Following the vandalism of a church statue earlier this month, Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila last week called out targeted acts of violence toward Catholics and one prominent congresswoman for anti-Catholic bias.
“This attack is one in a series of destructive acts and defacements around the country that target Catholics and the faith that we hold dear,” wrote Aquila in a letter published in the Denver Catholic, the publication of the Archdiocese of Denver. “The message seems to be that the Catholic faith is not welcome by these violent individuals, and we cannot allow this response to be met with silence.”
On the weekend of Aug. 8-9, a vandal took the head off of the St. Jude statue at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Denver. KDVR reported that the predominantly-Hispanic parish was a shrine and a pilgrimage site for many Catholics.
Aquila, referencing other instances of destruction at churches across the country, also criticized an Instagram story from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in which the congresswoman pointed out that the majority of the statues in the U.S. Capitol largely are of white men.
“Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told — and virtually no one else,” said Ocasio-Cortez using a picture of a Fr. Damien statue. Aquila disputed her characterization of the priest who worked with lepers in the Hawaiian Islands during the 19th century.
“The ridiculous nature of these attacks is revealed when our statutes, churches and people are attacked. For example, why would Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use a statue of Saint Damien of Molokai as an example of what she called a ‘white supremacist culture’ among the statues at Capitol Hill?” Aquila asked.
“Similarly, St. Junipero Serra, whose statues have been attacked, advocated for the indigenous people where he evangelized. He may not have led an uprising against the authorities on behalf of the indigenous as modern activists would have preferred, but he was a tireless advocate of the Native Americans and honest people cannot overlook this,” Aquila added.
While there is no apparent reason for the targeting of the St. Jude statue in particular, the Dominican Foundation of Dominican Friars Province of St. Joseph Inc. notes that St. Jude is known as the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, "for all those seeking God’s assistance during times of family crisis, sickness, and trouble, especially when all hope seems lost."