The statement, entitled "Bishop Chairmen Condemn Acts of Vandalism, Destruction at Catholic Sites", highlighted the "extraordinary hour of cultural conflict" happening in the United States that is reflected in the "destruction of these holy symbols."

"In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it," the USCCB said

"Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict. The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his Holy Mother," the bishops added.

"Let us contemplate, rather than destroy, images of these examples of God's love. Following the example of Our Lord, we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love," they urged.