- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Catholic Action League pressed state and local authorities to crack down on church vandalism after two churches and a Catholic elementary school were hit Friday in Boston, saying such incidents are “growing exponentially.”

The churches — St. Teresa of Calcutta Church in Dorchester and St. Monica-St. Augustine Church in South Boston — and the St. John Paul II Catholic Academy in Dorchester were found Friday with their door locks jammed by a sealant or putty, in addition to other damage.

It was the sixth attack on St. Teresa’s since July — the church doors were smeared with eggs and trash three times in January — and the 14th incident in the last 11 months in Massachusetts. Yet so far, nobody has been arrested, according to the league.

“In July, the Boston Police Department said they were taking these incidents seriously. No arrests, however, have been made,” said league executive director C.J. Doyle in a weekend statement. “Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins must treat these incidents as the hate crimes and constitutional rights violations which they are.”

At St. Monica-St. Augustine, a statue of the Virgin Mary was knocked over. The same thing happened March 5 but was not reported, according to the Boston Police Department.

The department released photos of a “male suspect” captured on surveillance video.

The league called the incidents “appalling, senseless and malevolent crimes, which will continue as long as no one is apprehended and punished.”

“The number, frequency and intensity of attacks on Catholic churches in Massachusetts has escalated dramatically in the last few years,” Mr. Doyle said. “Indeed, the problem is growing exponentially.”

He said his group tracked four such incidents from 2012 to 2016, and 16 more through 2020 in Massachusetts, but the problem goes beyond one state.

A tally maintained by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops shows that 58 attacks on churches have occurred nationwide since May, including the July 11 fire that gutted the 249-year-old San Gabriel Mission in Los Angeles County.

“Incidents include arson, statues beheaded, limbs cut, smashed, and painted, gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned, and other destruction and vandalism,” said the conference.

Last month, 20-year-old Caleb Vancampen was charged with felony vandalism in the Feb. 26 desecration of 16 statues at the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Youngstown, Ohio, where damage was estimated at up to $100,000.

“I’ve been a priest here 34 years. We’ve never had one iota of vandalism. Not one, and all of a sudden, this,” Monsignor Michael Cariglio told WKBN-TV in Warren, Ohio.

In Massachusetts, Mr. Doyle said that the “severity of these attacks is increasing.”

“Repairing 19th-century stained-glass windows at the Fall River Cathedral, broken on December 26th, could run into six figures,” he said. “Had the Molotov cocktails hurled at Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth on August 3rd ignited the building, the parish church could have been consumed in a blaze, resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh condemned in July the church vandalism, calling it “unacceptable and deeply saddening,” and said that the police would “investigate to the fullest extent,” according to the Boston Herald.

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