The recent rash of vandalism and desecration of religious statues and church buildings plaguing European Catholic parishes has spread to U.S. counterparts. News reports from this Easter Sunday alone depict three different incidents of hateful crimes committed against Church-consecrated properties.
Thousands of dollars of damage was performed in the holiest 24-hour period of the Catholic calendar against three buildings and possessions in Lakewood, Ohio; Fresno, California; and Maui, Hawaii.
The Lakewood Police Department continues to investigate what they're designating a breaking and entering of St. James Catholic Church. Vandals entered church property through a jimmied courtyard window, snatched Rosary beads and a crucifix from a hallway table and managed to detach a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary from its cement and sandstone base.
To perform this last task, St. James parishioner Joseph Dwyer said, the perpetrator needed to cut through the rebar that connected the statue to the base.
"They were very methodical," he said. "They pushed the statue over, severing Mary's head from her body." Those responsible also tossed the Rosary beads and crucifix on the grounds outside the church.
Saint John's Cathedral in Fresno suffered at least $50,000 in damage on Easter Sunday. By Tuesday, Fresno police had arrested 35-year-old Jose Luis Rentaria Hernandez, who confessed to felony vandalism that resulted in chipped and/or defaced statues as well as damage to the cathedral's exterior and stained-glass windows. Hernandez also threw melted red wax from burning candles on several statues, including a likeness of Pope John Paul II.
Also on Easter night and the second time in less than four weeks, St. Anthony Catholic Church on the Hawaiian island of Maui was subjected to vandalism. According to Wendy Osher, a Maui Now reporter:
This was not the first time vandalism has been reported at the church grounds. About three and a half weeks ago, a window was knocked out and the rectory and office was damaged. The hands on the Our Lady of Lourdes statue were cut off and the Bernadette statue was cut in half.
News stories of attacks on U.S. Catholic churches have been reported frequently since the beginning of this year. The statute of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Gregory's in Dorchester, Massachusetts, for example, was desecrated four times in March and April.
The Boston Herald reports that the statue was "tagged" by an unidentified red substance similar to what was used to previously deface statues at two other Massachusetts houses of worship, which the newspaper identified as the Most Precious Blood Church and St. Anne's Church.
On April 1, a statue of the Madonna and Child at Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut, was attacked with a rock, which was used to damage Mary's hands and the face of the baby Jesus. An Ohio man wearing a mask was caught on camera wielding a baseball bat and with rocks that he used to break windows at Holy Family Catholic Church in Dayton, Ohio in March.
Two churches in California's Pomona Valley fell prey to vandals employing a sledgehammer to smash religious statues and rocks to break stained-glass window images of the Virgin Mary. A man carrying a sledgehammer was captured on video cameras destroying two statues at Our Lady of Lourdes in late March. The same individual is suspected of using the same weapon to behead the Virgin Mary statue at St. Margaret Mary's Church in April.