Investigators believe that a fire early Sunday morning in a Maryland Catholic church was set deliberately.
The fire at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church in Bethesda, just outside Washington, DC, damaged several pews but was quickly extinguished by responding crews.
Fr. Samuel Giese, pastor, told parishioners Sunday morning that vandals had broken in the night before and “overturned statues, tore down the Stations of the Cross [and] desecrated the tabernacle.”
Fr. Giese told Aleteia that the tabernacle had been forced open, and that Eucharistic hosts were scattered on the floor.
“I believe that this is because of the Church’s stand on the issue of life — when it begins and that it should be protected — and that this is one of the manifestations of the deep divisions right now within our country, that there are those who believe that we do not have even the right to practice our faith,” Fr. Giese said during Mass, which was transferred to the parish gymnasium.
Some pro-abortion activists reacted to the June 24 Supreme Court ruling Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, with threats of vandalism against churches and pro-life pregnancy resource centers.
The vandalism on July 10 was one of a string of incidents at churches in Bethesda between Saturday and Sunday, the Washington Post reported. Early on Saturday morning, there was a fire at North Bethesda United Methodist Church, and damage — but no fire — at nearby Wildwood Baptist Church.
Damage to the Catholic Church was estimated at around $50,000, WTOP News reported.
Rev. Kara Scroggins, senior pastor of the North Bethesda United Methodist Church, told CNN, “We are saddened by these destructive acts, and we feel tinges of the heartache and fear that arise in communities of all types when a sacred space is desecrated. We cannot know the hurt of the person or people who vandalized churches in our neighborhood, and so we lift their hurt and our own hurt up to God.”
Fr. Giese told parishioners that the important thing to bear in mind is that the people and their clergy are the “living stones” of the Church. He said he was reminded of a story of when the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917. A soldier, he said, told a woman coming out of a church that they would destroy the churches and “anything that reminds you of God.”
“Really?” the woman replied. “Can you pull down the stars from the sky too?”