DENVER — Cleanup was underway Sunday outside the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver after someone spray-painted messages of hate.
"We had been tagged by what we think is the worst act [of] vandalism that we've seen in years, but not the first in years," Father Samuel Morehead said. "I would say this is the worst because of the vitriol, the anger that's up on the walls."
Messages of hate — including the terms "child rapists," a homophobic slur, and references to Satan — were spray-painted on the church's walls and doors sometime before the beginning of its 8:30 a.m. Mass.
"It's attacking the Catholic Church for being Catholic in ways that are so stereotypical, but also so debasing," Father Morehead said.
(WARNING: Graphic text) The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Colfax and Logan in downtown Denver was vandalized sometime this morning just before the first mass, a priest told me. This is the third time it’s been vandalized since July. @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/nniXZyuPnA— Pattrik Perez (@PattrikPerez) October 10, 2021
Since his start at the church in July, he says the church has been vandalized at least three times. In this case, a witness saw it happen, which may help Denver Police find out who did it.
"I think, sadly, whoever did it either has mental health issues or some deep personal grudges against God or the church," he said.
The messages got the attention of people driving or walking by Logan Street and East Colfax Avenue.
"It's just so devastating," Colorado Springs resident Melissa Schlemmer said. "It's sad to see people are filled with so much hate and destruction and in themselves that they have to show it like this."
Since February 2020, the Archdiocese of Denver says it's been aware of at least 25 locations in northern Colorado that have been the target of vandalism, destruction or theft. More than 10 of those incidents have happened in the past six months.
“It continues to be troubling to see the increased reports of vandalism at Catholic churches, both across the county and in our archdiocese, and it is certainly unfortunate when our parishes are targeted simply because of our beliefs.
We continue to pray for the conversion of those who carry out acts of desecration against our churches, statues, and religious symbols.”
Father Morehead is not letting the vandalism get in the way of services.
"I think this is a beautiful moment, an opportunity for people to see, OK, there's evil out there, but there's also goodness and there's resilience and there's hope," he said.
If you have any information about the person responsible for the vandalism, contact Denver Police.