US church attacks: ‘Cultural crisis’ sweeping US leaves religious leaders stumped | World | News

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Washington: Man damages religious statue in 2021

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recorded 128 incidents since May 2020, covering 35 US states. Religious leaders across the Atlantic, including the Archbishop of Denver, Samuel Aquila, have called the spate of attacks a “cultural crisis” for the country, but cannot be certain of the motives behind the incidents.

Some have involved the destruction of stained glass windows, stealing from religious property, or even arson.

Millions of dollars of damage was the result of an attack on a Catholic school in the state of Ohio, and a 250-year-old church was targeted with fire in California.

Among the victims of the mystifying attacks is Washington DC’s national basilica, where an unidentified man hammered away at a marble statue at the shrine.

He was caught on CCTV vandalising the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in December 2021.

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An unidentified man hammered away at a marble statue at the National Basilica (Image: Fox 5 DC)

national basilica

The National Basilica in Washington DC was a target (Image: Getty)

The defacing of statues is an emerging theme in the attacks, according to USCCB religious liberty director, Dan Balserak.

He told the Telegraph that this is “ominous, but also mysterious because it’s not a message that might be intelligible or point to a particular motive”.

He added: “We don’t have an idea of whether there’s a common motive or some sort of master plan going on.”

Mr Balserak suggested the attacks, going for the obvious symbols of Catholicism, could be down to US society not understanding the church’s place in public life.

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Stained glass windows have been destroyed along with statues (Image: Getty)

Others have put forward that it may be down to the increasingly fractious issue of abortion access in various US states.

Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a state-wide ban on abortion after the 15-week mark, which does not have an exception for rape or incest-induced pregnancies.

Just days earlier, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt introduced a bill constituting an almost total abortion ban in the state, backed by a number of religious leaders.

He said on Tuesday: “As governor, I represent all 4 million Oklahomans and they overwhelmingly support protecting life in the state of Oklahoma.

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 Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a state-wide ban on abortion after the 15-week mark (Image: Getty)

“We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country.

“We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”

He added: “I know this bill will be challenged immediately by liberal activists from the coast, who always seem to want to come in and dictate, and mandate, and challenge our way of life here in the state of Oklahoma.

“The most important thing is to take a stand and protect the unborn and protect life in the state of Oklahoma.”

abortion protest

Some have predicted the Roe v. Wade ruling, entitling a woman to an abortion, will be overturned (Image: Getty)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the move “one of the most extreme state laws signed into law to date”.

With a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, some have predicted the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, entitling a woman to an abortion, will be overturned.

With the church desecretations, Mark Haas, of the Archiocese of Denver, has said that many incidents in Colorado have “anti-Catholic, pro-abortion messages”.

He described: “The ones that have been targeted at us have been pretty brazen and pretty aggressive.”

He added: “Where they’re spray painting messages, it usually is around abortion.

“Sometimes they’ll make comments related to the church’s history with sex abuse.”

Jen Psaki, noting the White House’s attention on the increasing attacks on Catholic symbols, said the Biden administration “oppose[s] any destruction or desecration of religious institutions of any kind… and certainly, Catholic churches”.

Others have speculated the cause may be down to discoveries of unmarked graves at sites previously used as residential schools for indigenous children, sparking investigations into possible abuses at these often religious-run institutions.





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