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The attack on Catholic images may just be the beginning

As Bishop Hying notes, “The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing.” But it could lead to even more destruction.

A vandalized statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco is seen June 19, 2020. (CNS photo/David Zandman via Reuters)

While Catholics have watched the desecration and destruction of war memorials and secular statues in our public spaces, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist has encouraged his followers to destroy statues, stained glass, and icons that feature what he considers “European” depictions of Jesus. Such images are a “gross form of white supremacy,” claimed Shaun King on Twitter, that “should all come down.”

The attack on Catholic images has already begun. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has decried the destruction of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park statue of St. Junipero Serra—the Franciscan priest canonized by Pope Francis who played a key role in the evangelization of 18th-century California. Archbishop Cordileone defended Father Serra as having made “heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors”; acknowledging, “The memorialization of historic figures merits and honest and fair discussion as to how and to whom such honor should be given,” Archbishop Cordileone said that in the case of the toppling of the St. Serra statue, “there was no such rational discussion; it was mob rule, a troubling phenomenon that seems to be repeating itself throughout the country.”

On June 22nd, the bishops of California released a statement that quoted at length from Archbishop Cordileone’s remarks, and then concluded:

Serra was not simply a man of his times. In working with Native Americans, he was a man ahead of his times who made great sacrifices to defend and serve the indigenous population and work against an oppression that extends far beyond the mission era. And if that is not enough to legitimate a public statue in the state that he did so much to create, then virtually every historical figure from our nation’s past will have to be removed for their failings measured in the light of today’s standards.

The toppling of St. Junipero statues—replete with the desecration of the sacred symbol of the crucifix—is quite likely just the start. Black Lives Matter leaders in the same mold as Shaun King—a former Protestant pastor—are now calling for the removal of all images of what King calls “white European Jesus.”

King, currently a writer-in-residence at Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project, tweeted to his more than one million Twitter followers that

the statues of the white Europeans they claim is Jesus should come down. They are a form of white supremacy.  Always have been… All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus and his European mother and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.

A graduate of Morehouse College, and the founder of churches and multiple non-profits with mixed track-records of success, King has been adept at using social media to mobilize his followers. In 2018, King posted the name of a Texas Highway Patrol officer King alleged sexually assaulted a black woman after a traffic stop. The trooper and his family were subjected to horrific abuse by social media users across the country for two days before the body camera footage proved the innocence of the officer.

In December 2018, when a seven-year-old African American child was shot while riding in a car with her mother and siblings by a gunman the mother said was white, King mounted an investigation into the murder, offering a reward for information leading to an arrest. King posted on Twitter a picture of Robert Cantrell, a white Houston resident King described as a “racist, violent asshole,” and asked followers: “What more can you tell me about Robert Cantrell?” Cantrell was arrested for another crime the day the child was murdered, and he had nothing to do with the drive-by shooting, but King’s postings lead to death threats for Cantrell and members of his family. Shortly after Cantrell’s arrest, Eric Black and Larry Woodruffe—both black men—were arrested for the shooting of the child, and faced capital murder charges. Cantrell died in 2019 from an apparent suicide, and was found hanging in his jail cell.

For several years, questions have been raised about King’s fundraising practices, from his efforts to raise money for Haitian disaster relief to online fundraisers for the family of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice. King has threatened to sue those accusing him of mishandling or misappropriating funds.

Catholic leaders need to understand that online attacks by activists like Shaun King can result in real-life threats to the Church and to her people. His demands that religious iconography he dislikes be “torn down” need to be taken seriously. As Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison put it so well in his June 23rd “Statement on Call for Destruction of Christian Statues”:

The secular iconoclasm of the current moment will not bring reconciliation, peace, and healing. Such violence will only perpetuate the prejudice and hatred it ostensibly seeks to end. Religious freedom, given to man by God Himself, and guaranteed by our Constitution, allows us as Catholics to practice our faith, build our churches, pray in public, put up statues and crucifixes on our property, and serve the common good through a remarkable network of health care, schools, and social services. We must not surrender our religious liberty to the voices that seek the destruction of our public presence, the diminishing of our sacramental worship, and the denial of our belief in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.


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About Anne Hendershott 92 Articles
Anne Hendershott is professor of sociology and director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Church (Encounter Books).

19 Comments

  1. Speaking of iconography, what is it about this oracle Shaun King himself (a “king”!), that should be respected by modern-day statue-iconoclasts? Or, is this a horse of a different color?

    During the Reign of Terror, it was the French KING who was thought to be “a head too tall”; the mob resized him with a guillotine—-before finally redirecting their rite of passage against their own rabble-rouser leader, Robespierre.

    The Divine Right of Kings, after all—-and now the “rite” of Shaun King, former Protestant pastor and now writer in residence at elitist Hahvudd University?—- was a notion most associated with another Protestant, King James I of England.

    Yea verily, sauce for a goose is sauce for a gander! King, get thee down from thine ivory-tower pedestal before thou, too, gettest what cometh. As you say, “they should ALL come down.”

    • Remember there is an Election in November and this could be ‘fake news’ to stir the pot towards favouring a certain incumbent .

      • You’re kidding,right?? This guy has been on TV, on video and is a real person. You have not yet figured out that the riots we have been seeing and the violence we have witnessed are the product of the LEFT, the kneeling DEMOCRATS and self-loathing whites who want to take on themselves the blame of the crimes of those long dead? You’ve seen all that, but you think ” rude” Trump is the PROBLEM??? That would be funny if it wasnt so sad. Another lib who marches when told.

  2. The main “perp” in these desecration’s of The Catholic Faith was started by our 44th POTUS.Along with President Jenkins’s at Notre Dame who knuckled under to his demands by covering up Notre Dames Statues,Art.& Catholic Icons.The same thing was carried out at Georgetown.All of this in May of 2010.So what we are seeing today is really NO Surprise!Tyranny in 2010 has Company again 10 years later in 2020.

  3. An urgent issue that requires resolution. We’re on the precipice of persons of color reversing the dynamic that existed in America prior to the Civil War. Evidence is the illogical assault against all Whites even those who fought to correct the institution of slavery like Abraham Lincoln, Union soldiers who died on the battlefield. And evident in the tolerance even support of authorities. The morally deranged reason is that they’re white. Classic sociology, The oppressed become the oppressor. Shaun King is the vanguard of absolute intolerance of any claim to justice, of historical value – if it is not initiated by persons of color. Antichrist by nature the Person of Christ is attacked unless Christ is made conformable to their discriminatory evil. This is the inevitable outcome when a selective concept of justice that inhibits equal justice is pursued, because it is unprincipled in the truths of Natural Law. And that of Christian revelation.

    • A living example of my allegation that, “The morally deranged reason is that they’re white”. Rob McCann, President and CEO of Catholic Charities Eastern Washington recently declared that the Catholic Church is racist because Jesus was white. McCann goes several steps further, however, declaring that the hard truth is that every white person living in America is a racist (LifeSite 6’26). Rob McCann is white. I sadly title this new illness White Derangement Syndrome.

      • I watched the McCann video a couple of days ago. Embarrassing. I wouldn’t trust the man to make me a cup of coffee.

  4. With people like Shaun King as one of the ‘spokesmen’ for the BLM ‘movement’ (his being at Harvard is icing on the cake), is it any wonder why a LOT of people (and more every day) are getting real tired of what is going on under their name?

    There is a reaction to every action, and come November the message should be quite clear – enough is enough.

  5. This article demonstrates another reason why parents should not send their kids to Harvard.

    King is ignorant of both Christianity and history. He wants to topple the “white European Jesus,” but does he also wish to topple the black African Jesus or similar Asian variants?

    Jesus has been depicted as being of different races and cultures to help show that Jesus is for all humanity: not just one country or culture.

    Our own culture desperately needs to raise the bar for civil discourse.

    • Our parish has 2 separate churches, a leftover from segregation days. One church has a lighter complected Jesus, the other dark. That’s pretty standard.
      I expect Our Lord might have got a bit sunburned trekking about the countryside with His disciples.
      Perhaps he resembled the darker Christ in the summertime and the lighter in the winter?
      I wonder how many historically black churches Mr. King has visited?

  6. My thoughts are. Until people’s hearts, on both sides change and acceptance for differences are reached, no change will happen and a change of heart comes from within each person. No one can change your heart but you. So the root question is how do we attain everyone changing his heart?🤔
    It seems when we refused to have God as part of our world. When respect for others and their property and beliefs, disappears, manners go, kindness , forgiveness, gentleness, patience And plain decency go, , Dowe?we don’t have much left to make up a human being., Do We?

  7. Feast Day today , of Icon of Our Lady or Perpetual Help , what it means ..
    https://www.catholiccompany.com/content/our-lady-perpetual-help-icon-meaning#

    also Feast of St.Cyril , said to have gone to the Council of Ephesus with Bishops carrying bats , to counter the Nestorian heresy –
    https://www.universalis.com/-600/today.htm

    The true belief and the related profound awe and gratitude for the truth of The Incarnation – enemy has always tried to put contempt and disbelief against that truth since a mustard seed of true belief in same would undo lots of his evil designs , including the lie of seeing carnality as the god , thus , idolatrous focus on appearances and money and all related evils and power struggles that has plagued humanity .
    Other faiths based on good deeds alone , not fit enough to deal with the wounds and evil .
    News about a Russian Orthodox priest , excommunicating members of the movement , seeing them as heretics – https://russian-faith.com/culture/blm-excommunicated-priest-denies-communion-all-members-black-lives-matter-n3345
    ( Those who are fretting about the Consecration and its own iconoclastic agenda , here is proof enough , that a priest in Russia has that much freedom )

    The Church , with its deep reverence for the human person , related to the belief in The Incarnation – more leniant and merciful ..always , hoping and trusting that hearts would be touched , to open to the graces from our Lord , who desires to make us sharers in His holiness , to thus heal the deep dark wounds , memories even generations , as well as all deep idolatorus pride of one’s own color , the related deep contempt for others , projected unto The Lord that He too might see oneself with the same contempt , since He is of light ..

    ‘Unless you become like children ..’ – may The Mother help many , to claim the sonship in The Lord , seeing oneself exchanging places even , to see us , others , in her arms ..and to ask oneself , what / whose child one has to be , to carry the bitterness and its agenda ..
    St.Cyril , son of Alexandria , who would possibly have blood lines of both being a slave and a slave master – from the times of the Jewish people there in Egypt . May his prayers help us all to know more , of true slavery being sin , to ask The Master , to pour in His Blood and Water , His Life and holiness , into every moment of our lives , rejoicing in the wounds , of oneself and others , filling with light ..the color of light alone ..

  8. None of the recent chaos is about “black lives” (what are those exactly), George Floyd or racism.

    Just like the Reichstag fire arrests In 1930’s Germany were not about preventing arson.

    Rather, the disorder is the left’s best effort to generate enough pain and discomfort in our country to motivate politically uncommitted voters to jettison the present administration and replace it with the media-approved alternative.

    If that happens, the Democrats will change our nation in ways that will render it unrecognizable. America’s days as “the city on a hill,” A beacon of hope for all humanity, will be over.

  9. he’s pretty racist if he think just because a country is in Africa, that automatically makes them black. Blacks are sub-saharan congo. Jesus was JEWISH, ie white with slight tan, not to mention the Greek Hellenistic era of Egypt was from 323 BC to 31 BC

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