An act of vandalism against a Catholic church in Connecticut over the weekend marked a grim milestone: The 300th known attack on a Catholic church in America since the spring of 2020.
Police in Ledyard, Connecticut say a man broke into Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Saturday night and vandalized it by breaking windows and writing on the walls. They released surveillance images of the suspect and reported that the state’s hate crimes unit is assisting the investigation.
CatholicVote has been tracking the attacks since the civil unrest that followed the death of George Floyd in May 2020. The riots started a wave of violence and vandalism against Catholic churches that only accelerated after the unrest died down.
>> Click here to view an interactive map of all 300 attacks. <<
“This epidemic of violence against Catholic churches has created a climate of fear for Catholics around the country,” said Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote. “This is an unacceptable state of affairs – no American should have to walk around wondering, ‘Is my church next?’”
In 2020 and 2021, most of the attacks appear to have been motivated by general anti-Catholic ideology, specifically from Black Lives Matter rhetoric. Since the Supreme Court draft opinion in the Dobbs case was leaked in May 2022, however, most of the attacks have been perpetrated by pro-abortion extremists. 140 of the attacks have taken place since the Dobbs leak last May.
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Acts of vandalism now frequently feature spray-painted, threatening messages like “if abortions aren’t safe, neither are you.”
An Anatomy of the Attacks
The attacks have included acts of arson, some of which forced churches to close for repairs. Three historic churches were burned to the ground.
Another common line of attack is the destruction of statues of Jesus, Mary, and saints, often with their heads cut off.
In some cases, the tabernacle – containing consecrated hosts – has been stolen and desecrated.
There have been more than a dozen incidents of pro-abortion extremists interrupting Masses or obstructing entrances to churches.
CatholicVote’s tracker does not list simple acts of burglary, such as thefts of cash donation boxes. In all 300 attacks, the motive appears to have been political or spiritual.
Catholic President Won’t Defend Catholic Churches
The Biden administration has been almost completely silent on the wave of violence.
“Our second Catholic president has shown a reckless disregard for the Church in America,” Burch lamented. “These attacks are continuing unpunished.”
CatholicVote sent a letter to the Department of Justice in December 2021, demanding action. An official with the Biden administration responded, promising a 15-day review to ensure they were dedicating resources to the issue. CatholicVote never received a follow-up.
There have been zero federal arrests or prosecutions of any of the attacks, even though such acts are illegal under the FACE Act, a federal law.
CatholicVote has found evidence of arrests by local law enforcement in only about 25% of cases.
“The lack of arrests and prosecutions is not for lack of trying by local law enforcement, who have been responsive to reports of violence,” Burch said. “They simply don’t have the resources to investigate and combat a nationwide surge of violence, and the Biden administration refuses to help them.”
CatholicVote has been working closely with the House Judiciary Committee to use its oversight authority to push the Biden administration to act. At the recently-concluded committee hearing, several Republican senators pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland about bias, with many questions explicitly addressing whether anti-Catholicism motivated the Department of Justice’s silence on church violence.
“The DOJ has announced charges against 34 individuals for blocking access to or vandalizing abortion clinics,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT. But there have been more than 81 reported attacks on pro-life groups, the senator pointed out, as well as 130 attacks on Catholic churches since May 2022. “And only two individuals have been charged” in connection with those pro-abortion attacks.”
“So how do you explain this disparity?” Lee asked Garland.
Garland began his response by stating that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act “applies equally” to actions against abortion clinics and against pro-life clinics. He did not mention that the Act also protects churches from attacks.
Garland admitted that federal law enforcement has prosecuted more pro-life Americans than pro-abortion radicals. Why? Because pro-life advocates make no secret of their activities, while the criminals who have attacked pro-life groups did so under cover of darkness.
“I will say you’re quite right, there are many more prosecutions with respect to the blocking of the abortion centers, but that is generally because … those actions are taken with photography at the time, during the daylight, and seeing the person who did it is quite easy,” Garland said:
Those who are attacking the pregnancy resource centers, which is a horrid thing to do, are doing this at night, in the dark. …These people who are doing this are clever and are doing it in secret.
Garland at no point acknowledged the evidence of a rising tide of violence against Catholic churches.
“What Garland doesn’t admit here is the obvious: the pro-abortion attacks on Catholic churches and Catholic-run pro-life groups are criminal (which is why they act in secret),” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch. “Pro-life activists are there during the middle of the day because they know what they are doing is legal and protected by the U.S. Constitution.”
NEXT: ‘It’s Up to the Biden Admin’
“The committee members and staff are very familiar with the problem and they’re working hard within their power to push the administration,” says CatholicVote government affairs director Tom McClusky. “But it’s ultimately up to the Biden administration to do something about it.”
Burch is taking the occasion to call for the Biden administration to form a federal law enforcement task force to stop anti-Catholic violence.
“We’ve had task forces on crimes against all sorts of groups, but none for Catholics,” Burch said. “Platitudes from the administration are not good enough. They need to act.”