A mysterious wave of attacks on Catholic churches and statues across the United States leaves priests perplexed
But Haas, who began tracking attacks on northern Colorado parishes when he noticed they were on the rise, said he saw other potential motivations for some of the incidents.
He noted that the increase coincided with the start of the pandemic, noting the economic difficulties, political divisions and social unrest that have rocked the United States since.
Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila described soaring vandalism as part of a “cultural crisis” in America.
“One would probably have to go back to the early 20th or late 19th century, when an influx of Catholic immigrants challenged a predominantly Protestant culture, to find so much public antagonism toward the Catholic Church,” he said. he writes in an editorial.
Others noted that it’s not just the Catholic community that has seen an increase – African American churches, Mormon churches, temples, synagogues and mosques have all been targeted to varying degrees.
FBI data released late last year found that hate crimes, which include religiously motivated attacks, have become more common over the past two years.
Around the same time, a report by the American Jewish Committee found that nearly 40 percent of American Jews had changed their behavior in the past year out of fear of anti-Semitism.
Balserak pointed out that the numbers recorded by the USCCB pale in comparison to the attacks suffered by American Jewish communities, but the apparent increase in incidents has become a source of “concern” for Catholic bishops in the country.
In response to the attacks, the USCCB lobbied Congress to increase funding for security at places of worship, while some churches took the unusual step of hiring private security teams for the first time.
But Mr Balserak said resolving the crisis will require more transformative change.
“What I think is probably the ultimate solution to the problem is a return to the appreciation of the value of faith in public life. And the path to getting there is not as simple as writing a letter in support of a bill,” he said.
“I think the task for [Catholics] is to demonstrate by the way we act and the way we speak that we are not an enemy – and that is a much bigger hill to climb.