Hate Crime at Georgetown? Dahlgren Chapel Vandalized
Was anti-Catholicism behind vandalism at a Catholic university?
Dahlgren Chapel, a place of worship at the center of Georgetown University's main campus and campus ministry, was vandalized early Sunday morning. Chairs were tossed and broken as was a crucifix, according to university spokespersons. The organ was also damaged. The university said it would increase security at the historic chapel, built in 1893, which was been the site for many Georgetown alum weddings.
Georgetown University President John DeGioia issued a statement on the vandalism: “The preliminary investigation indicates that there was no desecration of the Blessed Sacrament or any religious symbols. The primary damage was to furniture and other fixtures. . . . I must underscore that acts of vandalism, especially of sacred places, have no place in our campus community. As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we are committed to fostering a community that is welcoming to people of all religions, races and ethnicities and that values understanding, inclusion and respect. While we do not know the motivation of the person or persons who committed these acts, nor whether or not they are members of the university community, they are of great concern."
Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, told the student-run Georgetown Voice that "the crucifix was damaged in a minor way, though it did not constitute 'desecration,' which is property damage with intent to religiously offend."
“The preliminary investigation indicates … that there was no evidence of desecration, and desecration means property damage with the intent of making religious offense,” said O'Brien, according to the Voice. “In the investigation we have now … any property damage was not intended to make religious offense. It’s property damage.”
Nevertheless, the damage was enough to force the sudden relocation of the 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday Masses. The 5 p.m. Mass was celebrated at Dahlgren.
According to Georgetown's other student newspaper, the Hoya, "Fr. Howard Gray, S.J., was hesitant to speculate on the motives behind the vandalism, adding that inaccurate rumors that the chalices were stolen had been circulating." Gray told the Hoya: “We’re just putting pieces together. We probably won’t know until someone with authority takes some kind of inventory and tells us what they’re missing. It bothers me that they broke the crucifix. You wonder that if it’s somebody making another statement that’s anti-religious or something. I don’t know that.”
The Hoya added in its April 14 news report: "In May 2012, the upperclassmen of the women’s club volleyball team admitted to littering the steps of the chapel with condom wrappers and cups of alcohol."
Georgetown University student Sam Dulik, questioned by the Voice about the incident, "also mentioned some windows possibly being broken, as well," according to the newspaper, which added: "Dulik also mentioned that there was a previous incident of vandalism this semester that went unreported in campus media. Apparently, a student group was found using the interior of the building inappropriately, but, at the time, no further details were offered on the incident. A Jan. 22 Department of Public Safety crime log entry indicates that chapel wine was reported missing from Dahlgren chapel, but there’s no indication that the two cases are related."
University spokesperson Rachel Pugh told the Georgetowner: "Georgetown University's Department of Public Safety is working closely with the Metropolitan Police Department in investigating this crime. Security has been increased. Currently, no other details are available to be released as this is an ongoing active investigation."
The university urges anyone who may have information related to this incident to contact DPS at 202-687-4343.