Statues of Biblical figures recently vandalized at two Catholic churches in Vineland, N.J., were done so in such a way that seems to convey a vicious message, say authorities.
"When you look at how methodical the person was who did this, cutting off the heads, gouging out the eyes, there's some kind of sicko message being communicated," Peter Feuerherd, director of Communications for the Catholic Diocese of Camden, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. "We don't know what that message is, but it is obviously the product of a mind which is disturbed."
The two churches in Feuerherd's diocese that were attacked last Wednesday night were Sacred Heart Church and St. Francis of Assisi Church. The vandals hacked off the head of a statue of the Virgin Mary, sliced a statue of Joseph in half, hammered in the faces of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) in another statue, according to CBS Local. Reporter Cleve Bryan summarized the damage, saying "the likenesses of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and more were smashed, hacked, and in several cases, decapitated."
"I cannot imagine what is going through the mind of a person that would deliberately go deface statues that are dedicated to our savior," Richard Samson, Deacon of Christ the Good Shepherd Church, told CBS News.
Feuerherd told CP that the police are still investigating the scenes, searching for evidence that might point to the attacker's identity. "We have contacted the authorities, we will prosecute this to the fullest extent of the law," the spokesman declared. In addition to helping authorities hunt for justice, church officials said they are praying "for the mind of a person who would do this."
The damage reveals malicious intent on behalf of the attacker, Feuerherd said. The churches were a few miles apart, so "it wasn't just a spontaneous prank in a particular neighborhood, they had to say 'let's attack these churches.'"
The attacker left no signs, lettering, or statements that might indicate the reason behind the attacks. Feuerherd speculated that "somebody has a beef with the Catholic Church – what that beef is, we just don't know."
In Vineland, attacking the Catholic Church amounts to attacking the whole community, the spokesman argued. He explained that the city is "very heavily Catholic," with an older mix of Irish and Italian families, along with newer Latino Catholics. "They are a substantial part of the population, if not the majority," Feuerherd said.
"These statues are a sign and symbol of our faith," the spokesman continued. "Somebody who would strike against them is striking against the very heart of our community." He added, "in that sense, it's a blow to the community itself."
A similar attack occurred in September, at St. Mary's Malaga, about 20 miles from Vineland. Nine statues were damaged, with some of them decapitated. The perpetrators have still not be found.
Feuerherd told CP that the damage to the Malaga statues has been restored. He did not estimate how long it would take to repair the damage of last week's attacks, however. The insurance companies are still weighing whether to renovate the statues or replace them, he explained.