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'We Must Regain Respect': Denver Archbishop Condemns Spike in Church Vandalism

Graffiti at UC Davis

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver denounced the rise in vandalism against Catholic property in the last year, calling it a "spiritual crisis."

In an article written for the Washington Post, Aquila pointed out that the U.S. bishops have documented at least 100 instances of vandalism, arson, and damage done to Catholic property nationwide since May 2020.

Incidents include graffiti spray-painted on church walls, Catholic statues beheaded, and gravestones disgraced with swastikas. Aquila noted that many more incidents have likely not been recorded.

He described one graffiti incident at Denver's Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in October where a woman, who supported abortion rights, spray-paint "Satan Lives Here," "White Supremacists," and "Child Rapists, LOL" on the exterior of the building. 

"You would likely have to go back to the early 20th or late 19th centuries, when an influx of Catholic immigrants challenged a mostly Protestant culture, to find so much public antagonism toward the Catholic Church," Aquila wrote. 

"As Catholics, we recognize that this is a spiritual crisis. We pray for the end to such horrifying attacks and for God's love to drive out the hate in the perpetrators, regardless of who they have targeted," he continued. "Yet as Americans, we also clearly see a cultural crisis. People of goodwill, whether religious or not, must condemn and confront the societal trends that encourage attacks on houses of worship - trends that extend far beyond religion."

The Archbishop noted that Catholics have not been the only religious group targeted. African American churches, Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues, and cemeteries have all been attacked in the past year. 

Overall, hate crimes, which include religiously motivated attacks, will likely set a 20-year record in 2021, Aquila said. 

"Respectful conversation has given way to spiteful confrontation," he wrote, "Where once people strove for change through the force of intellectual, moral and well-considered arguments, the go-to approach for many is now brute force. It often takes the form of violence or vandalism."

"Everyone has a role in lifting America out of this crisis. Regardless of our individual beliefs, we must regain respect for the dignity of the human person," Aquila concluded.

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