Are incidents of church vandalism on the rise?
A fire at Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, a prominent church in Tallahassee, Florida, is being investigated, and it may be the latest example of what appear to be increasing attacks against Catholic churches in the United States.
“Today, there was a fire inside the Co-Cathedral church in Tallahassee,” Bishop William A. Wack Diocese of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese said in a statement Thursday. “The cathedra [bishop’s chair] and presiders’ chairs were set on fire and are destroyed. The walls of the sanctuary are charred, and there is smoke damage. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and it went out before igniting the whole building. An investigation is underway.”
“Having seen churches burn in the news, seeing this before, I didn’t ever think that this would happen to our church here,” Fr. John Cayer, the cathedral’s rector, told WCTV. “We have no idea who has done this. This is an obvious case of arson.”
A common reaction on the part of parishioners to incidents of vandalism against churches is “Why would anyone do this?”
But there might be another reason to ask why: Why does it seem like vandalism against churches is on the rise?
Recent incidents include:
- A statue of Jesus was broken apart and left in pieces in front of St. Mark’s in Boston on Sunday. Earlier in the year there was a rash of graffiti attacks at various Boston churches.
- A statue of the Virgin Mary was found defaced at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Selden, New York, at the end of May. There was damage to the nose, chin and one of the cheeks.
- Pro-abortion graffiti was spray-painted onto Notre Dame de Lourdes church in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, last month.
- All Saints Catholic Church in Babcock, Wisconsin, was defaced with graffiti reflecting religious hatred and pornography May 14.
- Someone spilled paint, wrote graffiti and broke windows at All Saints Catholic Church in New Richland, Minnesota, the night of May 11-12. They also spilled wine, attempted to remove a microphone from the altar and tried to break into a lock box in a back room.
- St. Matthew Catholic Church in El Paso was vandalized May 7, Earlier in the month, a window at St. Patrick Cathedral was broken, and a bottle with an unknown liquid was found near the damaged window.
- A statue of St. Bernadette was damaged at St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, May 7.
And that’s only Catholic churches. There have also been a number of incidents at Protestant churches around the country.
According to the FBI, the number of incidents of anti-Catholic “hate crimes” has been fairly steady over the past few years. From 70 incidents in 2013, it has dipped to 53 in 2015, but has risen to 62 in 2016 and 73 in 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available.
In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, one of the 10 largest Latin Catholic dioceses in the U.S., instances of vandalism have been low for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. Only three reports of theft, burglary, and vandalism have been filed with the archdiocese’s Insurance Services Office.
“One additional instance of vandalism that the office is aware of was not reported to Insurance Services because the parish community took care of cleaning and repairs on a volunteer basis,” Alaina N. Longo, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said on Thursday.