What’s Really behind Attacks on Churches?

Attacks against Catholic churches have been on the rise. Is it a sign of the time? And what does it signify?

It’s not even news anymore. Attacks against Catholic churches have been on the rise for the past couple of years in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. While attacks against the (uppercase C) Church have been increasing over at least the past two decades—socially, civilly, and in the public sphere—attacks on parish churches and property have become the next manifestation of the world’s hostility to Truth, and the “Pillar and foundation of Truth,” the Catholic Church. It’s a sign of the times. But what exactly does it signify?

Recently two arrests have been made in separate vandalism incidents at Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn. As reported on CNA,

“At Resurrection Church in Brooklyn, a white marble statue of the Blessed Mother was spray-painted with black graffiti on her face, shoulders, and hands.

The word ‘fake’”’ was written on the statue as well as what appears to be an upside-down cross, a symbol not seldomly seen in vandalism incidents on Catholic sites.”

“Another incident occurred on Saturday at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Astoria by the same man who allegedly desecrated the church in early June.

On July 8, Jaime Bonilla walked into the church and began ‘acting erratically, disturbing the youth choir practice, and frightening the children,’ the diocese said in a statement Saturday.”

And in France, a 16th Century Catholic Church was burned to the ground. See the video below.

Attacks on Catholic churches across France have increased “fivefold” in the past ten years. According to France’s central criminal intelligence unit, there were 877 attacks on churches in 2018 alone. There is also this story from CNA, which reports that,

Trend Setting

But arson attacks on churches are the disturbing exception to the norm. The usual pattern of attacks I’ve observed over the past few years is they target statues or artwork of the Blessed Mother, Eucharistic vessels, or the Holy Eucharist itself.

I always find it peculiar that so many vandals and assailants brave the heightened risk of observation or discovery in the time and effort it takes to go from the doors at the front of a church to the sanctuary at the back of that church to attack or pry open a tabernacle, to desecrate an altar or to vandalize a statue of the Virgin Mary in or near the sanctuary. It’s brazen behavior that isn’t characteristic of a common vandal who ordinarily is more careful and stealthy during the commission of their crime. It’s the behavior of someone who feels safe, emboldened, even authoritative.

A Who-Done-It

Do mere angry or crazy people perpetrate these attacks, or are they persons under demonic influence? Yes, to all of the above! The devil is behind it all, whether his puppet is an angry mob or individual, a person with mental illness, or a person under direct demonic influence.

I don’t accept the arguments I have heard from some that these attacks result from a culture of disenfranchised people or so-called “social justice warriors” who have an axe to grind with the Church. I also reject the idea that it’s strictly mental illness that’s to blame. Angry mobs and the mentally ill have always been fixtures in the human order, but the character of these attacks has not. They have, however, been episodic.

“Cycles of hostility and aggression against the Church consistently precede or surround periods of peril…”

We’ve seen this character of hostility against the Church periodically throughout history—the Roman persecution of the Church, the [so-called] enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Reformation, and to some extent, World War II. These cycles of hostility and aggression against the Church consistently precede or surround periods of peril in the world. While social climate, cultural angst and civic discord have been accompanying factors, they are less the cause of aggression against the Church than they are characteristics of their cause. They’re ripples on the water’s surface moving by an ominous wind of change. Something wicked this way blows.

The Devil Made Me Do It

Whether a person is acting out of anger, manifesting mental illness, or is full-on possessed by the devil, Satan is behind all of these attacks. Only a diabolic mind could be behind a global phenomenon such as what we are seeing in attacks against the Church and its properties. Even if we place the blame on political and social climate and divisions, the devil is behind that. 

Moreover, the volume of attacks directly targeting the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother suggest a deeper spiritual motivation behind it all. The devil deeply hates the Holy Virgin, and he hates and always tries to discredit the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Attacks against Marian statues and the Eucharist are how the devil shakes his fist at God and man. It seems like a demonstration of power and influence, a scare tactic and a strategy to unsettle the faithful, feign dominance over the world and the order of man while emboldening the Church’s human enemies throughout modern culture. It’s all saber rattling. But I’m reminded of a local proverb from my youth, “Those who talk never act. Those who act never need to talk.” The devil’s noise-making is a sign of his panic because he knows his time is short. “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12)

See the writing on the wall, my friends. This is not a natural phenomenon at its core but a natural manifestation of a “supernatural” reality. The devil is very active and is acting with increased hostility against the Church and the human order. It is he who sets fire to churches, he who demolishes and defaces statues of the Holy Virgin, he who desecrates, he who destroys. The war that started in Heaven and has been ongoing throughout human history on the earth has reached a new level. The guilty subject then is the very same guilty subject now.

Hope Beyond Hope

But Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph! God wins in the end, and there isn’t a thing the devil or his accomplices can do about it. Remember that whenever the Church has gone through periods of great darkness, the Lord met the darkness with an overwhelming light, flooding the world with saints through His Church. Though the devil may be hyperactive in our time, The Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother are even more active. They have a surprise in store for the whole world, and they’re building it right now, right under our noses. They’re making saints behind a curtain of mystery. They’re reviving the Church beneath the veil of ashes left behind by the rot of the “church-that-was.” They will renew the Church! They’re doing it right now. The Church will not rise from the pile ashes we see, but instead, she will emerge from deep beneath the ashes—a Church that you will never see coming. Watch! Watch, wait, and see!

Don’t lose hope when you see or hear acts of violence against the Church, threats against the Church, or vandalism or destruction of churches and property. Don’t lose hope (or your mind and temper) when you hear a priest, bishop, or cardinal say something seemingly erroneous, borderline heretical, or otherwise objectively ridiculous. Instead, laugh at it. Because God will make fools of all of them, and soon. And He will remind the world, and the devil, that He alone is the Master of the world; that Jesus Christ alone is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. At the invocation of his holy name, every knee will bend. The darkest night can’t but yield to the sunrise. The sun will rise, my brethren. Oh, how it will rise! You wait and see! Have hope. Pray. Don’t worry.

Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!

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