A Silent Epidemic of Vandalism Against Catholic Churches, Condoned by Politicians Turning a Blind Eye

It is time for leaders to say, unequivocally, that hatred and violence against any faith will not be tolerated.

Via St. Dominic Church on Facebook
Damage to the doors of St. Dominic Church, Brooklyn, New York. Via St. Dominic Church on Facebook

The recent attack on St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church at Brooklyn, where glass doors were smashed and statues of Mother Teresa and Pope John XXIII were defaced with a hammer, is yet another incident in a silent epidemic of attacks on Catholics and their faith.

The gruesome disfigurement of these sacred statues and the smashing of the church’s glass doors are not just random acts of vandalism, they are direct assaults on the Catholic community sadly condoned by politicians turning a blind eye.

Attacks on Catholic Churches are a nationwide silent epidemic. Since May 30, 2020, there have been 435 attacks on Catholic institutions with New York City leading the nation at 37. The attacks have been steadily increasing each year, with six at New York so far this year. 

These crimes have caused significant emotional and financial damage, with the total estimated cost amounting to $2,228,000. It should be noted that these figures only reflect those attacks that made it into the press, suggesting that the actual number may be much higher due to underreporting.

St Dominic
Damage to a statue of Pope John XXIII at St. Dominic Church, Brooklyn, New York. Via St. Dominic Church on Facebook

Despite the severity and increasing frequency of these attacks, there has been a conspicuous silence from prominent political leaders. When in August of 2022 a statue of Ghandi was toppled outside of the Tulsi Mandir Hindu Temple at Queens, Mayor Adams, along with state and local officials, could not get to the microphone fast enough. “We are not going to stand back and allow attacks on our houses of worship… and we will not allow an individual to participate in this hate without going apprehended,” Mr. Adams said at the time. 

Yet the Mayor has been conspicuously silent about the attack on St. Dominic’s, not to mention earlier incidents such as  the beheading of statues at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at Manhattan or the destruction of a tabernacle at St. Augustine Catholic Church at Park Slope. 

Currently, the New York Police Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating hateful graffiti applied to the walls of the Park Avenue Synagogue, but prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against those who applied hateful messages to the wall of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2020.

Some may argue that these actions stem from mental health issues rather than an intention to commit a hate crime. However, who in their right mind commits any act of hatred?  

The double standard in pursuing hate crimes and the selective outrage of government officials is a second assault on the faithful. Charges of “criminal mischief” reduce St. Mother Teresa to the status of a slashed tire. This is not just an attack on a religious artifact, it is an attack on the faith and identity of a community and on the freedom of worship, which has been one of America’s hallmarks.

The conspicuous silence from national, state, and local politicians regarding attacks on Catholic churches must end. It sends a disturbing message that attacks on certain faith groups are not as concerning or worthy of attention as others.

We should not forget that America has a sad history of anti-Catholicism spanning the Know Nothing’s of the 19th Century, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the anti-Catholic rhetoric during the election of President Kennedy.

Sadly, there are still echoes of this today, with reports of the FBI conducting covert investigations of Catholic parishes and judicial nominees being asked if they will renounce their membership in the Knight of Columbus.

The Catholic community deserves the same level of protection and respect afforded to other religious communities. It is time for our leaders to take an unambiguous stand and say, unequivocally, that hatred and violence against any faith will not be tolerated.

Political leaders must address these attacks and ensure that perpetrators are charged appropriately, reflecting the true nature of their crimes and sending an unambiguous message of condemnation. Ignoring these attacks undermines the fundamental values of religious freedom and equality that our nation stands for.

The New York Sun

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