CV NEWS FEED // “First, losing Issue 1 last week, now this… it really hurts,” said a parishioner upon seeing her parish, Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, OH, vandalized over the weekend.
Immaculate Conception is not the only parish in Ohio that anti-Catholic vandals have attacked since last week’s vote on Issue 1.
An Immaculate Conception parishioner who wished to remain anonymous told CatholicVote that she was deeply affected when she heard of the damage done at her parish.
Two windows had been broken, and the injured vandal had left bloodstains on the carpet throughout much of the church, she said. The damage was more painful to her than she could have imagined.
“Our priest somberly relayed what he could: the vandal had been caught and charges would be filed,” she said. “Parishioners are disturbed and distressed over this.”
Fr. Dennis M. McNeil, senior parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception, said a cleaning crew had cleaned up the glass and other debris from the vandalism by the time any parishioner arrived, and covered the broken windows with cardboard.
“Both [Pastor Michael Troha] and I addressed the question in our homilies that weekend,” Fr. McNeil told CatholicVote. “What we said was more or less the same: that we have a right to feel angry but we still have to respond with charity and forgiveness.”
“That’s how we act as Catholic Christians,” he said.
According to a local news source, the suspect is a 30-year-old man named Eric Randall Beck.
Willoughby police reported that Beck was taken into custody early Saturday morning as he tried to flee the scene. He was highly intoxicated and bleeding from his hand.
Beck, who has pleaded not guilty, is being charged with breaking and entering, vandalism, and arson.
The incident occurred just weeks after the vandalism of the outdoor Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in nearby Wickliffe, OH.
Last Monday, vandals broke into one of the buildings on the property of St. Francis de Sales parish in Parma, Ohio. The building is an old school turned parish center. The unknown vandals committed several acts of vandalism there.
Fr. Mark Peyton, pastor of St. Francis de Sales for 13 years, noticed that something was wrong last Tuesday morning when he saw an American flag from one of the classrooms lying on the floor of the hallway.
The vandals tore up some posters, removed a crucifix from a wall and placed it upside-down on a chair, and removed pictures of the pope and the bishop from a wall and left them on the floor.
The vandals also wrote on a whiteboard “There is no God,” “Don’t read the Bible because God is dead,” “Who is the Church to tell women they can’t have an abortion,” and “It’s my right to choose what gender I want to be.”
Fr. Peyton said he and the police surmised that the vandals were likely teenagers trying to express their beliefs and disagreement with the Church’s teachings on abortion and sexuality.
“It’s my suspicion that it was young people making a statement instead of handling it in an adult way,” Fr. Peyton said. “You would hope that they would be more mature instead of doing that, like calling a priest or teacher to talk about their problems with Church teachings.”
Fr. Peyton said the incident definitely raises concerns and renews conversations about security measures on the property.
He believed it was possible that the event was connected with Issue 1, given the media attention the vote received over the last few weeks.
Editorial Note: A previous version of this article suggested that the debris from the damage done at Immaculate Conception was still strewn about in the Church. In fact church staff and a cleaning crew had cleared the property before any parishioner arrived on the scene.