Attacks on Catholic Institutions Should Concern All of Us

August 24, 2023

RFI Senior Fellow Daniel Mark wrote a piece for RealClearReligion this week titled, “Attacks on Catholic Institutions Should Concern All of Us.” Mark is also assistant professor of political science at Villanova University and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In the article, he argues that “Something is terribly wrong, and too few are paying any attention. I am Jewish, not Catholic, but I raise my voice now on behalf of those under attack, as I did years ago.” Mark goes on to write:

During my senior year at Princeton University, an egregious art exhibit went up in a prominent campus location. The display desecrated objects holy to the Catholic faith and mocked Catholic religious symbols. After significant backlash, the school administration held a forum to discuss the artwork. As a former president of two major Jewish student groups, I was, perhaps, an unlikely candidate to speak up in defense of my Catholic brethren. Indeed, as I told Glenn Beck when my involvement landed me on his cable news program, I’m an equal-opportunity offender. I believe very strongly that we should treat others the way we want to be treated (i.e., respectfully), but I also err on the side of free speech when it comes to the right to be free from coercion in criticizing and even ridiculing ideas with which we disagree.

Yet, as I told the packed crowd at that forum, I was not speaking out because I was worried that my own Jewish faith would be the target of the next sacrilegious art display. On the contrary, I spoke out precisely because I believed that would never be the case. (Well, “never” is a strong word, but at the time it would have been unthinkable.) And all the more so with respect to Islam or any other of a number of “protected” identity groups on campus and in society at large. In my own judgment, we would certainly have been better off without the exhibit to begin with, but the real crime in my mind at the time was the double standard.

“Double standard” came to mind again this summer with news of the fire that destroyed Orlando’s Incarnation Catholic Church on the anniversary of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Since that momentous decision, violent attacks, including arson and other destruction of property, have been perpetrated against Catholic churches and other institutions considered to be affiliated with the pro-life cause, such as pregnancy resource centers. Last September, my colleagues at the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) issued a report documenting criminal attacks against 174 Catholic sites, across 38 states and Washington, D.C., and against 63 pro-life organizations in 26 states and D.C. Since that report, the attack totals have risen to 218 Catholic sites in 41 states and D.C., and 73 pro-life organizations still in 26 states and D.C.

Read the full article: “Attacks on Catholic Institutions Should Concern All of Us.”