An ominous silence surrounds the attacks on Catholic churches nationwide.
The violence takes the form of arson, vandalism and statue smashing. Catholics see satanic symbols, obscenities and graffiti sprayed upon statues and church buildings.
The silence takes the form of complicity with the attackers on one hand or a failure to react proportionally on the other.
The violence occurs in different ways. Some anonymous vandals damage historic buildings like the centuries-old San Gabriel Mission Church originally founded by Saint Junipero Serra in San Gabriel, California. The structure was gutted by fire by an unknown arsonist. Another example is a satanic symbol painted on the door of a historic church in New Haven, Connecticut when no one was watching.
Other violent acts take place openly during riots. Individuals sprayed obscene words on New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, for example, during the unrest. In St. Louis, Missouri, protesters sprayed and chalked slogans on the pedestal of the majestic equestrian statue of Saint Louis IX, King of France. At the same time, faithful Catholics defended the statue with their presence and prayers.
Finally, there is vocal violence. Some BLM activists like Shaun King make statements that call for tearing down “racist” statues of Jesus and Mary. He also spoke of shattering racist portrayals found in magnificent stained glass. Such statements create a climate that favors the physical destruction of religious art.
The media and the left participate in a silence of veiled complicity. They do this by being mostly silent about the physical acts of violence. They neither condemn nor take action against those who talk of violence. Instead, the left and its media facilitators will weave narratives that “explain” the violence and incite sympathy for it. They will insist upon painting the Church as an oppressive power working together with colonial powers to oppress black people in the past. Thus, destroyed churches or beheaded statues are the unfortunate yet “understandable” reactions of those oppressed by the Church.
However, another silence is equally disconcerting. It is the silence of concession and false compassion found among Church officials and faithful in the face of the offensive against Catholic centers of worship. The rash of violence should raise loud cries of alarm on the part of Catholics everywhere to stop this criminal destruction. There is no proportional response to the damage.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Religious Liberty issued a July 23 statement that acknowledges the increasing incidents of arson, vandalism and statue smashing. As can be expected, the message is warm, fuzzy and nonjudgmental. It does not call for any action against the perpetrators of these outrages that offend God and the Blessed Mother.
The statement said that “Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing.”
Thus, Catholics are called to practice understanding despite the bad will on the parts of activists who deliberately call for and carry out the defacement of statues and churches as part of their message. The statement says, “The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his Holy Mother.”
A final exhortation urges the faithful to follow Our Lord’s example by responding “to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”
While the faithful must always practice charity and compassion, there are times when Catholics need to stand up and defend the Church under attack. Doing nothing cannot be an option.
Church history records what happens when revolutionaries attack churches and deface statues and symbols. Such violence is always the prelude to more terrible persecution that extends to the lives of the faithful. The same history also reveals the sad fate of those who make concessions to those who threaten the Church. They urge false compassion toward those who later oppress the Church and take away her freedom.
This is especially true in times of revolution like the present. Revolutionaries always aim to destroy the past order of things and replace it with their own. They have a special hatred for the moral law and institutions like the Church that sustain it. For this reason, they topple statues and destroy churches that represent the Christian civilization they detest.
The concessions of Church officials to radical revolutionaries during the French Revolution, for example, led to the mass destruction of churches, convents and monasteries. Historical statues were burned in the public square, and even the bodies of incorrupt saints were desecrated and put to the flame. Countless French priests and faithful suffered martyrdom, exile and persecution.
Similar outrages happened during the Spanish Civil War, the Cristero War and the places where communism threatened the Faith. The destruction and desecration of churches, statues and objects of devotion are their special target.
The lessons of history can be learned. Revolutionaries can and should be denounced and stopped. Clergy and faithful Catholics must expose the lie of the Church as an oppressor that is used to “explain” the violence against the Church. The calls for the destruction of racist statues must be categorically condemned as facilitating violence. The lawful authorities must prosecute those responsible for the actual damage. People need to understand that revolutionary violence begets more violence. Each concession will lead to many more.
During this period of revolutionary fervor, there is still time to counter-protest and defend the Church. This is no time for silence.