Just minutes before the start of early morning Sunday Mass on Oct.10, a lone vandal—believed to be a woman—attacked the 125-year-old Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colorado, spraying it with offensive graffiti.
Written in bright-red spray paint, the messages read: “Satan Lives Here,” “Jesus Was Here,” “KKK,” “Illuminati,” and “White Supremacists.”
The vandal also painted swastikas on the gilded front door of the historic church.
“Horrible things,” said the Rev. Samuel Morehead, who photographed the damage for city police.
“It was all over the front and the side” of the cathedral building, steps, and sidewalk, Morehead told The Epoch Times.
A statue of Pope John Paul II was also marked in red paint, he said.
Morehead said it was the third instance of vandalism against the church in three months, and the worst he’d seen.
“It was pretty brazen,” he said. “The police have a pretty good lead.”
The Archdiocese of Denver condemned the incident, along with increased reports of vandalism at Catholic churches across the country, labelling them as “troubling.”
“It is certainly unfortunate when our parishes are targeted simply because of our beliefs,” the archdiocese said in a public statement.
“Since February 2020, the Archdiocese of Denver is aware of at least 25 parishes, or ministry locations, in northern Colorado that have been the target of vandalism, property destruction, or theft.”
These incidents included broken windows, damaged and defaced statues, graffiti, attempted arson, vehicle damage, stolen religious items, and other break-ins and thefts.
More than 10 incidents occurred in the past six months, the archdiocese said.
“Some of the incidents have been clearly targeted at the Catholic Church, but not all of them. The number could be higher because some minor incidents are not always reported.”
And it’s not just Catholic churches in Colorado that are seeing an increase in vandalism and desecration. On Oct. 11, St. Peter Italian Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California, reported paint splashed over the outside of the church.
On Aug. 29 and Sept. 29, statues of Jesus were vandalized at St. Martha Catholic Church in Miami Shores, Florida. In late September, vandals broke windows and spray painted pro-abortion messages at Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Other Catholic Churches reporting damage by vandalism this year include St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church in Van Nuys, Calif., St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville, Colo., St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Jay, Maine, St. Michael’s Church in Flushing, New York, and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary in the Bronx, New York, where a statue of the Virgin Mary was damaged.
The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops reported at least 101 incidents of vandalism occurred across 29 states since May 2020.
“Incidents include arson, statues beheaded, limbs cut, smashed, and painted, gravestones defaced with swastikas and anti-Catholic language and American flags next to them burned, and other destruction and vandalism,” the organization said in a statement.
Several incidents took place against a backdrop of social unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Father Morehead said Sunday’s vandalism at his parish is “the worst we’ve seen in decades.”
“We didn’t have any threats, or intimidation, before,” he said.
Morehead said the motive for the vandalism still wasn’t clear yet.
“In my mind, this is either someone with mental illness or a deep grievance against the church,” he said. “This was out and visible. It was so much graffiti it couldn’t have been a 30-second job.”
He said police are reviewing surveillance video, which shows what appears to be a woman acting alone. Denver police traced the woman’s vehicle “driving out of town,” he said.
At least one person witnessed the incident, he said.
Denver police told The Epoch Times the investigation “remains ongoing,” and that no arrests had been made at this time.
On Monday, Oct. 11, members of the Denver church’s congregation scrubbed away the graffiti, Morehead said. The dollar amount of the damage is yet to be determined.
“It wasn’t an easy scrub-off job,” he said.
In the meantime, the church is working to improve camera surveillance in the hope of averting future incidents of vandalism.
Morehead said such incidents serve only to further divide America.
“We’ve got such a culture of division and animosity that I don’t think this will be the worst vandalism [I will see] in my time. My gut instinct is we are living in very broken times that have forgotten God.”