Parishioners Were on the Sidewalk Crying

Vandals strike Brooklyn Church, Synagogue.


Police at the 68th Precinct were questioning a suspect in connection with a rash of attacks on religious institutions in Bay Ridge discovered early Tuesday morning.

Four churches and a prep school were splattered with red paint, according to Police Officer Sophia Tassy-Mason, a spokeswoman for the New York Police Department. Tassy-Mason said the vandalism was discovered shortly after 3 a.m. on July 30. “These incidents are being investigated as hate crimes,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

US Rep. Michael Grimm, state Sen. Marty Golden, and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis had just finished a press conference outside Saint Anselm Catholic Church, one of the sights targeted by the vandal, condemning the attack when word came in that the 68th Precinct’s Anti-Crime Unit had brought in a suspect for questioning.

“We have an individual in custody. We are questioning him,” Police Officer Vito Viola of the 68th Precinct said. “We believe he is the same individual on a security video and in some still shots we have,” the officer said.

The vandal splattered red paint on two statues, of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, outside Saint Anselm Catholic Church at 356 82nd St., spray painted the word “no” at the front entrance of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, at 415 81st St., and on the front wall at a Lutheran church on Ridge Ridge Boulevard. Curiously, the word “on” was found spray painted near the entrance of Bay Ridge Prep, a private school at 7420 Fourth Ave. “He might have decided to reverse himself,” Tassy-Mason said as to why the word “on” was found there instead of “no.”

The word “no” at the entrance of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center was painted in large letters that could be seen from more than two blocks away.

The fifth site, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, at 8401 Ridge Boulevard, suffered significant damage, according to Christopher Elison, a church member. Red paint was discovered on six of the church’s doors, on a flagpole on the front lawn, and on the cornerstone of the church, he said. “It was pretty bizarre,” he said at the press conference. “It was a horrible sign,” he added.

The paint-splattered statues outside St. Anselm Church were discovered early in the morning. “There were parishioners out here on the sidewalk crying,” said Golden, who was at the scene at 7:30 a.m. with his deputy chief of staff, John Quaglione. Quaglione a member of the St. Anselm Parish Pastoral Planning Council condemned the vandalism as “an act of hatred that will not be tolerated.”

 Read the rest. 



Priest Faces Up to Drug Dealers, With Prayer and a Petition

The New York:

The threatening letter opened with a misspelling, a common fault of the genre.

“Father Bonaface,” it read, addressing the Rev. Boniface Ramsey, pastor of the Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Church Yorkville.

“Be careful when you report, people selling drugs on 87th St.”

It’s not every decade that you run across members of the clergy getting into squabbles with people hanging out on street corners on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The neighborhood around St. Joseph’s, on 87th Street between First and York Avenues, is one of the dwindling pockets of Manhattan that manage to have, in a single block, an Everything $1 and Up store with a display of sponge mops, and a VinoVersity, an “educational wine store,” with regular course offerings and tips on subjects like the best bottles to wash down a platter of chicken wings (in a word, fruity).

On the side streets are five-story walk-ups with tenants who have been residents since the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, and on the avenues, 25-story buildings with gyms used by renters who arrived in time for this summer’s internships on Wall Street.

At the 8 a.m. Mass on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Father Boniface noticed a man slumped over in a back pew at St. Joseph’s, a parish planted in the 19th century.

“I said to him, ‘Kevin, you’re using drugs, who is selling them to you?’ ” Father Boniface said in an interview. “He got to his feet, mumbled, ‘Father, Father,’ and walked out. There was a filthy needle on the bench.”

That drove the priest to compose a letter to the commander of the 19th Police Precinct, citing a group of people who loitered on the corner of First Avenue and 87th Street.

“We are dismayed that the children who attend our school can see the same things that adults can, including public urination and defecation, indecent exposure, prostitution, and extreme drunken and drug addicted behavior,” he wrote.

So, tucked into the weekly bulletin alongside announcements of the sick to be remembered in prayers, the last choir performance before summer, a collection for a mission in Africa, and meetings of the Brownies, Alcoholics Anonymous and the rosary prayer group, was the text of his letter about drug dealing and prostitution.

The actual document was left in the back of the church, not far from where the priest had found the sleeping man and his used needle. Within a few days, 700 people had signed on. These were pen and paper signatures: no online clicking to plump up the numbers. (“I don’t know how to e-mail,” Father Boniface, 67, mentioned in passing.)

A few doors down from the church, Avi Keller, who runs a computer repair shop, said he could understand why the people on the corner were viewed as a nuisance. Still, he said, the druggies were less of a problem for him “than people who come out of the bars and are puking in my doorstep.”

Some days, he said, he has handed out a few dollars to the people on the corner; other times, he shoves past.

“I get pretty rude with them, ‘Get out of my way,’ and they drop back, they don’t provoke anything else,” Mr. Keller said. “I’ve never seen them commit violence against anyone, and I’ve never seen any drug dealing. I don’t think I can judge anyone.”

Presented with the letter, the police responded, Father Boniface said. “We went to the precinct last week, and we were treated very well,” he said. That was on Monday.

On Tuesday, he found two almost identical pieces of mail, handwritten on paper torn from a notebook. One complained about his treatment of homeless people. The other mentioned his campaign about drug use on the corner, and had a menacing tone.

“Watch your back! You have to walk outside — you know. Do you think that your all that holy?”

Father Boniface passed along copies of the letter to the police, and also read it out to the congregation during the Masses on Sunday.

On Monday and Tuesday, the corner was largely cleared of the usual hangers-on. A police van was parked there, and a young officer in a powder-blue polo shirt said he knew all about the contention. “We’re on it, 24 hours a day,” the young officer said.

At Father Boniface’s last parish, St. Vincent Ferrer’s, the main criminal element was Bernard Madoff, who lived nearby, he said.

The threatening letter was not the work of a criminal mastermind, Father Boniface said: “The guy left his DNA all over the envelope.”


Atheists Erect Anti-Christian Billboard in Times Square

On The Deacon’s Bench:

The Catholic League notes:

Hanukkah is currently being celebrated, but fortunately for Jews they are not being attacked by David Silverman. No, like other haters in the atheist community, the president of American Atheists saves his vitriol for Christians.

Silverman’s latest assault is a huge billboard in New York’s Times Square.

The decision by Silverman to exploit Jesus crucified as part of his annual attack on Christmas is not hard to explain. Two years ago, he ran a billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel that said, “You Know It’s a Myth: This Season Celebrate Reason.” I answered with a billboard on the New York side of the Lincoln Tunnel which read, “You Know It’s Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus.” We both actually had some fun with that exchange.

Last year Silverman’s billboard outside the Lincoln Tunnel featured a picture of a statue of the Roman god Neptune, a classical portrait of Jesus, a depiction of Santa, and a guy in a devil’s mask. It said they were all myths. When asked by the New York Times why I wasn’t upset, I said, “It’s inane. Nobody knows what this means. I mean, Neptune? Over here, we just looked at each other in puzzlement.”

This year Silverman wanted to make a big splash, so he decided to draw blood. It shows what he is made of. He and his supporters do not want to be left alone—they want to inflame the passions of those with whom they disagree. Unlike Christians who do not provoke, harass or otherwise mock atheists, Silverman and his ilk want nothing more than to stick it to Christians at Christmastime. It’s who they are.

Meantime, over at Huffington Post, writer Diana Butler Bass takes aim at the “War on Christmas” and says the real problem is a “War on Advent”: 

With FOX News seeking to expose those who refuse to say “Merry Christmas” as secular collaborators to the War on Christmas, I confess that I am confused. FOX holds itself up as the network that stands by traditional values defending America and faith from heresies and infidelities of all sorts.

Did FOX get the wrong memo?

According to ancient Christian tradition, “Christmas” is not the December shopping season in advance of Christmas Day; rather, it is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Twelve Days following that run until early January. During most of December, Christians observe Advent, a four-week season of reflection, preparation and waiting that precedes the yearly celebration of Jesus’ birth. In many mainstream and liturgical (and even liberal and progressive) churches, no Christmas hymn will pass the lips of a serious churchgoer for another two weeks. If you wander into a local Lutheran, Episcopal or Roman Catholic parish, the congregation will still be chanting the ethereal tones of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” or “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night.” There are no poinsettias, no Christmas pageants, no trees or holly, and no red and green altar linens. A few days ago, they might have preached about St. Nicholas — but not Santa Claus. There are no twinkling lights or over-the-top Christmas displays. Just four candles in a simple wreath, two partially burned, two yet to be lit. The mood is somber as December moves toward deeper darkness, and the night lengthens. The world waits, and it is time to prepare for the arrival of God’s kingdom. It is not Christmas. It is Advent.

During these weeks, churches are not merry. There is a muted sense of hope and expectation. Christians recollect God’s ancient promise to Israel for a kingdom where lion and lamb will lie down together. The ministers preach from stark biblical texts about the poor and oppressed being lifted up while the rich and powerful are cast down, about society being leveled and oppression ceasing. Christians remember the Hebrew prophets and long for a Jewish Messiah to be born. The Sunday readings extol social and economic justice, and sermons are preached about the cruelty of ancient Rome and political repression.