New wave of anti-Catholicism seen in vandalism of churches, Catholic symbols?

Catholic churches, statutory, and other symbols are being targeted in a new wave of anti-Catholicism in the U.S., reports Francis X. Rocca in the Wall Street Journal (July 22, 2020). In just the last month, there has been more than a rash of church arsons, priests attacked, defacements and destruction of statues of the Virgin Mary and Saint Junipero Serra, and Satanic symbols and profanity scrawled on church buildings from California to North Dakota to New York. There have been reports of an increase in anti-Catholic vandalism and arson in Europe [see RW, Vol. 34, No. 8] in the last few years, a concern revived with the recent arson of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Nantes, France, though the sources and motivations for such attacks. The most violent incident involved the Queen of Peace Church in Ocala, FL., where a man set fire to the church while parishioners were inside. This spate of attacks coincided with the George Floyd protests and the toppling of several statues of Serra in California. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said the vandalism surrounding the Serra statues may have caused a “broken window effect” where other protestors felt they had permission to target other Catholic symbols and buildings.

In The Week magazine (July 22, 2020), Matthew Walther writes that he first attributed the recent acts of vandalism against Catholic figures, buildings, and symbols to similar incidents involving “post offices or court houses as generic symbols of authority.” But these acts of vandalism, which Walther writes has little to do with any protest movement, are difficult to place in any other category than hate crimes against Catholicism as a religion. He argues that these actions are taking place in a political context marked by animosity to Catholicism and suspicious about its organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, and some aspects of its social teachings (on abortion and contraception). He concludes that “Revealing among other things risible ignorance of the almost impossibly rich diversity of images of Christ and His Mother, activists who call for the destruction of millions of pieces of religious art find their views presented as a meaningful contribution to discussions about race relations.” On the website of the conservative Spectator magazine (July 27, 2020), Samuel Gregg notes that the recent spate of vandalism has also included other religious buildings and symbols—particularly synagogues. This is related to the growth of anti-Semitic hate crimes, but Gregg argues that targeting religious buildings is also related to a “general breakdown in public order,” which was one of the factors cited in the European church arsons. But it is also the result of the “woke left” in challenging what they see as “Euro-centric” versions of history, especially in the cases of the vandalism of the St. Junipero Serra statues.