It’s amazing what happens when you dehumanize a certain group and name them an enemy of progress, charity, and mercy. See Hutus and Tutsis.
A monument to the victims of abortion inscribed with a verse from Isias knocked over in a village in Sullivan County, New York. A crucifix smashed with a hammer in Rockford. A statue of the Virgin Mary beheaded in Gary. Another statue of her, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, desecrated with garbage; yet one more in the same city burned after plastic flowers in the hands of the Blessed Mother were set aflame. Satanic symbols and obscene messages scrawled on the doors of a parish in New Haven. More statues of Christ and Our Mother toppled, decapitated, or otherwise besmirched in Florida, Tennessee, New York, and Colorado. Representations of St. Junipero Serra tumbling down across the state that would not have existed without his glorious apostolate. The cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Nantes burning, with arson suspected. Priests attacked as far afield as Fargo and Washington, D.C. A vehicle driven into a church in Florida by a masked lunatic who filled the narthex with gasoline, igniting a blaze with parishioners inside.
Most of these are headlines from the past week; all date from no later than a month ago. They do not represent an exhaustive list, nor are they meant to do so. I am ashamed to say that it was not until very recently that I saw any of this for what it so obviously was. When words that cannot even be printed in this space were scrawled on the exterior of St. Patrick’s in Manhattan, I thought the incident, while regrettable in itself, at least harkened back to an earlier age when cathedrals were the natural repositories for inchoate social energy — the Florence of Savonarola, say.
It was always wishful thinking, but the more realistic assertion that such vandalism was evidence not of hatred but of indifference, of churches being (reasonably or otherwise) indistinguishable from post offices or courthouses as generic symbols of authority was briefly a source of comfort. This, alas, was also untenable. Catholic buildings are being burned and our sacred images destroyed for the not very complicated reason that we are increasingly the objects of suspicion and loathing in the United States and Western Europe, just as we have long been in the Middle East and parts of East and Southeast Asia.
This has nothing to do with any protest movement, worthy or otherwise. It is about one thing: hatred of the Church, Her sacraments, Her immutable teachings, Her glorious saints, Her bishops and priests and religious brothers and sisters, and the faithful themselves. Why such a painfully obvious conclusion has not been more widely drawn, much less broadcast and made the object of public regret, seems to me not especially mysterious. The unmistakable corollary is that it is because such hatred is considered eminently reasonable in polite society, a piece of received wisdom comparable to finding cigarettes distasteful.
We are the new secondhand smoke. We could be detained on suspicion of secondhand Jesus.