The tide of attacks on Catholic Church properties in the U.S. does not appear to be turning. A recent report from the United Conference of Catholic Bishopscites 95 incidents across 29 states since May 2020. These include arson, vandalized statues, and damage to church buildings and, in some cases, attempted murder.
The figures continue to rise at a brazen and unabated pace. In July, National Catholic Register placed the number of incidents at 75. By September 7, however, The Washington Post reported the USCCB’s count at 93. In just three days since the Post’s article, the USCCB has recorded another two cases of vandalism.
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.
A Benedictine convent in Missouri has reported hearing gunshots from their rural property on three occasions, in 2021. In March, the abbess discovered two bullet holes in her bedroom wall. In the same month, a Washington parish school was set ablaze with the priest, Fr. Esteban Solar, still inside. Father Solar was able to escape before suffering any harm.
The most extreme cases include a Florida man who drove his car into a church foyer. He then exited the vehicle and began to light gasoline fires in the foyer while a congregation was preparing for Mass. A similar case of arson saw an historic 249-year-old California mission church gutted, with millions estimated in damages.
Church and lay leaders are doing what they can to raise awareness of the destruction. In an NCR report Msgr. Anthony Hernandez, of the Diocese of Brooklyn, voiced his concern over a “pattern of hate crimes against Catholics.”
In an open letter published by the Diocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan commented:
“When people attack religion, faith, the churches, mosques, synagogues, or, worse, persons, our entire culture, society, and common good are weakened and threatened.
“These disturbed people of hate are shrewd. Nihilists and anarchists know that to wreck civilization, it is effective to target those who nobly advocate for the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of all human life—and that means people of faith and their houses of worship. While we pray for these culprits, we condemn their acts.”
Other voices in Catholic leadership have decried the lack of media attention that the attacks have garnered over the last 18 months. Speaking to the Washington Post, C.J. Doyle, Catholic Action League executive director, mused:
“Looking at the underwhelming response to these crimes, I am beginning to understand how Coptic Christians in Egypt feel,” said Mr. Doyle, adding that none of the attacks resulted in arrests.
The U.S. Government has yet to release a statement regarding this persistent string of attacks against the Catholic Church.