California church destroyed by arsonist

I think we are going to see a lot more of this.

From CNA:

Calif. parish pledges to rebuild after arsonist destroys church
By Kevin J. Jones

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 20, 2011 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Parishioners at St. John Vianney are determined to rebuild after an April 16 arson attack destroyed their Hacienda Heights, Calif. church.

“The church is completely destroyed, I mean down to ashes and dust. The pews, organ, everything,” parish pastor Msgr. Tim Nichols told the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass. He presented remnants of the altar and tabernacle and said only a few vessels and vestments were saved.


Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, who lives two blocks away from the 5,000-member church in Los Angeles County, was awakened by a neighbor pounding on his door soon after midnight on Saturday morning. From his front lawn he could see the fire’s flames shooting 150 feet into the air. He rushed to the church to join priests and parishioners watching the blaze destroy the church and the rectory.

The fire burned for almost three hours before firefighters were able to extinguish it.

“The investigators have been quite definitive to me, this was very definitely a deliberate act,” Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, told the Los Angeles Times.


Various crimes have targeted Catholic churches in California in recent years. In January one or more vandals spray-painted the misspelled phrase “Kill the Cathlics” on churches in Anaheim and Irvine.

In May 2010 vandals broke into and ransacked St. Rose of Lima parish school in the city of Maywood in Los Angeles County.

Holy Rosary Church in Woodland near Sacramento has been victimized by theft and vandalism four times since 2007. St. Stanislaus Church in Modesto suffered a burglary and vandal attack which desecrated the sanctuary, knocking down and damaging four statues of the Virgin Mary.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. meunke says:

    “Holy Rosary Church in Woodland near Sacramento has been victimized by theft and vandalism four times since 2007”


    OK, at the second time, were I the parish priest, I would have done something along the lines of organizing some kind of a security detail. I don’t mean armed patrols of vigilantes or something, i mean arrange for one a rotation of perhaps one parishioner per night staying at the church to keep and eye on things and be ready to call authorities the moment something happens.

    Letting it happen more than twice?!?!? That seems pretty inexcusable to me.

    Even if the priest wouldn’t organize this, I can say with certainty that I as a layman would set up some kind of volunteer system where one or two people would hang around nearby at night to keep and eye out and call the police if something happened. Good heavens!!! What is wrong with people?

  2. Jim Dorchak says:

    Were we not told that this was coming?

    Jim Dorchak

  3. jo seno says:

    Speaking of vandals… Although not as bad as the one that happened in LA, the corpus on the crucifix outside my parish was stolen last year.

  4. Christine says:

    @meunke–I wouldn’t be so hard on the pastor. We don’t know the details of what precautions they took or didn’t take. I’m sure he wouldn’t want to put anyone in harms way.

  5. AnAmericanMother says:

    I don’t think that would be a terribly good idea, at least not in California.
    Unless you have some large parishioners with pool cues and attitude, your “watchmen” are defenseless AND the vandals KNOW they are defenseless.
    In the South, it would probably be a different story.

  6. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I bet there are several hundred Knights of Columbus in the area who would be willing to take turns. Do you know how many Knights are cops or firefighters?

  7. chironomo says:


    Put those swords to good use…

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    The sacristy of the Sagrada Familia was set on fire:

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    Jim Dorchak: Were we not told that this was coming?

    I went to your blog and was surprised to read that “Collard Greens are typically found thorough out the south and are relatively inexpensive to purchase.”

    South Carolinians must be more sophisticated than Tennesseans. I never heard of anyone actually buying collard greens. Here in Tennessee, when someone’s hungry for a mess of collards, he just picks some free along the road, and they cook up just fine. Can’t imagine how the bought ones might be any better.

  10. Jim Dorchak says:

    Henry (Fr. Z sorry for topic digression)

    You are so right on the Collards. I do not purchase mine. I got them out of the front yard. I was offering the pricing info for those Yankees who may want to go to super stop and shop and get some and give it a try. As a Southerner you are of course exempt. Although I will say that my buddy Jim Curley who lives in the hinter lands of SC (and I do wish I also lived there) reguarly has people stop and ask to buy a mess of his fresh Collards. P.S. I hear Yankees like their food fresh out of a plastic tray.

    Jim Dorchak

  11. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Henry and Jim, this transplanted New Englander gives collards a thumb up. And grits!

    At our inner city parish I wonder about bad things happening but we have a rectory with several priests attached to the building. During Masses we have a policeman patrolling around, armed of course. I think our neighborhood is not as bad as where the Dominican parish in Youngstown is though. They have had two murders this last year. They could put a wall with razor wire around the place and sell it to the state as a highly ornate and spiritual feeling prison. It’s very sad to see neighborhoods change for the worse.

  12. inIpso says:

    I bet God uses this to really transform that community’s hearts… Though if I ever built a Church, I would make sure the Tabernacle could withstand such attacks. Just like you can get fireproof safes… this Tabernacle would be bomb proof! Beautiful inside, Fire/bomb proof layer, and then gold plated outside! Only the best for our beautiful Jesus!

  13. JPG says:

    RECALL ONE OF THE TASKS of the Ancient Order of Hibernians when first in the US was to defend the Church ie Churches physically. When I hear of instances like this in California or the Homosexual protest in Chicago outside the Cathedral, I think my brothers may need to revisit this task our forebears in the Faith had in the days of the know-nothings and yes I will need confession because it may get physical. In those days they would be posted outside the Church to defend the building from attack.

  14. joanofarcfan says:

    Our church has been hit by metal thieves at least three times that I know of in the last year. First the downspouts; then the brass candle followers and candlesticks; then a 70 lb. $3,000 restored marble top altar table. I would volunteer for a sting operation if asked. It makes me sick.

  15. joanofarcfan says:

    …and angry.

  16. LisaP. says:

    About three years ago the parish I attended had an old parish hall that burned down in the middle of the night. The consensus was that someone had left a light on or something and the old wires started to burn. Maybe a month later, the Catholic-run day center downtown had a fire in the middle of the night that did some damage. Blamed on homeless. Then someone threw a stack of burning newspapers through a window in the church at night. Called a random act.

    I don’t know if they were just trying to not give attention to whoever was trying to burn down our church or what, but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of arson attacks on churches where the “church” aspect of it is ignored. I remember during the Clinton years when there was a huge rash of attacks on black churches, reading that that was actually a huge rash of attacks on church with congregations on every color. It was likely an anti-Christian crime wave that got labeled a race one.

  17. James Joseph says:

    Collard greens are gross.

  18. Random Friar says:

    The problem with having civilians guard a church, is that they may decide to play the hero. Nowadays, the intruder/arsonist could probably sue the defenders. I would just “arm” the civilians with pepper spray and have cellphones handy. But if you have cops that are willing to work off-duty, God bless them!

    Now, if these were mosques, the California National Guard would be at every mosque, and the FBI would be involved.

  19. Melody says:

    Talked to a friend recently who goes to this parish. It’s quite a shock and everyone is quite devastated. Sadly they were not able to save the Tabernacle either.
    Our own parish of St. Nicholas had our statue of the Blessed Virgin stolen and vandalized a few years back. Thankfully we were able to recover and repair it.
    Anti-Catholicism is rampant here.

  20. Melody says:

    Oops. nevermind about the tabernacle. Guess my source was wrong.

  21. I am saddened to learn of the destruction by arson of St. John Vianney’s Church. I remember when it had a superlative choir under Dennis Fitzpatrick, and remember with pleasure the time that that choir sang Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor in an English version translated by Mr. Fitzpatrick.

    And in this context, I am confirmed in my belief that it was a terrible mistake of His late Holiness, Paul VI, to suppress the minor orders. Two of those orders, had they been in existence, might have protected our churches: i.e. the order of porter, or the ones charged to protect the doors of the Church to prevent Her enemies from entering it; and the order of exorcist, to help cast out the demons who are now inspiring those enemies to attack our churches and the Church physically.

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