West Virginia State Police and the state Fire Marshal have worked to bring about justice following the arson of St. Colman Catholic Church.
Three teens — Braxton Miller, 18, James Elmore, 19, and one juvenile — were charged Wednesday with arson in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
The target of their crime, St. Colman Catholic Church, was built in 1878 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1894, WCHS-TV reported.
Bishop Mark Brennan, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston, lamented the loss of the church, saying, “We are deeply saddened to learn that the fire was considered an act of arson and was intended to destroy this historic structure so important to the lives of many in the area.”
The fire was set Saturday evening, but was reported Sunday morning, June 26.
“While this criminal act can be very shocking and hurtful to the faithful, it can never destroy the memories of the Catholic community who built, maintained, and lived out their faith in that little church on Irish Mountain,” the bishop added.
Rise in attacks on churches
The attack is numbered among a string of attacks on Catholic churches and pregnancy resource centers following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, in which the court overturned Roe v. Wade, on June 24. It is not known whether the arson of St. Colman’s is connected to the court’s decision.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reports that attacks and acts of vandalism against Catholic churches in the United States were on the rise even before the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling. Since May 2020, there have been at least 154 incidents, occurring in 37 states.