Don’t downplay violent attacks on Catholic churches

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“Is the Catholic Church under attack?” reads the headline of a recent article by Slate’s Molly Olmstead. 

Why does she have to ask? Churches are being vandalized all over the country. There have even been attempts to burn them down. Yet Olmstead blames the “Catholic right” for its “premature or recklessly dramatic” concerns – though she concedes that “to be fair, anecdotally there does seem to have been an increase in vandalism on churches.”

Anecdotally? Seems? 

The Catholic News Agency has been keeping a running tally of instances of vandalism in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. 

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Pro-life pregnancy centers, many of which are run by faith-inspired organizations including the Catholic Church, have suffered vandalism at the hands of pro-abortion zealots since the leak of a draft of the Dobbs decision last May. 

Don't downplay violent attacks on Catholic churches

Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told reporters that Congress needs to shut down these centers – which offer pregnant women free ultrasounds, diapers and parenting classes. “You should not be able to torture a pregnant person like that,” remarked Warren.

Catholic parishes have also been on the receiving end of the rage. Four churches in Wisconsin were vandalized with pro-abortion graffiti between July 2 and 3. A building on the grounds of a Catholic school in northern Ohio sustained an estimated $1 million in damage from a fire on June 30. 

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Last week a masked intruder smashed the glass door of St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington. And this past Sunday, St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Bethesda, Maryland was the target of arson. 

Don't downplay violent attacks on Catholic churches

One message the suspect spray painted on the wall of St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, read: "religion of hate."
(FOX13 Seattle)

“Last night our church was vandalized. People broke in. They overturned statues. They tore down the Stations of the Cross. They desecrated the tabernacle, and they tried to set the church on fire,” Father Samuel Giese explained during the parish’s live-streamed 10 a.m. Sunday Mass, which was held in the school gymnasium due to heavy damage caused by the fire. 

Then there’s the terror message spewed on the walls of Catholic churches and pregnancy centers by the radical proabortion group “Jane’s Revenge” – “if abortions aren’t safe, neither are you”. Slate’s Olmstead writes: “No one has been injured in any of the attacks.” What’s she going to say when they are?

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Let’s imagine that mosques were the targets of vandals and arsonists after some Islamist terror incident. Do you think Slate would be accusing American Muslims of “victimhood identification”?

Here are a few reminders for today’s apologists for attacks on churches: 

Arson of Black churches was common in the South during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. On September 15, 1963, four members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter planted 19 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The explosion killed four girls and injured between 14 and 22 other people. 

Don't downplay violent attacks on Catholic churches

ARCHIVAL IMAGE – (Original Caption) Birmingham: A white casket containing the body of 14-year-old Carol Robertson, one of four young Negroes killed here early morning when a dynamite bomb exploded in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church, is carried into a Negro church here this afternoon for funeral services. Carol is the first of the youngsters to be buried. (Getty Images)

Church arson continued in the 1990s, damaging many Black churches. As a result, Congress passed the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, and President Bill Clinton formed the National Church Arson Task Force.

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Federal law also prohibits the intimidation of churchgoers. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994 prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services or to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship. FACE also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services or a place of religious worship. 

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You may be wondering how the Biden administration has responded to the vandalism and arson of Catholic churches. 

What does our country’s second Catholic president have to say about the right of Catholics to worship safely, without threats of violence?
 
Almost nothing. 

The White House spoke with Fox News about the attacks on churches on Thursday. “The president is deeply concerned about these reports and condemns arsons and other vandalism of houses of worship in the strongest possible terms,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told Fox. “Such attacks are despicable, endanger lives and have the appalling aim of provoking fear. They are also unlawful.”

But the comments were made by a deputy press secretary while Biden was out of the country. The president did not visit the churches or speak on camera about the attacks. And, although the vandalism and arson happened last weekend, the White House did not comment until almost a week later.

Don't downplay violent attacks on Catholic churches

FILE – President Biden and first lady Jill Biden depart Marine One together.
(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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On the day the Dobbs decision was released, I met with a Washington, D.C.-area priest to discuss funeral arrangements for the young daughter of friends. 

The priest apologized for his brief delay – he’d been forced to talk to local law enforcement officials about the violent backlash predicted by groups like “Ruth Sent Us” and “Jane’s Revenge.” 

Don't downplay violent attacks on Catholic churches

A suspect spray painted graffiti on the St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, 
(Bellevue Police Department)

Meanwhile, the pastor of my home parish had to assemble a task force of parishioners who are former and current law enforcement officers in order to protect the church’s security. 

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As far as I know, these preventative steps are working. But I’m mindful of the real and present danger my children and I face when we head off to church. Instead of worrying whether my six-year-old has his shirt tucked in, I’m thinking about exit strategies in the event of a firebombing or shooting. 

And while I’m doing this, Olmstead and her colleagues are busy blaming the victims. That’s normally a mortal sin in the catechism of progressives. But not, it seems, if the victims are Catholics. 

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