Virgin Mary statue vadalized
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Parishioners arriving at Saint Anselm Roman Catholic Church for the morning mass on May 31 were shocked to discover that vandals had desecrated two statues on the grounds outside the Bay Ridge building.
Vandals drew the letter “X” in orange on the neck of a statue of the Virgin Mary in the church’s Prayer Garden and another “X” on the side of a statue of Jesus Christ on a crucifix, according to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) who is a parishioner and is offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible. “I can tell you that we will not stand for such acts of religious intolerance in our community, and I stand with my fellow St. Anselm’s parishioners in denouncing this cowardly act,” Golden said.
A Police Department spokesman said cops are investigating the vandalism at the church located at 356 82nd St. as a possible hate crime. "It's too soon to determine the motive," the spokesman said. The vandalism was discovered at 9:35 a.m., he said. It’s not clear exactly when the vandals sneaked onto the church grounds to commit their crime, but parishioners said it probably took place at some point between late Thursday night and early Friday morning.
“We can’t figure out who would do this,” said a woman who answered the phone at the church’s rectory Friday morning. “It was probably some nut,” she added.
The church has security cameras stationed outside the building, according to a source, who said police planned to study the footage to see if they spot the vandals in the act.
John Quaglione, a member of the church’s Pastoral Planning Council, said he and his fellow parishioners are heartbroken by the incident. “We’ve never had anything like this happen at St. Anselm before. There’s no place for it, whether you’re talking about a Catholic church, a synagogue, or a mosque. We’re not going to tolerate it,” Quaglione told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Quaglione, who plans to add another $250 to Golden’s reward to bring that total up to $1,250 (he is Golden's deputy chief of staff), said he and his family are feeling the crime personally. “I was married in this church and I had my baby christened here. I’m on the school board here. This whole thing is shocking to me,” he said.
The desecration of the Virgin Mary statue is particularly ironic, according to Quaglione, who said the statue is located in the Prayer Garden, “a place for quiet reflection.”
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said she too was upset by the vandalism. “Sadly, the desecration and vandalism of religious property is occurring far too often across our city and it is heartbreaking and unacceptable,” she said.
“One of our most cherished rights as Americans is the freedom of religion, which why we have such a strong, vibrant and diverse community,” Malliotakis said.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Msgr. John Maloney, was unavailable for comment.
Friday’s incident wasn’t the first time a Bay Ridge religious institution was hit by vandalism in recent years. Vandals sneaked onto the grounds of Visitation Academy, a Catholic school for girls at 8902 Ridge Boulevard, on March 21, 2012 and desecrated statues.
In that incident, vandals knocked over two statues that depicted children kneeling in prayer before a statue of Mary and decapitated a third statue of a lamb.