War on Catholics Continues: Churches and Crucifixes Desecrated – The American Spectator

The desecration of a 14-foot wooden cross erected last month at a Catholic Father’s Day Retreat in Orange County, California, is just the most recent attack on yet another sacred symbol for Catholics in a culture that continues to revile the Christian faith.

Just add the sawing down and destruction of the wooden cross at the Santiago Retreat Center in Silverado Canyon to the growing list of hundreds of acts of vandalism committed in the past three years against Catholic churches, schools, and retreat centers. CatholicVote has tracked 345 attacks on Catholic churches since the George Floyd incident in 2020, including acts of arson that damaged or destroyed historic churches; spray-painting and graffiti of satanic messages; rocks and bricks thrown through windows; and statues destroyed — often with heads cut off.

And like most of the attacks on sacred Catholic gathering places and objects since 2020, authorities debate whether the vicious acts qualify as hate crimes, as demonstrated in Sgt. Frank Gonzalez of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s reply to the destruction of the wooden cross in an interview with the Orange County Register: “Investigators were still looking into the matter as a possible hate crime.”

Charges Dropped in Catholic Vandalism Cases

Most often, acts of vandalism against Catholic sites are not charged as hate crimes. In fact, in some of the most heinous attacks, felony vandalism charges are downgraded to misdemeanors, with the vandals paying little or no price for their vicious destruction of Catholic sacred objects. This is exactly what has happened in the aftermath of the Oct. 12, 2020, destruction of the St. Junípero Serra statue on the grounds of Mission San Rafael Arcángel, the present-day home of St. Rafael Church in Marin County, California. In November 2020, the Marin County District Attorney’s Office filed felony vandalism charges against the five defendants — none of them juveniles. But after outcry against the “harsh” charges, the office reversed its decision by reducing the felony charges to misdemeanors.

In a news release on May 23, 2023, the Marin County District Attorney’s Office announced “a solution” to the 2020 charges, claiming that the vandalism of the sacred statue was “resolved through an innovative restorative justice solution,” which required the perpetrators to complete 50 hours of volunteer work and pay an undisclosed sum to be determined by Marin’s Probation Department. The five vandals will also have the opportunity to participate in a community forum to have a “meaningful dialogue” with a “credible historian” who will give all stakeholders a chance to have a discussion about Fr. Serra. (READ MORE: Religious Freedom Deserves a Strong Defense)

The self-congratulatory news release — claiming that the reduction in charges from felony to misdemeanor and opportunity for the five vandals to present their side of the debate over the value of the contributions of St. Junípero was a “victory for this community” — was deeply offensive to most Californian Catholics. Criticizing the ruling, the presiding bishop of the San Francisco Archdiocese, Salvatore Cordileone — one of a handful of courageous Catholic bishops willing to publicly push back against the escalating attacks on the Church — suggested that the District Attorney’s Office has signaled that attacks against the Catholic Church can continue with impunity:

It is clear to me that this course of action would not have been taken with anyone else.  In fact, if the same kind of offense had been committed against another religious congregation or group, it most certainly would have been prosecuted as a hate crime…. Now, with this decision, the Marin County district attorney has given the signal that attacks on Catholic houses of worship and sacred objects may continue without serious legal consequences.

The archbishop is correct. When Muslim spaces are attacked, the attacks are much more likely to be pursued as hate crimes — as they should be. Following the May 1 arrest of an individual charged with setting fires at the Mercy Islamic Center and the Somali Mall, President Joe Biden took to Twitter to decry the anti-Muslim arson and vandalism, claiming that: “We must always stand against anti-Muslim hate. And stand up for the rights and dignity of all people.”

DOJ Ignores Catholic Rights and Dignity in the Face of Vandalism

Biden is selective in whose rights and dignity he stands up for. It is not Catholics. In fact, earlier this year, Biden’s Department of Justice recommended no jail time for Maeve Nota, a 31-year-old self-identified transgender individual who vandalized the St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, last June in response to the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court. In addition to smashing doors, Nota spray-painted profanity and anti-Catholic messages on the Church, claiming that Catholics are “groomers, “women haters,” and “hate gay people.” When confronted by a church staff member in the middle of the vandalism, Nota assaulted the staff member by spray-painting the individual in the face. Nota received no jail time and was given three years of probation.

Part of the reason why Biden and his selective Justice Department can continue to ignore the escalating attacks on the Catholic Church and her people is that they can. Other than CatholicVote, a handful of courageous bishops, and a few Catholic leaders in Congress, no one is holding the current administration accountable for the attacks on Catholics. In fact, in some ways, Catholics have become complicit in their own attacks by participating in anti-Catholic sentiments.

Statues of St. Junípero — a beloved saint who was canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis — have been removed from many Catholic campuses and churches throughout California. One of those Catholic campuses is the University of San Diego, whose president has kept the statue of St. Junípero Serra stored away for more than three years now. In 2019 — long before the George Floyd incident in 2020 — the University of San Diego removed the name “Junípero Serra” from a main campus building and replaced it with “Saints Tekakwitha and Serra Hall.” In an email to Celina Tebor, editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper, the Vista, President James T. Harris III called his actions “decoloniz[ing] the campus.”

Archbishop Cordileone is correct: Attacks against Catholic sacred spaces and objects will continue to escalate. The saddest part is that too many Catholics appear to be complicit.

Read More: War on Catholics Continues: Churches and Crucifixes Desecrated – The American Spectator

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