A week or so ago, I had a very pleasant Saturday. First, way up to St. Columba Parish in Chester to bless the expansion of their cemetery, and their new playground—both accomplished through Renew and Rebuild—and to visit with the very dedicated Knights of Columbus. Then on to Our Lady Help of Christians Parish on Staten Island to canonically install the new pastor, my former loyal priest-secretary, Father James Ferreira. Uplifting events, both of them.
Somberly, another event that day was less than happy, as I visited Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish on Staten Island for an Act of Reparation.
Reparation for what? Well, simply put, that magnificent parish—mostly wonderful Mexican people, led by Father Hernan and Father Gannon—had been a victim of a hate crime.
A man had intruded into the church to yell obscenities against the Holy Eucharist and the celebrant at Mass, and to harass families present. When the police were called, he bolted, only to return at a later date to smash statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. All of this was recorded on security cameras, and the police have been very cooperative, and they have identified a suspect.
These troubled months in our city and our country have been made even more painful by the rise in hate crimes. African Americans, Asians, Islamic, and most worrisome, our Jewish neighbors, have been targeted in a nasty, ominous way.
So have we Catholics. For example, we painfully recall the two episodes of ugly graffiti splashed upon our revered St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The crucifix at a radiant neighborhood parish in Brooklyn was destroyed. And now the attack at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
When people attack religion, faith, the churches, mosques, synagogues, or, worse, persons, our entire culture, society, and common good are weakened and threatened.
These disturbed people of hate are shrewd. Nihilists and anarchists know that to wreck civilization, it is effective to target those who nobly advocate for the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of all human life—and that means people of faith and their houses of worship. While we pray for these culprits, we condemn their acts.
Remember when the forces of the Kaiser invaded neutral Belgium at the opening of the dreadful and bloody First World War, in 1914, and the first assault was upon the library of the acclaimed Catholic University of Louvain? The thugs bragged that they wanted to burn to the ground that repository of culture, values, faith and identity in a country they wanted to subdue.
Thank God the voices in this community—law enforcement, politicians, the press, and leaders of all faiths, are boldly condemning these hate crimes!
Memorial Day reminded us that “freedom is never free!” Those courageous men and women who served their country, whom we reverently and gratefully remembered last Monday, fought to preserve our God-given liberties, that of religion listed as first in the Bill of Rights.
Where is the outrage? As I observed to the congregation at Temple Emanu-El at their Sabbath prayer last Friday, an attack on one is an attack on all. We preach love! Why do some hate us?